American culture for the most part has grown comfortable with the “I-have-a-dream” Martin Luther King. We love his wonderful words like, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
But we’ve largely forgotten or ignored the other Dr. King – the prophet of economic justice. The one who held a mirror up to America and pointed out how we’ve failed to keep our promises, or live up to our ideals. Whatever happened to “40 acres and mule”? Were the benefits of the GI Bill spread evenly throughout our society regardless of race? What about red lining in housing?
Before Dr. King was assassinated, he had begun the Poor People’s Campaign. Demands for economic justice are an essential part of the civil rights struggle. While it makes some people uncomfortable, perhaps the best way to honor Dr. King’s legacy is to fight for economic justice today.
We still need to fight for civil rights and voting rights, as reactionaries try to take our gains away. But we also need to renew our efforts for economic rights.