Dr. King was preparing to interpret this famous plot, found in his files, shortly before his untimely death in 1968:
“A widely separated family inherits a house in which they have to live together. This is the problem for all of us, wrote Dr. King. We have inherited a house, a great world house in which we have to live together: black and white, easterner and westerner, Gentiles and Jews, Catholics and Protestants, Muslims and Hindus. A family separated in ideas, cultures and interests, who because we can never again live apart, must learn somehow to live together with each other in peace.”
But this question haunts us all, four decades after Dr. King’s death. Can we ever live together in peace?
This multifaceted prophet combated what he called the triple evils of racism, poverty and war. At the time of his death, he was preparing to lead a Poor Peoples Campaign to Washington, to make visible the legitimate grievances of victims of systematic poverty.
He alleges that we will not have peace, until the needs of the poor are addressed. He quotes the famous French novelist Anatole Franz (1824-1924) who wrote, “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids men (people) to sleep under bridges, the rich as well as the poor.”
In Atlanta we see poor people (and a few rich people) living under bridges because they don’t feel safe in public shelters.
Here are a few facts that push people under bridges. Unemployment and under employment, addictions, inadequate education, poor housing, unfair criminal standards, mental and physical health needs, the dislocations of urbanization and the hardening of white resistance. We are all enemies of the poor. We don’t want them to bother us with their needs, their problems.
King continues that the technological revolution expressed in automation and cybernation is edging poor black and white people into a socially superfluous role, into permanent uselessness and hopeless impoverishment.
But King also saw racism from whites toward blacks and blacks toward whites as major roadblocks to peace. After the Montgomery boycott he stated, “We do not wish to triumph over the white community. That would only result in transferring those now on the bottom to the top. But, if we can live up to nonviolence in thought and deed, there will emerge and interracial society of peace, based on freedom and equality of opportunity for all.”
In conclusion, Dr. King relates the true story, about his dear friend and “fireball” partner, Rev. Hosea Williams. Hosea returned from the foxholes of Germany, a sixty percent disabled veteran. After 13 months in a VA hospital, he came back to his home town of Attapulgus, Ga. When he went into the bus station at Americus, Ga. he was standing aided by his crutches to get a drink of water, but unfortunately the WWII veteran was beaten savagely by hoodlums. All he wanted was a drink of water.
This proves that Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence was really a declaration of intent, not a declaration of reality.
But it was a lopsided battle, like the David and Goliath saga. To win we must all discover or rediscover our moral human core. Let us work hard and fast to rescue sisters and brothers trapped under bridges. Yes we shall overcome, because we know how the story ends. David conquered Goliath and peace came to both warring nations. We honor Dr. King by striving to live together in a world house of peace.
Do you think this is possible in Atlanta?
-Rev. Joseph. L Roberts, Jr.