He would have turned 89 this coming Monday. In April it will have been 50 years since he was gunned downed by a coward hiding in the shadows as he walked out of his motel room that morning in Memphis. James Earl Ray killed the man and not his Dream.
Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Junior was the man who seemed to embody most of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. There were others to be sure but they either advocated acts of violence or were not as eloquent as Dr. King. Few are as eloquent as King.
I was a young boy who grew up in Compton in the early 1960’s and then we moved to a cruddy section of the San Fernando Valley which wasn’t much better than Compton but the valley offered warmer, dryer weather which benefited my mother’s arthritis. I remember seeing on the television the effects of the marches in Selma and other cities. I remember the Watt’s riots and I remember April 4, 1968. Word of Dr. King’s assassination went through my high school with lighting speed. The students in my classes were shocked and we had reasons to be concerned about what was happening to America.
Less than five years earlier we had witnessed President Kennedy being shot in Dallas. Vietnam was in the news and between the Civil Rights Movement and the anti-war crowd there was tension everywhere.
Dr. King began many conversations around kitchen tables and in living rooms across the fruited plains. White people who did not live in the south began to question why people were being segregated simply because of the pigment in their skin. People began to ask themselves why they were holding onto beliefs that judge a person by the color of their skin rather than the content of their character.
The older people amongst the nation had grown up in different times than the young people who were feeling empowered by the anti-war movement and many began to march with Dr. King. Many parents found themselves trying to justify the bigotry they had either practiced or tolerated against others.
Dr. King would lay out his position in a wonderful speech, the media covered his words and the conversations started.
I had friends of different colors and religions. It wasn’t so much that my parents were pushing a diversity campaign as much as my friends pretty much reflected with whom I attended school. You hang with the guys up and down the street because that was who was there.
As we take time this coming weekend and take time off from work on Monday for the national holiday which honor’s Dr. King I hope people will step back and look at race relations in America today. We have come a long way and we have a ways to go to be sure. We have elected many people of color to office including the Presidency. However; we also have sunk into a routine in some quarters that as soon as a person disagrees with a person of another color the charge of racism gushes forth. I used to state that I disagreed with Joe Biden as well and some missed the meaning of my comments.
I hope that the race peddlers in America such as Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton and their ilk will permit people of all colors to have a difference of opinion over the issues without stopping the conversation for fear of being tagged a racist. We have far more in common than we have differences.
Dr. King’s Legacy would be better served.