The influence of Martin Luther King, Jr.
I was fortunate to have experienced the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., in person when I was young. During my high-school years, I was able to be present and observe the sit-in demonstrations at the drugstore soda fountain counters and other places, in and around Atlanta, GA. In college, I was present when he addressed the student body as an official guest of Georgia State University (College, at that time).
Dr. King was passionate about his vision. He was committed to success, no matter what. He was direct, honest, and nonviolent. He was a visionary leader, committed to changing the world against seemingly insurmountable odds. He was ultimately very successful, and was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.
I remember his speech to the student body as if it were yesterday. He made points about our culture and customs that opened my eyes to new perspectives. Just one of those new perspectives was in our word choice. He pointed out that the customary use of the word “black” created negative images. Here are some of his examples:
- It’s normal to be a “white sheep” in our families, but nobody wants to be the “black sheep” in the family.
- It’s normal to tell a “little white lie.” It’s really bad to tell a “black lie.”
- When you do something bad, you get a “black eye.”
- When you double-cross someone, it’s called “blackmail.”
- When someone is eliminated from participating in something, their name is put on a “black list.”
The Transformational Leadership Strategist
(c) 2012 Hugh Ballou. All rights reserved.