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OUR VIEW: MLK's relevance perseveres

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A statue of Martin Luther King Jr. is pictured across the street from the Illinois State Capitol. Secretary of State Jesse White testified before a statue review committee Wednesday that he would like to see a new statue of King placed in a more prominent position on Capitol grounds.

If history had played out differently, we might be marking something significantly different.

But 53 years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered in Memphis, Tennessee, at age 93.

Saturday, January 15, marks the 93rd anniversary of his birth. Monday, Jan. 17, serves as a federal holiday to mark King’s birth.

A Baptist minister, he preached nonviolence but was not patient. He also was a hunted man who knew the forces of evil were targeting him. He survived a 1958 stabbing and recognized the fate he was tempting each moment.

The night before the assassination, he told a crowd: "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."

King could still be with us, teaching the lessons of the March on Washington and the Selma to Montgomery March. Instead, it has been left to others to carry his mission for all these years, through the Civil Rights Act and past the achievements and setbacks in the name of equality.

A half-century after his death, King continues to be cited and referenced in our everyday world.

King’s relevance to our present world came into play in November. Green Bay Packet quarterback Aaron Rogers invoked King’s name while defending himself after he was sidelined by COVID-19 after a positive test. Rogers was criticized, particularly since earlier in 2021 he claimed he was “immunized.” He later said that didn’t mean “vaccinated.”

Maybe King would have been amused to be used as a shield by a wealthy white man as society was well into the 21st century.

But maybe not.

One aches to imagine what King would have thought of voting rights being under attack.

King certainly would have been active in the discussions surrounding Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and other cases some have considered unnecessary or extensive. To find names to fill a list of other cases, simply type the names of Taylor and Floyd into a search engine and see what other names pop up on the autofill.

Where would King be in the discussion about critical race theory and whether it exists and whether and in what form and location it is taught? Is there a timeline where King’s existence might have short-circuited that or other discussions about race and society?

That’s nice to ponder. It would certainly have been one of King’s goals.

Today, there is the federal holiday, banquets and marches, all to keep the memory of King alive. The real mission is being carried forth by all of those who value fairness and equality.

There is still work to be done.

The dream is still alive.

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