Pay tribute to Dr. King’s message with pride and justice

By Ashley Hines

As Americans celebrate and remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it’s important to pay tribute to his stances on social issues in a manner that does the whole of his advocacy justice.


In addition to strides made during the Civil Rights Movement, King’s efforts targeted the failings of capitalism and economic disparities between races and classes. Although his message is widely accepted as one that calls for equality, its interpretation since his death in 1968 has put into question what equality precisely entails in the modern day and if his dreams have manifested as expected.


History should remember King as a democratic socialist, fighting for civil rights as well as a working healthcare system, affordable public housing and a universal basic income, all of which America still lacks.


These points are often omitted in contemporary lessons of King, which primarily focus on his role promoting civil rights. His work prescribed so much more than an end to segregation. When King’s message gets diluted to such a narrow scope, it’s easy to think the problem of inequality has been solved.  


“Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will,” said King in his 1963 Letter from Birmingham Jail.

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When racism isn’t as public as signs reading “whites only,” many people will deny the problem entirely. This denial can be dangerous, as it prevents and invalidates authentic discussion on the inequality minorities experience.

The fact is, America is miles behind where it should be, and since King’s time, little progress has been made. The oppression African Americans face on a modern stage is often more systematic and less obvious than during the Civil Rights movement, but is prevalent and wounding all the same.

“There’s progress in the sense that racism isn’t as public as it used to be, but it’s still very much there,” first-year political science major Devlin Collins, who is also a Black Male Initiative and NAACP member, said. “It’s something I’ve come to expect.”

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It is obvious minorities are at an economic disadvantage in America.

Illinois is among the worst states for racial inequality, ranking fourth for the highest level of inequality between black and white residents, according to a November 2018 USA Today article. Minorities in Illinois are more likely to be unemployed, live in poverty, suffer from mental illness and be incarcerated for longer sentences compared to white citizens.

So long as these disparities continue to exist, America falls short of King’s dream of equality.