The Promised Land by Dr Martin Luther King Jr.
In honour of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. (‘MLK’), we pay tribute to a historical 1960’s figure, of an African American man, a Baptist Minister and a Civil Rights Activist who dreamt of eliminating racial segregation. MLK promoted racial equality through the power of love and unity. As the term ‘civil rights’ itself implies, MLK’s dream recently dawned upon the United States citizens once again on the 18th of January 2021. The 18th of January is a date where citizens savour MLK’s vision for the great American dream, not for the actions of the United States’ past conduct and the suffering’s endured by vulnerable American’s. Still, it is a vision of future hope, faith and a manifesto to defend America’s democratic system against racism.
However, suppose we are to ask ourselves every year on the 18th of January. In that case, if the United States in the 21st century, has reached a promised land of racial equality just as MLK dreamed about, the unfortunate answer is no. Instead, the United States continues to perpetuate racial inequality, particularly concerning police brutality. The United States will continue to face disparities as long as the police are not held accountable for their heinous actions. What does holding the police responsible look like in the 21st century? The United States must take immediate action and to do so, must adopt appropriate criminal justice reforms, at both a national and international level. Otherwise, as statistics from Amnesty outline, nearly 1,000 people are killed each year at the hands of police brutality. However, it would be naive to suggest that racism is only visible through the lens of police brutality.
Racism derives from ‘systematic racism’. It is engrossed in nearly every way each America moves through society, from banks to schools, to companies, government agencies, and law enforcement. Aside from holding the police accountable against brutality, the United States has the wrong diagnosis and cure to addressing racism. The United States must turn its attention to education. An example of the United States’ living with systematic discrimination, former President Trump signed a forty-page ‘1776 Commission’ that criticises the civil rights movement and implements a right-wing patriotic education. However, we can now take a breather, as President Biden immediately signed an executive order to abolish the offensive Commission and believes in healing the nation, the United States must begin with understanding the history of truth and not the ignorance and lies.
Fast forward to over sixty years later after MLK’s passing, on 6th of January 2021. Former U.S. President Trump rallied supporters to attack the U.S. Capitol striving to thwart President Biden’s victory. With incoming waves of pushing people, crushing people, destroying property and lighting up fires in the U.S. Capitol, truly displays a picture that ‘white supremacy’ is valued over democracy. With a polarised nation at hand, there is a real concern that the United States’ democracy is hanging by a thread. Former U.S. President Trump’s ideas concerning governing were discredited and refused to accept a peaceful transfer of power from one President to another. For these reasons, MLK believed political violence is ineffective. Even if political violence could achieve some goals, whether limiting police brutality and discouraging white supremacy, the racial disparity would continue to exist until the American people work towards a mutual understanding to live together as one people.
Today, the United States has yet to conceptualise MLK’s vision entirely. From battling with a deadly pandemic to living with a terrible economic crisis since the Great Depression to the rise of fascism and right-wing mobs threatening the United States democracy, the United States is in pain. However, there is the potential to turn an otherwise polarised nations dream to a reality. I believe MLK’s dream contains the power to heal. If MLK could bring hope to the African American community and create democracy for each other, I have no doubt regarding why humanity shouldn’t be able to fulfil MLK’s dream of a promised land.