I. What dreams left us
Martin Luther King Jr. was raised in a very Christian family, his father and maternal grandparents were Baptist Church Pastors. He was a dedicated student, he did: a B.A. on Sociology, and a B.A. on Divinity while attending University of Pennsylvania. He completed his doctoral studies in Systematic Theology at Boston University. He was also elected President of the Montgomery Improvement Association, which was responsible for the Montgomery Bus Boycott from 1655 to 1656 after Rosa Park’s decision to sit where she was prohibited to do so. On 1959, after serving as Pastor in a few churches, King directed the activities of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta. The Conference served as a base of operation thought the south, it was a result of the ideas that were developing and growing from the Montgomery Bus Boycott. It was a nonsectarian organization and its purpose was to coordinate and assist local organizations working for the full equality of African Americans in all aspects of American life. In the first reunion of this organization Martin Luther King expressed the motivation of his future actions and the reasons that moved their feet towards the road of justice:
“We have no alternative but to protest. For many years we have shown an amazing patience. We have sometimes given our white brothers the feeling that we liked the way we were being treated. But we come here tonight to be saved from that patience that makes us patient with anything less than freedom and justice.”
These words point to one of the enemies in the liberation of the oppressed and discriminated populations and individuals: conformism. The Webster dictionary defines conformism as: to be similar or identical …2 a: to be obedient or compliant … b: to act in accordance with prevailing standards or customs … A conformist, according to the Heinle dictionary is: a person who acts in the same way that most others do. The word “adapt” is a synonym to conformism, it is, according to the Webster Dictionary: to make fit (as for a specific or new use or situation) often by modification. A related word is conform, which definition is: applies to bringing into accordance with a pattern, example, or principle.
When a discriminated group or minority is oppressed it often conforms to its reality and adapts to it. The group does this because it starts to believe that the statu quo is the right status, that nothing should be done about it, or that there’s nothing that they can do to change it even if they do come to think that it is wrong and should be changed. When an oppressed group conforms to oppression and discrimination it becomes its own tyrant and oppressor. That is why Luther King says that there is no other option but to protest, because otherwise, the victims become the executioners, to tolerate discrimination is conforming to injustice and perpetuating it. When public policies establishes the ‘game rules’ of society, and individuals are born in that reality, they often learn those rules without questioning them, and that is how they conform and adapt to them. That is how we learn our society’s culture and our place in it. The concept that we have of our group is what the educator Anita Woolfolk calls collective concept, and it is a great determinant in the development of the individual’s self-concept; which influences the person’s aspirations and social relations. Martin Luther King makes a call for us to question our reality in order to stop adapting to it and finally change it. Above all, King is asking for society to conform with nothing less than its nation’s foundations “justice and freedom”, it may seem as a group of people disturbing the established order, but what they really are doing is the opposite, more than that, they are creating a closer order to the nation’s founding thoughts, what could be considered a more patriotic act than that?
Dr. King did not only fight for the rights of the black population but also for the civil rights of workers. As a fact, he was killed standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis Tennessee on April 4, 1968, where he was to help lead sanitation workers in a protest for the right of decent working conditions. Martin Luther King Jr. violent dead, and his brother and mother afterward, does not blow off the fire of truth of his work and words, it does the opposite: ensures the need of that work. His father understood that, and after loosing so much due to hate, he said: “I cannot hate any man.” Martin Luther King, Sr., his father, manifests with this words that the quest for freedom is a quest for equality and for peace. Peace that cannot commute with hate, fear and violence. The Argentine educator Paulo Freire says, that if on the quest for freedom the oppressed becomes like the oppressor, then freedom is not to become a reality. That is why I believe that Martin Luther King Sr. gave value to the death of his sons and spouse with this words, because he did not perpetuated the hate that stopped their hearts from beating.