Martin Luther King Jr.’s life was short – 39 years – but influential. If he were alive today, amid the resurgence of racial issues, he would be in the thick of things.

Part of his genius was identifying the most effective activist tactics. They ranged from the rhetorical cadences of the southern black church to Mahatma Gandhi’s passive resistance. Currently, effective tactics include taking economic action, posting on social media, hosting podcasts, delivering Ted Talks, running for public office, landing a big job and winning the support of power brokers in all branches of government, law firms, corporations and foundations.

His message would be that he had had a dream. But despite the well-intended efforts of those on the front lines of racial equality and justice, that dream went kaput. In fact, in terms of many factors, things are worse in 2021 for Black Americans than they were in the 20th century.

Black Americans today still face more obstacles trying to vote. King would have been in those states which were arranging additional hoops for black people to jump through in order for their votes to count. In 2021, he might up the ante in orchestrating boycotts. Recall that King was a mastermind behind the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

COVID-19 is not the only thing triggering premature death among Black Americans. The recent Auburn University study, headed by D.H. Chae, found that racial discrimination accelerates aging and death among blacks. If alive today, King would likely be lobbying U.S. Representatives and Senators who receive PAC money from individual and organizations in the healthcare sector. It is undeniable that we need to be doing more to ensure the health and well-being of Black Americans. 

Jobs. King would smirk. The Center for American Progress documents there is a sustained unemployment gap between blacks and whites in the labor market. Yes, King would probably organize boycotts. His leadership in boycotts produced results. The Montgomery one helped bring about the 1956 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in “Browder v. Gayle” declaring segregated bus transportation unconstitutional. Sure, King would also establish fellowships so that more blacks could attend law schools. Law can be a power tool for change.

Between 2015 and the beginning of 2020, there were three times the number of police shootings of unarmed blacks than whites. For a brief moment in activist time, that raw reality generated the grassroots Black Lives Matter movement. But, given the media attention to Trump Administration goings-on, white supremacist rioting and the pandemic, the initiative has been receding in attention. With his understanding of movement dynamics, King would be motivating blacks to be more direct: Get in positions of concrete influence. Run for public office. Get appointed to community groups. Become a chief executive officer. Receive invitations to boards of directors.

In short, right now King would be involved in all the moving parts of capitalism, democracy and the legal system. There would be less rhetoric and more action. If alive today, the dream he had before his death in 1968 might have a better shot at being achieved.

In celebration of Martin Luther King Day on January 18, 2021, I encourage you to revisit the timeline of his life at The King Legacy website.

Subscribe to The Lancer Way

Join our e-mail list and make sure you never miss The Lancer Way! The Lancer Way is updated monthly with new blog posts. 

Required

Namerequired
First Name
Last Name

 

 

Join Us as a Guest Blogger!

Have a book, podcast, article, idea or experience rooted in diversity, equity and inclusion that you want to share?

Join us a guest blogger! We would love to share your message The Lancer Way!

Required

Namerequired
First Name
Last Name
0 / 2000
We can't wait to hear more about your thoughts and ideas!