When the nation observes Martin Luther King Jr., Day on Monday, it will be the second time the national holiday is being observed with a black man in the White House. As happened in 2010, the significance of the occasion cannot be missed for there can be little doubt that there is a connection between what Dr. King accomplished, and what he died for, and the election of Barack Obama as President. It is a significance that cannot be minimized. But it can be, and often is, exaggerated.
In fact, this President has been forced to cope with obstacles that relate directly to his race, making it more difficult for him to advance the causes that Dr. King had embraced – not black causes but causes that are important to all Americans.
And while his election may have signaled the start of the next phase of race relations in this country, it certainly has not turned out that way. Indeed, there seems to be a hush over the land as far as race relations are concerned, except for the occasional blip that signals racism is still alive and well.
Therefore, on Monday, when we observe the birth anniversary of Dr. King, let us recommit ourselves to strive even harder to reach what Dr. King would have called the Promised Land of racial harmony.
But the King legacy continues to have a message for African Americans, in particular, one that remains unfulfilled. It is that while we press on for racial equality in deeds, not just laws, we owe it to ourselves to understand that one fundamental part of that legacy is that we must be self-reliant, that we must do for ourselves and take possession of our destiny.
There is no reason, for example, that the organizers of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Parade and Festival in Miami’s Liberty City must continue to rely on handouts from the county and city governments to stay in existence.
There is no reason, either, why the folks in Riviera Beach have not been demanding that the street named after Dr. King get better attention through the fair use of tax dollars than it has been getting and be brought to a standard that makes it worthy of carrying the King name.
There is no reason why we have been unable to prevent our young men from killing one another, why our girls continue to allow themselves to become mothers before they are adults, why narcotics are so prevalent in our streets.
It is a two-fold mission that we must embrace: continuing to work towards the elimination of racism in all its forms, while uplifting and elevating our communities. It is not mission impossible.