I would argue that there are four basic principles which drove his efforts to achieve racial equality. I list them below, in no particular order.
Aside: Note that he argues for equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome. "Judged by the content of their character" implies, and is reinforced in his speeches time and time again, that if the content of your character falls short, there will be consequences.
My Take On MLK's Themes
- He depends on Western civilization to provide the mechanisms by which he is trying to change the world. He even says as much in one of his speeches. He talks about visiting Westminster Cathedral and seeing the tombs of British kings and queens. He talks of the British Empire and how imperialism held others down for the enrichment of the British. He then says that the civil rights movement is there to save Western civilization from its own hypocrisies. He comes not to bury the West, but to love, cherish and improve it.
- He is motivated by Christianity. This is inescapable in his speeches. Without it, there is no way to drive the civil rights movement. We are made in the image of God and that's independent of skin color. Because of that, the goal is for each of us to see others as children of God. The desired end state, then, is brotherly love. He even mentions agape in a couple of speeches, which is the love that originates from Jesus for all Mankind, a love we are called to share.
- He demands nonviolence and insists that upon the success of the civil rights movement, there be no animosity towards the people who had oppressed the blacks. The goal is to free them from their sins of hatred and then live with them in love and charity, not to beat them down and destroy them in a fit of vengeance.
- He has great love for the Founding Fathers and what they created. In his speech after the Rosa Parks incident, he says,
(T)his is the glory of America, with all of its faults. This is the glory of our democracy. If we were incarcerated behind the iron curtains of a Communistic nation we couldn’t do this. If we were dropped in the dungeon of a totalitarian regime we couldn’t do this. But the great glory of American democracy is the right to protest for right.
|I put off studying MLK for a long time, but now I'm glad I dove into his speeches. I'll be happily celebrating MLK Day from now on.|