Growing up in California, my knowledge of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was spotty at best. Cesar Chavez gained more traction with California’s migrant worker population. All I knew was that every town seemed to have an obligatory street named after Martin Luther King, Jr. (always seemingly in the ‘roughest’ part of town).
And then in 2001, I moved to the Deep South and have been here ever since. The legacy of MLK is much more tangible here. Living in Mississippi as an out-of-stater, the latent racism (on both sides) that I encountered was unsettling. I worked at churches who were on the wrong side of the Civil Rights movement when Dr. King was spearheading the charge for equal rights. During the past decade I have learned a better appreciation for the frustrations on both sides of the racial issue.Although the Deep South is not the ideal haven of racial integration and equality, I am continually inspired by the vision of a man with the determination to take head-on the biggest issue of his day and walk away victorious. He had a way with words that captured the imagination and inspired incredible sacrifice. The Deep South is a much better place today because of the work of Martin Luther King, Jr.
I am a white preacher living in a culturally (although no longer racially) segregated South. Looking at MLK’s legacy should inspire people of action to aim higher and do something significant with their lives. Dr. King encountered a well-entrenched set of beliefs and societal norms that seemed immovable. Millions of people lived and died under injustice, unable to change the system. Dr. King forever changed race relations in the United States, and set a positive example of who we all ought to be.
May another Martin Luther King, Jr. rise up and continue the work that was started so many decades ago.