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The Real Contribution of Dr. Martin Luther King

Across the country this week we honored the life and memory of Dr. Martin Luther King. While we may remember him most for his moving speeches and bold social activism, King’s greatest contribution to American society was far more profound than having a dream. His most significant accomplishment was to the end the energetic enslavement of African Americans. 

King’s motivation to affect change was not about changing the minds of white America. It was not about the smaller though no less significant, unjust and demeaning acts committed against African Americans such as riding in the back of the bus or using a “Blacks Only” public restroom. His true focus was to eradicate the terror of living as a black person not only in the south, but also across the United States.

In the post slavery era, an entire segment of the American population was systematically undermined and suppressed. They were savagely beaten or lynched at the whim of a white man or mob. If black men or women were harassed, humiliated or abused, they could not fight back for fear of inciting worse brutality or even death. This perpetual energy of horror and dread permeated the culture and kept the African American community anxious, afraid, and traumatized.

However, a movement was building, and something began to change. The African American community grew tired of being threatened, subjugated, and repressed in the most horrific ways. Social uprising was brewing, and Martin Luther King was their hope. They began to realize if they powerfully joined together and stood up to their oppressors as one, they would be truly emancipated. They would finally be free.

During this time of change, imprisoned black men would not riot or show fierce aggression. Instead, they would sing in praise and hope. They would not allow the viciousness or the injustice they were experiencing break their spirit. They knew that lifting themselves above this type of terrorism through song was the only way to remain whole.

Martin Luther King empowered the African American community to let their pain wash through and ascend in spite of their torment.  It was this refusal that invoked real change in the social fabric of American society and ended the overt racism that perpetuated their suffering.

In the end, it wasn't the Civil Rights, Fair Housing, or Voting Rights Acts that ended the outright oppression. It was  the fact an entire segment of the American community became empowered to stand up and refuse to be terrorized.  Even today, racism has not ended. It’s evident not only in America but all over the globe. There are still countless barriers to break down. Still more dreams to dream.

It is my great wish that Martin Luther King’s legacy will continue to inspire humanity. As a species, I hope we will be empowered to let our collective fear and pain wash through, raise our beautiful voices and strive to rise above unspeakable atrocities to create a more peaceful and loving world.