Here Is The Dr. King That “Mainstream” America Won’t Celebrate Monday


Dr. King

[Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday]

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr said “and I come here tonight and plead with you” that “nobody else can do this for us; no document can do this for us; no Lincolnian emancipation proclamation can do this for us; no Kennesonian or Johnsonian Civil Rights bill can do this for us; if the negro is to be free, he must move down into the inner resources of his own soul and sign with a pen and ink of self-asserted manhood his own emancipation proclamation.”

As we commemorate the birth of Dr. King and honor the passing of Nelson Mandela in the shadow of: mass incarceration; Stop-and-Frisk; driving while Black –or in the context of Trayvon Martin– walking while Black; disproportionately high rates of high school drop outs and record home foreclosures; and, so many other maladies in our community; we have to come to the realization that it’s up to us.

When you walk outside of your house, or drive your kids to school, or yourself to work, and you see the human decay and suffering around you, the question has got to be what are we going to do?  It’s up to us.

Are you ready to move down into the inner resources of your own soul and sign with a pen and ink of self-asserted personhood your own emancipation proclamation and proclaim, not on my watch, not in my house, not in my child’s school, not in my neighborhood?  It’s up to you.

Please don’t think that I’m some ultra-conservative, some libertarian saying that there’s no place in this process for the government. We need the government both state and national to pass the legislation and provide the resources to assist our communities in solving these problems. 

The reality is that they are not coming. The cavalry is not coming. We are going to have to circle the wagons and save ourselves.

Look at what’s happening in Congress right now: 8% unemployment and 16% in the African American community – worst national depression since the Great Depression and Congress has allowed the unemployment benefits of the long-term unemployed to lapse.

Congress went into recess failing to reinstate expired jobless benefits for more than 1.3 million unemployed Americans.  Too many Conservatives just don’t care.

As Congress debates the Farm Bill the Republican led House is looking to cut Food Stamps or what is now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP by $40 billion over the next decade.  According to  HYPERLINK “” Mother Jones, these efforts by Conservatives would “…boot  HYPERLINK “” \t “_blank” 2.8 million people off the program next year.

That includes 170,000 veterans, who would be removed through a provision in the bill that would eliminate food stamps eligibility for non-elderly jobless adults who can’t find work or an opening in a job training program.

Doctors warn that cuts in food stamps could have tremendous longer term heath implications.  Over time poorer Americans will experience spikes in the rates of diabetes and developmental problems in poorer children.  Conservatives rather transfer public dollars into private hands; save banks and corporations with poor taxpayer’s dollars.

The African American community has been in this struggle, this war for equality, for a long time. I think too many of us have forgotten what for us has been at the crux of the issue.  Many believe it’s economic, others believe it’s civil rights or legal. 

Both of these are important and play a role in improving our circumstance but what we’ve been struggling for all of this time is our humanity. Since those first 20 and some odd “African indentured servants” disembarked from that Dutch Man O’ War off the shores of Jamestown, VA, 395 years ago in 1619, we’ve been struggling to be considered human.

Examine the founding documents of this country and trace the development of the nation’s laws. 

We were property, not human; part of the estate.

Consider: the act addressing the causal killing of slaves from 1669 that stated “if any slave resists his master and by the extremity of the correction should chance to die” it read “the master should be acquitted from the molestation, since it cannot be presumed that prepense malice should induce any man to destroy his own estate.”

Look at the Three-Fifths Compromise: Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the United States Constitution or the Supreme Court decision in Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857) when Chief Justice Taney wrote that Negros were considered at the time the Constitution was drafted as a “subordinate and inferior class of beings, who had been subjugated by the dominant race and had no rights or privileges but such as those who held the power and the government might choose to grant them.”

With the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 African Americans put their trust in the franchise and the political process. Then the very entity charged with protecting our rights diluted them with the 5-4 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, authored by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas and Alito.

These justices determined that “things have changed dramatically” in the South in the nearly 50 years since the Voting Rights Act was signed in 1965.

Have they really?

Maybe things have changed for Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas but not for most of us. I wonder if Justice Thomas’ people in Pin Point Georgia would agree with his assessment that things “have changed dramatically”?

We have been and continue to be struggling for our humanity.

Our politics are going to have to mature.  We have to move away from the politics of pigment and personality to the politics of policy.

As we commemorate the birth of Dr. King we are going to have to awaken from what mainstream American media has convinced us was Dr. King’s “Dream” and stay focused on solving the realities of our nightmare. We are going to have to circle the wagons and save ourselves. 

In his last book “Where Do We go From Here; Chaos or Community?” Dr. King the realist wrote:

“The practical cost of change for the nation up to this point has been cheap. The limited reforms have been obtained at bargain rates. There are no expenses, and no taxes are required , for Negroes to share lunch counters, libraries, parks, hotels, and other facilities with whites…The real cost lies ahead. The stiffening of white resistance is a recognition of that fact. The discount education given Negroes will in the future have to be purchased at full price if quality education is to be realized. Jobs are harder and costlier to create than voting rolls. The eradication of slums housing millions is complex far beyond integrating buses and lunch counters.”

That’s the Dr. King that mainstream America won’t celebrate on Monday.

It’s up to us.


Dr. Wilmer Leon is the Producer/Host of the Sirius/XM Satellite radio channel 110 call-in talk radio program “Inside the Issues with Leon” Go to or email: [email protected]

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