Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., was a defender of the civil rights of all Americans, including Latinos, that is why today, January 17, we remember him with a day of action (holiday) in memory of his birth on January 15. January 1929.
Unfortunately, the leader who dedicated his life to the fight for the rights of African Americans, but from which both Latinos and all minorities benefited, was assassinated on April 4, 1968 as he left a hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. .
One of his greatest achievements was the approval of the Civil Rights Act that ended the segregation of a society that seemed to refuse to accept an equitable world where whites and blacks had the same rights.
Thanks to the strategy of non-violence and civil disobedience used by King, in 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson finally signed the law that prohibited segregation in public places, in addition to prohibiting discrimination based on race, color , religion, sex and origin, considered one of the most important achievements of the movement and that benefited all minorities.
Consequently, the nation’s Congress the following year ((1965) approved the Voting Rights Act, signed by President Johnson to eliminate barriers at the state and local levels that prevented the African-American community from exercising their vote as guaranteed by the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Thousands of people had to die so that African Americans and many minorities of color could finally have a voice in elections. One of the most common ways in white society to intimidate people who did not vote was through violence. It is estimated that almost five thousand people were lynched in public places for absurd reasons, including for looking at or speaking to a white woman.
The farmworker movement was inspired by King’s struggle, including Cesar Chavez, the Latino leader, who staged several hunger strikes, protests, and peaceful marches to improve farmworker rights.
We could say that 54 years after the assassination of Reverend King, rights between white society and minorities have advanced to a great extent, however, there is still a long way to go before MLK’s dream of a more just society has been achieved.
We are currently experiencing one of the most unequal economic times in the history of this country, where wealth is in the hands of a few, while the pandemic has forced millions into poverty; In addition, it is not uncommon to see voter suppression in various forms in various states, while large numbers of African Americans and Latinos disproportionately fill prisons.
Another of King’s teachings was not to give up and be willing to go to jail or risk your life for a more equitable society; That is why we remember it today, January 17, hoping that the new generations do not lower their arms and continue fighting for a fairer country for all.
Agustín Durán is editor of the local section of La Opinion in Los Angeles.