Through his fearlessness, selflessness, confidence, faith, and determination, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. changed this country. He, alongside many others, created a country where, today, perhaps the quickest route to being a pariah is to say something undisputedly racist.
However, throughout his thirty-nine years on this planet, Dr. King didn’t merely focus on eliminating racial injustice: he also focused on eliminating economic injustice.
In his autobiography, he wrote about his early years:
I had also learned that the inseparable twin of racial injustice was economic injustice. Although I came from a home of economic security and relative comfort, I could never get out of my mind the economic insecurity of many of my playmates and the tragic poverty of those living around me. During my late teens I worked two summers … in a plant that hired both Negroes and whites. Here I saw economic injustice firsthand, and realized that the poor white was exploited just as much as the Negro. Through these early experiences I grew up deeply conscious of the varieties of injustice in our society.
Dr. King did not defeat economic injustice, not by a long shot.
Look no further than the current Maryland law that limits the amount of money an individual may recover in a lawsuit for their pain, for their loss of the enjoyment of life, for their emotional suffering. The amount is absurdly low, $845,000.
The clear import of the law capping damages is to lower the amount of money insurance companies have to pay to injured individuals.
Ultimately, insurance companies, their large shareholders, and their executives benefit. Ordinary folks suffer.
Speaking about a law that allowed for housing discrimination in California, Dr. King wrote, “The atrociousness of some deeds may be concealed by legal ritual, but the destructiveness is felt with bitter force by its victims.” His words would perfectly describe Maryland law capping damages for, among other things, physical pain. And that’s just sad.
However, let’s keep in mind Dr. King’s success in fighting racial injustice. That success should inspire us all to continue fighting difficult battles for justice that have yet to be won.
Happy MLK Day!