Dr. Martin Luther King Jr is best known for his crusades against the injustices of a racially segregated and intolerant Southern society bent on keeping African Americans relegated to second class citizens. He rallied oppressed blacks and liberal whites to challenge the authorities who enforced the status quo at the expense of those who merely sought to be considered equals. Southern authorities and civilians alike used threats, intimidation, incarceration, and acts of terrorism to try in vain to force their will upon the oppressed. Dr. King did not reply in kind with acts of violence and terror. He showed America there was another way. By resisting authorities through acts of civil disobedience, he taught that unjust authority could be countered without resorting to anger.
While Dr. King is seen as a religious leader, his aims were completely secular. He sought justice in this world, in the here and now. He brought equality where there was only discrimination. He sought an end to oppression based on arbitrarily drawn color lines. To seek equality for all is a basic Human principle. None should have entrenched privilege over others.
Humanism is a universal underpinning of all ethical systems and religions. At the heart of every religion can be found the idea that we should treat others with fairness and respect. Dr. King’s legacy teaches us that these lessons apply to everyone regardless of race, creed, gender, or sexual orientation. No matter who a person is, you and I together deserve the same level of respect and protection that everyone else enjoys.
These lessons have been applied time and again since Dr. King used them here. His lessons resonate in every progressive movement that challenges the status quo where one group is favored over another. Most recently we have seen this with the passage of marriage equality across the US and in Black Lives Matter. While there are still pockets of those who would desperately remain on the wrong side of history, peaceful voices have won out against those who would preach hate and divisiveness. With Dr. Martin Luther King Jr as our collective predecessor, more and more of us are yet starting to stand up and resist those who would threaten and intimidate people who do not think and believe exactly as they do. Let us all stand together to challenge those who want to keep us quiet and marginalized.