|King was the president of the Southern |
Christian Leadership Conference and advocated
for the eradication of poverty in society.
image courtesy NYPL on Unsplash
Today I listened to a brief speech given by Martin Luther King, Jr.'s son, Martin Luther King, III. In the video, he talks about his father's legacy but points out that one message King repeatedly gave was often not emphasized in the praise we often give the slain civil rights leader. It's about poverty. When King was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, 1968, he protested against the poverty wages sanitation workers were given who worked in the city. Workers worked long hours and subsisted on low wages, and many were also on welfare. King espouses the merits of having a stable job and receiving an equitable income as something elusive for Americans. Whenever I talk about living wages today or about the need to reduce poverty, I often run up against tin ears. It's easy to shush away poverty as one of those problems Miss America pageant contestants say they want to defeat (along with world peace). But King was right when he said the problem won't go away unless we have the will to fight it. When I look at the problems beset by the Covid-19 virus, I see a public health crisis, but I also see a crisis that has torn open the inequalities caused by poverty. In the United States, forty-five million (maybe more) live in poverty, which by some estimates is more than were poor during Martin Luther King's time.
So, if you are celebrating the Martin Luther King holiday today in the United States, it is appropriate to sing praise for what he did to secure civil rights, but the road to equitable human rights is still not won.