King would be disappointed but hopeful, students say

Jan 18, 2021


Though Martin Luther King Jr. would be disappointed with the way things are, he would still have hope for the future, students say.

Claflin students were interviewed about Martin Luther King, the assassinated U.S. civil rights leader known for his nonviolent activism, in light of the MLK holiday observed on Jan. 18.

Arielle Wiggins, sophomore history major, said, “If he saw what was going on today, he would be disappointed that the country was divided based on a two-party system.

“His agenda to unite the human race” set King apart from other civil rights leaders, Wiggins said.

Lauren Tolbert, sophomore African/African American studies major said, “He would be disappointed but not surprised.”

“He knew what the fear that white Americans have of deviating from the status quo can do,” Tolbert said. “That is why I don’t think he would be surprised.”

Tolbert said the disappointment would stem from America showing change but still being stuck in “old terrible tradition.”

Otiana Thompson, sophomore history and African American studies double major, has a different thought on the matter.

Thompson believes King “would look at this moment with a sense of conviction in his moral ideals of hope, justice and equality.”

Healing, unity, accountability and resignation from all parties involved in dividing the country would be his standing ground, Thompson said.

The Claflin students also weighed in on what they think King would prioritize today.

Wiggins believes King would have to “re-evaluate the way we air societal grievances and the lack of unification.” He cited the storming of the U.S/ Capitol of Jan. 6, stating that societal grievances are a major issue but should never come to terrorism.

Thompson based her assumption of King’s priorities on his books and former plans.

“He would prioritize poverty, police violence and institutional equality,” Thompson said. “To speak to Black people and unite them would be his priority.”

King would focus on the Black community because he would understand there was only so far he could go with white people without them recognizing the need for change, Tolbert said.

Looking on the brighter side of things, the students said all hope is not lost and there have been accomplishments.

“Despite all that is going on, King would still be proud at the fact that Kamala Harris is the first Black VP and woman elected,” Wiggins said.

Wiggins holds out hope that America will be a better place but realizes that “better” looks different for everyone.

Thompson shares the same hope: “MLK was a figure that didn’t have a dream for the future but a vision, one that is gradually coming into fruition every day.”


Coming far, but not far enough


As Claflin students observed the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday, they were asked to reflect on his legacy.

On the third Monday of January every year, the slain civil rights activist is celebrated for advocating an end to racial segregation and establishment of equality.

“If he was here today, he would say that we have come a long way, but we have even further to go” said Trebor Entzminger, junior computer science major.

Entzminger said the most impactful actions by King were his marches and peaceful protests. “His persistence and ability to remain peaceful no matter the situation was a vital part.”

“Dr. King’s drive and passion to want nothing but success and not-taking-no-for-an-answer attitude is what I remember the most about his legacy” said Damien George, a junior biology major.

George said if King were here today, “He would say that the job is not complete, a long way from where we started but not finished.”

Melody Chestnut, junior psychology major, said she is infatuated with the King legacy and how much of an inspiration he was.

“Without a doubt, I know Dr. King would be disappointed if he were here today. For us to not have tackled the issue of racism … he would be disappointed” Chestnut said. She cited examples of racism in cases that are similar to those when King was alive.

As to King’s priorities if he were alive today, Entzminger said it would be police brutality. “It was such a common example of inequality during his time that it would be impossible for him to ignore if he were here today.”

George said, “A priority of his would be to get justice for unjustified racist killings such as George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. If anyone could do it, it would be him.”

King would continue his equality speeches and programs throughout the community, George said.

Chestnut had a different take: “I believe his top priority would be to take on a vital role in politics.”

“Whether it’s senator, governor, vice president or even president, he would make it a priority,” Chestnut said, who believes his peaceful protest would not have as much effect as a position in government.


Newer generations don’t know how important King was


If MLK were here today, what would he say about this country and what would be his main priorities?

University of South Carolina graduate Joshua Robinson said, “I feel like we would need him more than ever now because he would still be able to serve as a peace asset to making change in this country.”

“With his passing, it made it harder for Black people and other minorities to understand that peaceful protests and non-violence would eventually benefit us getting what we want.”

Khari McCloud said King’s biggest priorities would be to spread the truth about Black people and how the U.S. system was built to work against Blacks.

“The newer generations do not realize how important Dr. King was, not only from speeches and marches, but because he made connections within them.”

The Columbia resident said King would be focused on making a change within the political society, but change requires patience. “It does not happen overnight.”

April Hall said, “If Martin Luther King was still alive today, I believe there could be some more changes made to the legal system to help out the Black communities.”

Those changes would help drop the incarceration rate, put more Blacks in politics, and even simply educate Blacks on how the political system functions.

“These small tweaks would allow our people to understand not only are we stereotyped and treated as inferior, but to grasp the reason why,” Hall said.

The Orangeburg native said South Carolina would be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the work King would do if he were still alive.

“Some of our people just don’t know, nor do they care to learn, which is what keeps us ignorant,” Hall said.


Patience is wearing thin


Jan. 18,  2021, is the birthday of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., who was assassinated 53 years ago in 1968.

The national holiday is a time to ask students about King and how he would see the country today.

Arteria Gibson, sophomore mass communications major, said, “He would, without a doubt, be disappointed” with the way African Americans are being treated and the world being dominated by white Americans.

Journee Matthews, a graduating senior speech pathology major at North Carolina A&T State University, said, “He would be disappointed in our country but proud of our peaceful protest with Black Lives Matter.”

Dejane Lawrence, a sophomore mass communications major, said, “Same story, different chapter.” MLK would be appalled because our country is still at the same state it was when he was here.

“MLK would make it his priority to see white Americans be held accountable for their actions in the same manner as African Americans,” Gibson said. Through the years, African Americans have been mistreated by the power of white Americans.

As to what MLK would prioritize today, Matthews said, “He would prioritize justice, love and unifying the country as much as possible.”

Lawrence said MLK priorities would be to bring together a divided country. But she doesn’t think his older tactics would do that.

"We are angry and this waiting game for change and equality has worn our patience thin,” Lawrence said.

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