Today is the 40th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death.
I was just reading an AP story about how history would have been different had Dr. King lived to a ripe old age.
In these politically correct times, what I’m about to write borders on heresy. Had he lived, MLK would have gotten gray hair (nothing wrong with that), might have lost some of the fire in his belly, and his personal affairs would have been relentlessly scrutinized by the media. By sacrificing his life, he changed the course of history.
Of course, the decision to give his life wasn’t made by him. But he understood the risks he faced and courageously continued his crusade for social justice nevertheless. Indeed, there is something Christ-like about Dr. King’s life.
His assassination in Memphis caused unspeakable pain for his family, friends, and millions of horrified Americans on Apr. 4, 1968. But MLK became a martyr, a lasting symbol of the civil rights movement and of peaceful struggle, though he was a victim of violence.
Today, there is a national holiday in Dr. King’s honor and every American schoolchild knows about his famous I Have a Dream speech: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
I don’t want to sound naive. I know there are still some places in the U.S. where this is not true, but in my experience (which is white, not black), Dr. King’s dream has largely come true. At the very least, the dream is more of a reality today than it was 40 years ago.
Certainly, golf superstar Tiger Woods wouldn’t be where he is today without MLK’s work. Woods once coined the term “Cablinasian” to describe his ethnicity, which is Caucasian, black, Indian, and Asian. But based on the color of his skin, Woods wouldn’t have made it as a golf professional in Dr. King’s world.
And there’s no way that you would have Senator Barack Obama running for President without the trail blazed by Dr. King.
Civil rights advocates rightly point out that not every African-American can grow up to be Tiger Woods or Barack Obama. And despite my optimism about the progress that’s been made in the past 40 years, the figures for the average guy tell a different story.
According to a new report from the Institute of Policy Studies called “40 Years Later: The Unrealized Dream,” African Americans were making about 54 cents for every dollar that white Americans were making back in 1968. By 2005, African Americans were only making 57 cents for every dollar that whites were making. You can learn more about the study in this transcript of a radio interview that Amy Goodman of Democracy Now did with Dedrick Muhammad, the co-author of the report.
MLK was born on Jan. 15, 1929 in Atlanta, reportedly at “high noon.” Here’s Dr. King’s chart, courtesy of AstroDataBank.
The most striking feature of the chart to me is the Jupiter in Taurus square the Mercury in Aquarius, which symbolizes eloquent words and the need (a square forces action) to act on his ideas and vision of the future.
Aquarius is the sign of group action, Dr. King’s Mercury in Aquarius mobilized thousands in the 1955-56 boycott of Montgomery (Ala.) buses to end segregation and to support Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her bus seat to a white man. Interestingly, Dr. King’s Mercury was conjunct Parks’ Sun in Aquarius so he helped spread the word about her revolutionary action.
The year after Dr. King’s 1963 March on Washington in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, he was awarded the Nobel peace prize.
Some of the most heart-wrenching words about Dr. King’s assassination were delivered by Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who would be killed just two months after the civil rights leader. He told an audience at a scheduled campaign stop in Indianapolis that he was advised to cancel because of possible violence:
“What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.” His speech is credited with preventing rioting in the wake of Dr. King’s death.
If the summer of ’67 was the Summer of Love, surely the summer of ’68 was the Summer of Hate. We don’t want to celebrate the death and the destruction, but we cannot forget it. And we cannot forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice for social justice.