After reading the news report about Martin Luther King III & Dexter King suing their sister Bernice over their father’s personal Bible and Noble Peace Prize Medal for the purpose of selling it, a serious question arose in my heart. Is Martin Luther King III and Dexter King showing signs of Fatherlessness?
I boldly declare… YES!
Now let me say, this blog is not to taint the legacy of Dr. King by casting a negative light on his role as a father, but it is the explore why the only sons of the greatest Civil Rights leader of our lifetime would do everything in their power to destroy their fathers legacy for monetary gain.
When defining fatherlessness, we find there are 4 prominent definitions:
- A child who has never met their father
- A child who doesn’t live with their biological father
- A child whose father has died
- A child who lives with a father who is disengaged
We know Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. died at 39 years old, which would make his sons 11 & 7 years old at the time of his death. And, just because they are not criminals, drug abusers, or didn’t drop out of school doesn’t mean they are not feeling the effects of their father’s death in a way that makes them behave questionably. Fatherless children are 20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders.
And, in our imaginary world of the perfect family, we believe we know Dr. King’s children undoubtedly had a support system that would have kept them from feeling fatherless. But now we must ask several questions. Before his death was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. able to fight for the civil freedoms of the African American race and continue to stay engaged with his children without his sons feeling abandoned by him producing resentment within their hearts? And… Was the support system after his death enough?
I understand Dr. King’s drive to fight for the freedoms of the African American race in order for his children to be afforded the same freedoms as other races. However, did his fight for freedom cause him to abandon his family figuratively and create a resentment in the hearts of his children? The unfortunate answer to the question could be… yes. In my heart I acknowledge the prestige and honor their father’s legacy has afforded them, myself, and others. But I must also acknowledge the weight it must be to carry the mantle of being the sons of the good Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Lets address why I believe their resentment of their father and his legacy is the manifestation of fatherlessness. Resentment is the feeling of bitterness, anger, or hatred resulting from a real or imagined wrong. The key difference between resentment, anger and contempt stems from how a person perceives the status of the wrong-doer. Resentment is directed at people with perceived higher status. I am sure the pressure to live up to their father and his legacy was too great which place him on a pedestal he rightfully deserved. Would we dare to think that Martin Luther King III & Dexter King could resent their father for what he accomplished for African Americans? The obvious answer is… No. Would we dare to think Martin Luther King III & Dexter King would have resentment, some anger, and a nice helping of bitterness in their hearts pertaining to the fact their father pioneered the very movement that caused his death which inevitably removed him from their lives leaving them fatherless? Now there might be some truth to that question!
If I possess resentment in my heart, how would I behave? How would I handle the legacy and the things inherited? Lets take a look at how Dr. King’s legacy and belongings have been handled.
Over the years we have heard rumors and seen the realities of how the “Estate of Martin Luther King Jr.,”which is managed by Martin Luther King III, has diminished the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for monetary gain.
- You cannot use any part of the “I Have a Dream” speech without paid permission.
- In 2006 the siblings put 10 thousand items including handwritten papers up for auction; then Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin raised 32 million dollars to purchase the lot and keep the artifacts available for scholars and the public.
- They have sued Dr. King’s close friend activist and singer Harry Belafonte to get ownership of memorabilia Dr. King gave him, including a speech the civil rights icon wrote in Belafonte’s New York apartment.
- They have blocked Andrew Young, who was on the balcony when Dr. King was assassinated, from using film footage of Young marching with Dr. King. Young says he recognizes the family’s need to protect the Martin Luther King estate but says, “ I will not give up my right to the legacy for their right to the legacy.”
Some might see these moments in time not as opportunities for monetary gain, but as the preservation of their father’s legacy. After this recent fiasco, I would have to disagree. I see two fatherless sons resentful at the legacy left for them in the absence of their father!
Today we pray for the legacy, the family of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the effects fatherlessness is having on the family In Jesus Name, Amen!
Written by Torri J. Evans, Founder & CEO of The Fatherless Generation Foundation http://www.tfgf.org