Dr. King knew: Love trumps evil

Published 2:29 am Saturday, January 13, 2018

By R.A. Matthews

Martin Luther King, Jr. knew racism was not simple, but the answer is.

The day was August 28th—not this past August, but I’ll get to that. It happened at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

This mall is the number one destination for visitors to our nation’s capital. Not a shopping mall, not even enclosed; it’s a beautiful, two-mile strip of land between the United States Capitol and the Lincoln Monument. Actually, it’s a national park.

The mall has broad sidewalks. A grassy area is at one end and a lengthy reflecting pool at the other. Washington’s monument stands in the center of that space.

Photos of the day show the mall bathed in sunlight.

A quarter of a million people had come, arriving by car, bus, train, and plane. Everyone had been asked to gather at 10 a.m. at the center of the mall.

At noon, they divided into two groups and walked about a mile down the streets flanking the reflecting pool. They converged at the Lincoln Monument.

Most dressed carefully in their best clothes—men in suits and ties, women in crisp dresses. Despite the hike and temperatures reaching 80 degrees, it was important to look dignified. The instructions distributed for the day emphasized “proud, but not arrogant” behavior.

The national anthem is listed first on the program beginning at two that afternoon. Celebrities were on hand: Peter, Paul and Mary; baseball-legend Jackie Robinson; Sidney Poitier; Marlon Brando; and Paul Newman.

This historic event—August 28, 1963—is the day Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I have a dream” speech. I’ve seen countless photos of that day but only recently noticed the symbols standing on either side of King, each about 10 feet tall.

It took at least four healthy men to place them there—carried past the reflecting pool, then hoisted up 87 steps to the Lincoln Monument.

Why go to such trouble?

It was important to King. He wanted those symbols with him.

What were they? What stood tall and proud on either side of Martin Luther King, Jr.?

The American flag.

And, let me tell you, those flag carriers got off easy—when King marches to Montgomery, massive American flags are waving behind him. Carried for miles!

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a patriot!

That answers one question.

The NFL player who started the flag protest said, “I am not going to stand [for] a flag for a country that oppresses black people…”

But a bi-racial man told me of racist words against whites from his black peers. “They don’t realize they’re talking about my mom, that she’s white.”

Racism still flows two ways.

King’s daughter posted a photo of her father down on one knee in Selma, Ala. He’s praying, perhaps asking Jesus to heal the prejudice in his country.

No matter how you felt about the man—whether you admired or resented King—his movement was dignified, peaceful, and Christ-centered.

It could have gone differently. Malcom X thought King was submissive, calling the march “a farce on Washington.”

But King prevailed.

I often wonder what racism in America would like today if he had lived.

Martin Luther King, Jr. knew the answer, and he’d have pointed to a Neo-Nazi rally last year in Florida. Yes, a Neo-Nazi rally.

Black protestors turned violent when a white racist deliberately walked through their midst. These black Americans yelled and spat at him, even punching the white man.

But Aaron Courtney, the black son of a bishop, reached out and hugged the racist.

“Why do you hate me?” Courtney asked him, refusing to let go.

The Neo-Nazi didn’t know—couldn’t explain his prejudice. But Courtney wouldn’t give up, and finally the white man hugged him back.

The crowd cheered.

Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” Luke 6:27

Martin Luther King, Jr. knew racism was not simple, but the answer is.

Love trumps evil.


The Rev. R.A. Mathews is the author of “Reaching to God: Great Truths from the Bible.”