Like most Southerners in the United States, Martin Luther King ate a diet full of comfort foods like fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy. But what if Martin Luther King lived a much longer life? Would he have decided to eat a diet based on his philosophy of non-violence?
There are three influences that could have led Doctor King to go vegan: the Vietnam war, Gandhi, and fellow civil rights advocate Dick Gregory.
In the days leading up to his untimely death, MLK began making connections between poverty in the ghettos of America and the country’s expanding military budget. Initially, civil rights leaders in King’s camp were hesitant to get behind him because they thought that any talk of Vietnam would detract from their efforts. However, King’s conscience could not bear remaining silent. Here’s just a small sample of what he had to say about Vietnam.
There is…a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I and others have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed that there was a real promise of hope for the poor, both black and white, through the Poverty Program. There were experiments, hopes, and new beginnings. Then came the build-up in Vietnam. And I watched the program broken as if it was some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war. And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money, like some demonic, destructive suction tube. And you may not know it, my friends, but it is estimated that we spend $500,000 to kill each enemy soldier, while we spend only fifty-three dollars for each person classified as poor, and much of that fifty-three dollars goes for salaries to people that are not poor. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor, and attack it as such.
Dr. King did not use info graphics, but if he did we can imaging a small stack of dollar bills going to the poor sitting next to a giant stack devoted to killing enemy soldiers. Immediately, we would have to question the ethical ramifications of such a huge disparity. Not only were dollars not going to help the poor, but many of the men on the front lines in the war, and every war, were from poor families. And they were dying at a higher rate than men from middle class families. This happens because many young, poor men and women have very few options to advance their lives through jobs or education.
Just before he was shot, Dr. King was planning a poor people’s march on Washington to demand that the United States government address entrenched poverty among blacks in America. This was a new MLK who was undergoing a personal transformation at a turbulent time.
Take a look at this video where he explains the systemic injustice and hypocrisy on behalf of the United States government.
These are serious words from a man with a lot of power.
Gandhi was another man who wielded a lot of power and defeated the largest empire in the history of world. The grip that Britain had on India was unyielding, taking vast amounts of resources from one of the most abundant regions in the world in terms of natural resources and human labor (I hesitate to use this dehumanized word).
Gandhi was vegan, before the word existed. He ate no animal derived foods with the exception of drinking goat’s milk when he became ill. He loathed that he had to eat it to get better. I bet he was not getting enough B12, an essential nutrient, from his vegan diet. If he were alive now, he could just take a B12 supplement instead of resorting to drinking goat’s milk. Gandhi remained vegan for moral reasons. He did not want to cause suffering to animals, especially when he could eat readily from a wide variety of plants. He reasoned that if he ate cleanly and kept his heart clean through his thoughts and deeds that he could be the change he wished to see in the world.
Martin Luther King adopted Gandhi’s philosophy of ahimsa, nonviolence, for the civil rights movement in the United States. He traveled to India to see Gandhi’s home and make international allies in the struggle for social justice. Surely, through all of his research he must have come across Gandhi’s views on the importance of a nonviolent diet to create a nonviolent society. King would have only needed a catalyst to get him started on a diet fueled by the power of plants.
That’s where King’s friend Dick Gregory comes in. Dick Gregory decided to follow a vegan diet after he witnessed a white police officer kick his pregnant wife in the stomach. Gregory did nothing to protect his wife or stand up to the officer. He reasoned that if he couldn’t lift an arm to strike a racist police officer who violently harmed his wife that he couldn’t kill an animal who caused him no harm at all.
I’m not sure of the exact year the Dick Gregory became vegan, but it was some time in the 1960’s. Meaning he could have easily influenced King to adopt a vegan diet. King would have benefitted greatly from such a diet. It certainly works for Dick Gregory who is now 82 years old and still traveling the country giving talks and interviews on various media outlets. He’s still one of the funniest people to walk the face of the earth. And he gives great advice on connecting with the universal god.
He also wrote a book on eating a vegan diet called Dick Gregory’s Natural Diet for Folks Who Eat: Cookin’ with Mother Nature. I haven’t read his book, but it gets great reviews on Amazon.
Connecting the Dots
Both Gandhi and Dick Gregory ate a vegan diet full of raw fruits and vegetables. Eating foods packed with the power of the sun can help to elevate your mood, awareness and consciousness. Your connection to earth goes through food. Food that heals can help keep you connected to the universal source through keeping the temple that is your body clean and energetic. When you eat animals you are absorbing the entirety of their life: not only the toxic antibiotics and hormones injected into them, but also all of the pain and suffering that they endured. It all gets passed on to you and can easily result in cancer or heart disease, but also changes in mood and unnatural hormone levels.
Imagine how hard it is to create a more just and nonviolent society when we treat animals inhumanely and then take on all of that pain and suffering by eating them. It’s like having a four wheel drive car where the front and rear axles are moving in opposite directions.
I have to believe had MLK been made aware of the horrible conditions and immense suffering that farm animals suffer at the expense of people’s desire for meat that he would have connected the dots and started a big vegan movement in the African American community and beyond. His level of compassion, and ability to make the connections between seemingly disparate things like the war in Vietnam and poverty would have tugged on his conscience forcing him to choose a diet that not only reduces suffering for animals, but also the humans who eat and kill them.
As he famously said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” It’s plain to see that this includes all living creatures on earth. That, my friends is why Martin Luther King, given the chance, would have started a large and long lasting vegan movement.
‘Til next time Light Travelers.