The time around the observance of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday is always a time of reflection for me.
Through books, movies, videos, letters and interviews, he has been a silent mentor to me. I admire his scholarship, advocacy, leadership, theology and love for humanity.
My father attended the March on Washington in 1963 only because his father -- my grandfather -- made him. My grandpa George knew this event would be historic and required all of his children to attend with him. While King’s legacy will forever be tied to his “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, it’s his message at Riverside Baptist Church on April 4, 1967, against the Vietnam War I admire the most.
King’s circle of advisors suggested he not speak out against the Vietnam War. Many African-American men who fought in Vietnam felt betrayed by King as they thought their military service would finally gain them acceptance in this country. Others felt that, by King speaking out in opposition against the U.S. government, he was signing his own death certificate. Needless to say, exactly one year later he was assassinated.
King’s conscience transcended national boundaries and blind allegiance to America simply because it’s America. In his message, King says: “We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation and for those it calls ‘enemy,’ for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.”
When we see all of humanity as our equal, we will be comfortable in the minority instead of majority.
I’m Joe Mitchell, and that’s my perspective.