Martin Luther King’s Unfinished Second Revolution: Economic Justice

Martin Luther King’s Unfinished Second Revolution: Economic Justice January 15, 2018

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by US Embassy, New Delhi.
Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by US Embassy, New Delhi.

Martin Luther King, Jr, was one of the greatest Americans who ever lived. Every man, woman and child in this nation owes him a great debt of gratitude.

He worked to end segregation, lynching and other crimes against humanity that were committed against black people. That took courage.

He did this through a Christian, distinctly American paradigm. That took greatness.

I’ve read that he modeled his non-violent approach on the revolutionary work of Mahatma Gandhi, who famously said, I admire Christ, I do not admire your Christians, your Christians are so unlike your Christ.

What Martin Luther King, Jr did was turn that on its head and actually put action to words where the Gospels were concerned. Whatever debt he owed to Mahatma Gandhi in terms of tactical planning, his words were pure Christian.

Martin Luther King, Jr was a man of action built on faith. Every speech of his that I have heard or read was a living explication of the Sermon on the Mount.

He linked the profound dignity of every human being before the law to the simple fact that we are, every single on of us, created in the Image and Likeness of God. To defile another human being is, in that way, to defile God Himself.

We possess what Jefferson called “unalienable rights” which are not dependent on laws or treaties. They are inborn in us as our natural right as children of the Living God.

Martin Luther King, Jr, also recognized that racism and oppression go far deeper in our society than Jim Crow laws. He knew that the deepest racism and oppressions are economic.

What he did not foresee was that in the years to come this economic racism would become classism and that the oppressions it uses to bear down on people and destroy their dignity would extend, first to working class Americans of all races, and now, the American middle class, as well.

He also did not see — though he probably would have predicted — that many Christian religious leaders would become the shills for this increasing economic destruction of working people. The America he knew was racist, but it was not deeply and perniciously classist.

The America we know practices a new racism that is based on money and that extends its tentacles of destruction and oppression into the lives of every working-class American. Everything Martin Luther King, Jr said about poor people now applies to poor white people, and poor Hispanic people, as well.

Meanwhile, the people who benefit from this the most keep up a drumbeat of nascent racism and hatred in order to pit poor white people, poor black people and poor Hispanic people against one another. Instead of fighting for justice against their real enemies, who are the money-changers who have control of our government and institutions, they go around putting on KKK capes and Nazi swastikas, waving Black Lives Matter placards and trying, like a bunch of total and absolute idiots, to re-fight the 150-year-old Civil War.

The tactic of pitting poor white, black, Hispanic people against one another so that the disenfranchisement, exploitation and impoverishment of all of them can continue uninterrupted has been magnificently successful. Rather than do what they clearly could to improve life for everyone, they spend their time fighting over the crumbs that are left over after the rich clean the plate.

Martin Luther King, Jr is needed today every bit as much as he was needed during the days he walked the earth. We need leaders who will unite us behind a Christian flag of human dignity and worth and who will lead us together, as children of the living God, to stand up and say “No!” to the continued brain-washing and exploitation coming at us from those who benefit from our self-imposed helplessness.

When in trouble or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout, is how we’ve been approaching our problems. Hell itself could not contain all the nasty invective people heap on one another in the name of their bizarre false idols of political partisanship.

I do not not blame these people so much as I blame their very bad leaders, in particular the whore-mongering religious leaders who have eschewed the teachings of Jesus Christ to act as apologists and political operatives for one of the political parties or the other. Someone who takes on the great privilege and responsibility of shepherding His flock and then sells both them and the Gospels for political access is beyond my moral ken. I leave their souls to God to judge.

But in a political and pragmatic this-world arena, I have both the experience and the perspicacity to form opinions of their actions, and the damage that they have done and are doing to the witness of Christ in this nation, as well as the damage they are doing to the nation itself. I judge them political operatives. They are not religious leaders. They are false leaders, wolves among the sheep.

Martin Luther King, Jr, was a leader for his time and for ours. His words are just as pertinent in today’s America as they were in the America of the 1960s.

Before he was murdered, he started the second phase of the Civil Rights Movement. He called it The Poor People’s Campaign. He aimed at toward liberating black people from economic oppression. In today’s America, he could and should aim it at uniting black and working-class white people to end the economic oppression that now affects them both.

In the years since Martin Luther King, Jr, the haves have waged a successful and on-going war against working-class white people. In today’s world, white people are just as battered, oppressed and second-class as poor black people. They have been hooked on drugs, shoved into poor schools, impoverished by low wages, loss of benefits, and the destruction of family, and then deprived of any opportunity to better themselves.

There is definitely class warfare in this country. It’s being waged by the uber wealthy against all the rest of us.

Here are a few of Martin Luther Kings speeches about economics and human dignity. They are just as important today as they were when he said them.


Radical Revolution of Values

Economic Injustice; the Last Speech He Gave

The Other America Speech

Income Inequality

Poverty in America

MLK on Poverty in America

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment

7 responses to “Martin Luther King’s Unfinished Second Revolution: Economic Justice”

  1. I’m fully on board board with the first revolution, of course, but what further redistribution are you advocating for the second revolution? Let me see, we already have welfare to provide a home, food stamps to provide food on the table, medicaid for medical coverage, and free education for all, including free college in most cases. What hasn’t been fulfilled? Free cell phones? Oh check that; Obama gave those out already. Seems like economic justice has already been accomplished.

  2. I’m not talking about social welfare. Here are things that would help. First, we need to overturn Citizens United, which allows corporations and the wealthy to contribute endless amounts of monies to political campaigns, thereby essentially “buying” our government. If that happened, it might predicate for elected officials who did something other than just “carry” bills for special interests. Right now, our elected officials do not even bother to author legislation of their own. They simply function as errand boys and girls for special interests. Most of the legislation that is passed is for special interests. In fact, almost all of it is.

    We need to actually provide free education for everyone. I gather that you don’t really know how bad the public schools are in poor neighborhoods around this country. The division between public schools in wealthy neighborhoods and those in working-class neighborhoods are so big they school might as well be funded by two separate countries. Here in Oklahoma, we have wealthy school that build football stadiums that look like they should belong to a university, and poor schools where the kids don’t even get a textbook to take home with them because everybody has to share textbooks in class.

    We need to stop sending government grant monies to a few special universities, such as Harvard and Yale. Grant monies — of all sorts — should be distributed around the country, with a PREFERENCE for areas that do not already have a concentration of wealth.

    As for free college, I haven’t seen that working class kids at all. We do have Pell grants and such for kids whose parents have nothing. But for those who work and struggle … nope.

    We also need to stop using the public schools as incubators for social change and trendy experimentation. This has robbed a lot of kids of their aducation, while alienating them from their parents and society.

    People need jobs and a living wage. When both parents have to work at 2 or 3 jobs to make ends meet, it destroys families and leaves their kids to run wild. Then, when kids reach their teens, they have to go to work — often for long hours — to help support their family. They are usually too exhausted to continue schools. We have schools in the poor neighborhoods with as high as 60% dropout rate and this is part of the reason why.

    We also need to raise taxes on the people at the top and lower them on the working class. We should also give much higher standard deductions for large families. If the birth rate is a problem, government can do things to make it easier to have babies and stay married.

    I could go on.

    And on.

    But no. I’m not talking about social welfare. The only major social welfare change that could help this problem is to allow social support for people who are married instead of predicating it toward those who aren’t.

    I forgot to add: Good to hear from you, Mr Manny.

  3. Thank you for the reminder of what Dr. King started and continued to do until his untimely death. I was in college during much of this—and my parents lived in Birmingham during a lot of the “demonstrations” . Before I graduated the university I was attending admitted its first “black” student. That was 1968. The current “leadership” in this country doesn’t seem to have benefited from all the hard work it took to get to where things were before last year, when DT was put into office by the Electoral College (not by the popular vote). Yes, much progress has been made since my teenage years and college years (all of the 1960’s) but much still needs to be done. Now it isn’t just “black” people who are still being treated unjustly more often than not, but those who are of the Muslim faith have been added to that, as well as anyone who isn’t “white”. That, of course, means any immigrants who are here both legally and not-legally. Frustrating and disappointing.

  4. OK, that’s better. I agree with you on the political contributions. How come I never hear about this during the campaigns? I agree we need to get more money to the poorer neighborhoods. Schools are locally funded, and the states have to figure out a means for poorer localities to upgrade their schools. Frankly school choice would do wonders. I went to undergrad paying my own way (making up the difference from government assistance) through part time jobs. People don’t have to pick colleges they can’t afford. Trump’s tax cut just did those very things on lowering taxes for the working class! And finally jobs are growing steadily!

    You know, I’m going to sign up for your emails when posts come out. I just stumble here otherwise.

    I hope you are feeling better Rebecca. That is the first thing on my mind when it comes to you. I’ll include you as an intention in my rosary tonight. Always good to see your posts!

  5. Thank you Manny. It’s been a tough two years. I’m thinking about writing about my latest health episode in more detail soon.