By the time you were in the first grade, you had already learned that there were “rules.” Your parents had rules, your teachers had rules, your school had rules and violation of those rules often had consequences.
Martin Luther King Jr. brought attention to a world where there were “rules for me and not for thee.” His oratory on inequality highlighted this hypocrisy into the arena of thinking people everywhere.
The land of the free and home of the brave was ignoring the obvious. King challenged this duplicity, dishonesty and deception by exposing the pretense being touted by many, that “all men are created equal.” It was obvious to him they were not all being treated equally.
He did not spend time or energy in changing the rules, it was his focus to bring everyone into the arena of equality where everyone lived under the same roof of rules.
In the process, King exposed with clarity the double standard existing in America, which in turn lit the lantern of insight in the minds of millions. His leadership opened a rusty door of objectivity which in turn didn’t change the rules but included everyone under the same rules. King argued that existing rules of justice and fairness be applicable to every man, woman and child in America regardless of race, origin or color.
MLK probably had more to do with the application of one set of rules for all than any other individual in modern history. What remains is his insightful reminder that every generation must learn for themselves the rules of agreement, fairness and equal prospects.
If King were alive today, we can be certain that he would be insisting on the same rules of justice and respect in facing our own challenges and the injustices of our own time. We can also be certain that as one of the premier philosophers of non-violent resistance, he would not be endorsing violence, destruction, looting and harassment as answers. Let his own words from a 1957 essay “Non-Violence and Racial Justice” speak:
“In struggling for human dignity the oppressed people of the world must not allow themselves to become bitter or indulge in hate campaigns. To retaliate with hate and bitterness would do nothing but intensify the hate in the world. Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can be done only by projecting the ethics of love to the center of our lives.”
King’s challenge to all Americans was and is, to live by the rules without equivocation, and that these same rules must be applied to and for all. Freedom, liberty, equality and opportunity.