Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Facing Death

It would be very uncomforting to walk around every day having to worry about someone trying to kill you every minute. I know if someone was after me, I probably would not bother to ever leave my house. It would take a lot of courage and discipline to look death square in the eye each day as you wake up. This semester I took Professor Ivory’s class on Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Before taking this class I knew that people hated King and what he stood for, but I had never considered the psychological effects it had on him. I watched the video, “The King Assassination” and throughout the video I began to understand that King had come to terms with his death long before it occurred, and it this acceptance of death that kept him from losing sight of what he was trying to achieve in spite of people trying to murder him.  

We all know the saying, “Live each day like it’s your last”, but I do not think that this is a conscious thought that we have on a dial basis, but Dr. King had to literally live each day like it was his last due to the severity of hatred circulating throughout the country that aimed directly at him and his campaign. Dr. King never faulted in faith, and handled the subject matter so smoothly that he was able to joke about it with his peers. From the video I learned that King would even practice giving the eulogies of his coworkers-jokingly of course. Dr. King had a special way of making sure that those around him remained non-anxious with the chances of death, which illustrates that he was not nervous about the chance of death. What is most interesting is the fact that King predicted his death early on. There were two occurrences that factored into his prediction of his death. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy (a close friend of Dr. King's and advocate of Civil Rights) played a critical role. This is the point where King new that matters were getting critical and tensions were beginning to hit boiling point. If the President could not be protected against violence due to the struggle for societal equality, King knew that there was no way that he could be fully protected. Additionally, in 1967, he delivered the speech “Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam”. I do not know what spirit moved in him, but somehow after making this speech he knew that he was not going to make it past the next year. 

The subject of death is sensitive matter for anyone, so King’s compliance with death a relatively early age speaks a lot about his character in relation to his urgency for social change. He dedicated a large portion of his life to make life better for future generations, but he did it at the expense of himself while putting his wife and children in even greater risk as well. Dr. King could have and probably should have backed out at any moment and let younger emerging leaders take care of the matter, but he never flaked on his beliefs. His diligence has me in awe, and the selflessness he exhibited to such a cruel world is beyond what most people would be able do.

Sometimes I wonder how this world would have turned out if King was not assassinated. And I also wonder what he thinks of our progress (or lack thereof). Do you think racial injustice would have made greater progress, had King not been killed early on or do you think the tensions between white and blacks would have continued to escalate? Also, do you think you have been psychologically able to face death head on for years?

Also here is the link to the video, it is pretty long but worth watching!


  1. Before reading this blog post, I did not know that King had accepted his death so early on; and, yet it makes more sense for King to have assumed an early death more so than a long life. I think in hindsight people forget how dangerous it was to speak out against social norms and challenge the common ideology; not to mention an African American man doing so in the face of heightened race tensions. King was a martyr and because he accepted everyone's ultimate fate very early on in his quest for social equality, he was able to push the limits farther than other activists, and he was able to speak his mind more freely (such as in his anti-vietnman speech). Had King lived a longer life, I think there could definitely have been more progress in terms of racial justice. But while King was and will forever be noted as one of the key leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, it is important to remember everyone who contributed--no matter how small. Individuals protesting, groups of student's conducting sit-ins, and various other small, but extremely significant acts all contributed to the Civil Rights Movement and its immense achievements.

  2. This is a very interesting post, Memphis. I’ll address the point that King had accepted his death early on. I believe that one reason why King had come to terms with his death long before it occurred is because he understood that the risk involved in a black man rising up to speak against social norms during that era was inevitable. He realized that in order for him to bring change, he had to face the “societal” repercussions. To “bow” before the societal repercussions would mean change was never going to occur. Since King stood up for what was right, he faced the opposition head on. Moreover, let’s not forget that he was a reverend minister, and this might have served as a moral and spiritual support system for him. He believed that although he would face opposition and persecution here on earth, he was awaiting his reward in heaven. So with his Christian beliefs, he was ready for any persecution or opposition, and that could also explain why he came to terms with his death long before it occurred.

  3. Memphis, I agree with you that having to accept death as part of your profession would make even the most courageous men doubtful. One thing that I would like to point out about my own thoughts is how this connects to our lives today. During the election I couldn’t help but think about the precocious the President Obama has to go through. I remember doing a report in high school about presidential assassinations or attempted assassinations and it made me realize that if you are the president it is safe to say that someone in the United States hates you and your politics. With Obama being the first black president, the stakes are even higher. It just makes me wonder whether or not he, like King, has had to contemplate death.