The other day I was saying, I always try to do a little converting when I'm in jail. And when we were in jail in Birmingham the other day, the white wardens and all enjoyed coming around the cell to talk about the race problem. And they were showing us where we were so wrong demonstrating. And they were showing us where segregation was so right. And they were showing us where intermarriage was so wrong. So I would get to preaching, and we would get to talking—calmly, because they wanted to talk about it. And then we got down one day to the point—that was the second or third day—to talk about where they lived, and how much they were earning. And when those brothers told me what they were earning, I said, "Now, you know what? You ought to be marching with us. [laughter] You're just as poor as Negroes." And I said, "You are put in the position of supporting your oppressor, because through prejudice and blindness, you fail to see that the same forces that oppress Negroes in American society oppress poor white people. (Yes) And all you are living on is the satisfaction of your skin being white, and the drum major instinct of thinking that you are somebody big because you are white. And you're so poor you can't send your children to school. You ought to be out here marching with every one of us every time we have a march."
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Today I'll be going to a local MLK program with the kids from The Hope Center, but I also wanted to take some time this morning for some private reflection. I broke out my book of Dr. Kings writings, sermons and interviews. After skimming the contents I settled on the sermon entitled "The Drum Major Instinct". My selection had something to do with my interest in marching bands as captured in a recent entry.
One of the things that really stood out to me was how timeless Dr. King's words are. There was so much stuff in the sermon that we could directly apply to our society today. His critique of foreign policy, his righteous indignation at the fact that some people were being held down even though they thought they were being built up and a consistent ethic of peace and equality.
I was also struck by both how intelligent and funny Dr. King was. Not only was he well-versed in theology but he also broke out some serious knowledge pertaining to sociology and psychology. It was fantastic. The humor piece is something that is easy to take for granted, because the clips of Dr. King that networks show on the news all of the time are more serious clips. But over the course of an entire sermon he showed great wit that demonstrated great resolve in the midst of all the stress I'm sure he was under all of the time.
If you are interested in having your own private celebration today, I highly encourage you sample some of Dr. King's wisdom for yourself. You'll find it both convicting and encouraging. The perfect balance.