Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King's History and Legacy

January 15, 2021

Martin Luther King Jr. would’ve been 93 on January 15th.

Contrary to popular belief, Reverend King was not the revered figure he is now during his own lifetime. In fact, in 1963, 66% of white Americans felt that Dr. King was pushing too hard and too fast for change. They said this in the same month that Dr. King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.

During that same time period, 80% of white Americans said they felt racial minorities were treated equally in their community. This is 4 years before the Supreme Court declared that white and blacks could legally marry in every state.

Three years after “I Have a Dream,” only 36% of white Americans believed King was helping the cause of civil rights. 50% of white Americans believed he was hurting the cause. Meanwhile, 94% of Black Americans felt he was helping.

The week Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, he died with an astonishing 67% disapproval rating by Americans. So where's the disconnect between the reality of what MLK's life was in his lifetime and today? We've sanitized history. Swept the ugly stuff under the rug and pretend it's "All better now. Now we know better." But do we, really?

On January 17th, we will be remembering Dr. King’s legacy but it will be only the 22nd year since all 50 state governments have recognized the day as a government holiday – 16 years after Congress first passed a bill that President Reagan signed into law Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a federal holiday.

Fast-forward to 2022 and we still have a long way to go.

93% of white Americans feel that Black Americans will eventually have equal rights... but only 50% of of Black Americans believe this. Yet, only 45% of white Americans express support for the Black Lives Matter racial justice movement. Meanwhile, 66% of Latinos, 69% of Asians and 87% of Black Americans support the movement.

On January 6, 2021 Reverend Raphael Warnock, Senior Pastor at Rev. King's church, was set to become the first Black Democratic senator to represent a former Confederate state, the first Black senator ever elected in GA, and only the 11th Black Senator ever.

On that same day, a mob of pro-Trump and far-right extremists stormed the National Capitol during the certification of the Electoral College votes – at the encouragement of the former President Trump. They met very little police resistance and people of color were quick to point out the disparities in police force displayed and exercised compared to Black Lives Matter protests.

On January 20, 2021 we swore in our first ever female Vice President, who happens to be a biracial woman of color, daughter of immigrants and part of the 2nd class to be integrated in Berkeley, CA.

The significance of the time period we’ve been living through and this particular moment in history are not lost on me. We have a lot of work to do but still, I have goosebumps. I’m emotional. I still have a dream.

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