On The Day We Celebrate King's Birthday, What Would He Think of Racial America Today?

Since the Rev. Martin Luther King's actual birthday last week (born January 15th, 1929), I find myself wondering what the man who became this nation's most famed civil rights activist and left us with passionate legacies such as his "I Have A Dream" speech would think about the state of this nation had he not been gunned down in April 1968, just two months before Bobby Kennedy who just might have won the 1968 presidential race.

It was no secret to King that he was watched, recorded, and routinely villified by everyone from an FBI where J. Edgar Hoover was still in charge and treating the agency like his personal vengeance machine to a media that, at "best", did not want to infuriate paying white audiences by denouncing claims that King was only "in it" for himself. And, taken from us still so young, we can only guess what MLK really felt were the chances to fully break the color barriers and recreate an America that did not divide itself by race, color, creed, or religion.

In my musings, I can't seem to escape the conclusion that Dr. King would be profoundly disappointed that a fight for which he gave his life, although things HAVE changed, has really not resolved itself in the four decades since his assassination. We pretend race is no longer the big controversy it once was, yet we let our law inforcement organizations engage in racial profiling, let courts pretend crimes committed by people of color really ARE deserving of harsher punishment than those committed by whiter people with money. We sit back, albeit uncomfortably, while pundits have just moved the angry stereotyping of blacks to those we label "law breaking illegal immigrants" to whom we attach some of the same awful rhetoric: lazy, welfare cheats, people who "deliberately" grow large families to qualify them for additional public assistance and people who demand special treatment to get into good schools and jobs rather than "work as hard as whites" do.

I also believe Dr. King would be just about as incensed as many of us are that people insist "Obama isn't black enough", that he's the first black candidate for president (forgetting Frederick Douglass, Carol Mosely Braun, Shirley Chisholm, and yes, even Jesse Jackson to name a few), and that he can "only win IF" other people of color just "blindly" vote for him to promote their own race (like whites haven't done this).

While I would dearly love to think that MLK would have more reasons to be dutifully proud of "how far we've come" than not, this is the kind of wishful thinking we usually only allow white Southern Christian candidates and would be no more true coming from King than it does from them. At the same time, I can't help but think about how many - including a few of the tighty righty GOP presidential contenders out there today - griped when it was enacted and continue to resent it that King's birthday was made into a national holiday.