King and Trump: A Divergent Path
King and Trump
Jan. 16, 2017 is marked on the nation’s calendar as Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the inauguration for President Elect Donald J. Trump is on Jan. 20. The contrasting ideologies of these two key figures presents a lesson on juxtaposing American metaphors.
During the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. the country was severely divided. Segregation of the races was upheld by the law. Limited and substandard health care for people of color was par for the course. Educational inequity polarized the nation even further. This was the condition of the country that King inherited and sought to change. On April 3, 1968 he said, “The world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land. Confusion all around. We've got some difficult days ahead”.
Trump has touted that he will make America great again. He maintains that much of his policies towards this goal will be revealed at a later date. Nevertheless, he wants to dismantle a health care program that ensures medical coverage to all Americans. He has advocated for a wall to separate America from Mexico and to deport illegal immigrants by any means necessary.
During Trump’s campaign he mocked disabled people, demeaned the Hispanic race, and with regards to blacks he said that, “We need law and order, our inner cities are a disaster….You get shot walking to the store. They [blacks] have no education. They have no jobs. I will do more for African-Americans and Latinos than [Hillary Clinton] can do in 10 lifetimes.”
During demonstrations in South Carolina, after Dylann S. Roof, self-proclaimed segregationist, killed nine African-American churchgoers in a reckless racial rampage Trump was prompted to say that, “There's no such thing as racism anymore. We've had a black president so it's not a question anymore. Are they saying black lives should matter more than white lives or Asian live? If black lives matter, then go back to Africa. We'll see how much they matter there.” Roof entered the church during Bible study and sat with the members for an entire hour before announcing that he was going to kill them. Roof is white.
On Sept. 15, 1963 a bomb at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, killed four African-American girls during church services. At least 14 others were injured in the explosion. Three former Ku Klux Klan members were convicted of the murders. As King eulogized the girls he stated, “This afternoon we gather in the quiet of this sanctuary to pay our last tribute of respect to these beautiful children of God. They entered the stage of history just a few years ago, and in the brief years that they were privileged to act on this mortal stage, they played their parts exceedingly well. Now the curtain falls; they move through the exit; the drama of their earthly life comes to a close”.
King furthered by articulated as to what he felt would be the slain girl’s final declaration, “They [the slain girls] say to us that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers”.
Andy Campbell a reporter for The Huffington Post (08/20/2015) argues that Trump’s racial incitement inspires hate crimes. “Two brothers arrested in Boston last summer for beating up a homeless Latino man cited Trump’s anti-immigrant message when explaining why they did it”.
Upon hearing of the news about the two brothers, Trump suggested that the men were well-intentioned and had simply gotten carried away. Nevertheless, King's written legacy directs this writer to King’s probable counter-argument: “Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you [can] refuse to hate..... [and] Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder the hate”.
King recognized that blacks were crippled by the chains of segregation and discrimination. He maintained that the conditions for persons of color were appalling. He argued for racial justice and a full frontal attack on poverty and educational inequities. Trump too argues that blacks are living in a horrible existence and that he will be the delivery for all African Americans. A vast number of Trumps policies are yet to be completely revealed, but in his “new deal” for blacks he endorses three pillars — “safe communities, great education, and high-paying jobs” — and one principle: “America first.”
Whether one can say that the country will be made great again is based on one’s world view—past and present. The ideologies of King and Trump are as polarized as America. Sound data concludes that blacks make less income than whites. That blacks educational agendas are far less qualified than those in white school districts. Violence has and will always be a rudimentary tenet of American society. King advocated peace in a nation that was addicted to violence and Trump vows to increase America’s nuclear capabilities while he bullies foreign countries with his pompous rhetorical threats. As King so keenly observed, “We have guided missiles and misguided men."
The irony of having the celebration of King and the inauguration of Trump in the same week is an understatement. Years separate the defining moment of these two men, yet they both focused on the ills of America. The chasm separating their world views, or the methods for combating these ills is truly a lesson in conjectural philosophy. But to paraphrase and conclude with a thought from King: "We must be concerned, examine and understand the system, the way of life and the philosophy that creates such a sick society". And even though he vocalized this sentiment decades ago, the statement remains relevant for America in 2017.