“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land.”
Those words were spoken by Martin Luther King Jr. on April 3, 1968, one day before he was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn.
Nearly five years after delivering his famous “I have a dream speech” in front of the Lincoln Memorial, on Aug. 28, 1963, King was still fighting for racial harmony across America.
Fifty years have now passed since the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and we continue to talk about King, racial equality and whether or not the “promised land” has been reached.
I have never lived in the United States, nor was I alive 50 years ago. That doesn’t mean what King said to hundreds of thousands of interested and optimistic onlookers doesn’t interest me.
It interests me and it should also peak your curiosity.
That answer is simple. King fought for what he believed in. He fought for what was right.
However, King fought without force. He instead fought with powerful words, which stemmed from his unshakable faith.
King was not a violent man, although Marlon Brando may have liked to stick a cattle prod to King’s backside.
In Romans 2:11, it says “For God shows no partiality.”
By quoting this piece of Scripture, I’m not saying King was fighting for equality on God’s behalf, but like God, King was not biased.
He only wanted his fellow African-American brothers and sisters to have more opportunities in the workforce and the same daily freedoms white Americans already enjoyed.
If it meant taking a bullet or being singed with a cattle prod to make sure his message of equality got across, I’d bet King would be on board with it.
The unexpected death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012, set off a racial bomb in America, one that King — if he were alive — would shudder at.
While George Zimmerman, charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in the black youth’s death, was acquitted last month, the waves of racial hate fired his way continue to persist.
Aside from fighting tooth and nail on Martin’s behalf, King would have been stunned by all of the hate his fellow African-Americans have shot Zimmerman’s way.
He would stand up and admit that’s not right.
The point is, 50 years ago King had a vision. Today, that vision still has not been fully attained, and we look back to him when matters of race pop up in America.
“God will be there to change the world and you will be there to witness it,” said humanist theologian Jacques Lefevre d’Etaples in 1512.
Half a millennium later God continues to change the world. King was only a small part of implementing that change, but he believed it was possible.
Like Martin Luther King, we just have to keep the faith.
Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks.