Dr. Bill Atwood

Free at last

This coming Monday the nation will pause to honor the memory of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. who served as the leader of the civil rights movement of the 1960’s that helped change the racial attitudes of most Americans.

We have come a long way and we still have a ways to go, but the advances are worth noting and because of Dr. King’s work people are working toward that goal when people would be “judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.”

Reverend Jessie Jackson, who marched alongside of King, seems to have missed that goal. Jesse sees dollar signs whenever there is an event

that he can turn into a racial case. Same with the Reverend All Sharpton. Jesse and Al have done quite well financially from their endeavors which many refer to as extortion. Your company gets into a little trouble with a case that has some racial component involved and the Reverend’s Al and Jesse will bring the cameras and make political hay with their ability to attract a lapdog media. However, should the “offending” company make an appropriate contribution to both of their organizations then those two race relations hucksters will announce that you are working hand-in-hand with them and making the efforts and taking the steps to correct the evils of racism in your company. When they announce that, we know that you have written a substantial check.

Getting back to Dr. King. It was King who used his pulpit in his church to gain an even greater bully pulpit from which to address the evils of bigotry. His elegance of oration made people listen. Actually his speaking abilities made us want to listen and once we as a nation were in the crowds, he was able to get his message across to the millions of white people who had to be convinced that the attitudes held in the deep south were wrong.

Dr. King made headlines wherever he went. It might be a march into Selma, or a sitin at a government office building. It might have meant being arrested and then having to face the judge and accepting whatever penalties were levied. He always reminded his followers that Gandhi was able to defeat the British in India with use of peaceful, nonviolent protests.

When Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, many hailed it as another example of how far this nation has come in one generation. We saw a time in the recent past when the president, attorney general, a couple of Supreme Court justices, the nation’s favored basketball player, the number one golfer in this country, the leading talk show hostess, several mayors, a few congressional office holders, and others in leadership roles were people of color. This says nothing according to Al and Jesse. They want more and more and more, for as long as they can keep folks seeing the color of the skin as a divider then Al and Jesse make far more cash.

Dr. King scared many in this country. I don’t think they were terrified of black people rising up they were scared to look into a mirror and see that America had been wrong in how black people and other minorities had been and were being treated. It was a congress, filled with white men, from both the democratic and republican parties that passed the 1964 Civil Rights legislation that LBJ signed into law. It had been Eisenhower who had sent troops to get a black child into a school in the south. It was Lincoln who signed the Emancipation Proclamation in the middle of the Civil War. It was Kennedy who gave the White House ears to Dr. King and as such King was on the national stage.

Church leaders of every color and faith leant the support of the civil rights movement from the pulpits that helped people see the error of their ways. One by one, in every town, city, and village it started to change. From Stone Mountain Georgia to the hills of the Dakotas and from sea to shining sea, the promissory note King spoke about in his speech that August day in 1963 was being presented and people were seeing the need to change the way they thought.

Not only have we come a long way with elected leadership; we have seen a difference in television. Not just actors and entertainers but in advertisements. Companies seek out pitchmen to sell their products. We now see in mainstream America people of color being used to sell products not only to minorities but to the general population as well.

We have come a long way and we have more to overcome. Someday we will; but let’s adhere to Dr. King’s methods and words of peace rather that the rhetoric of self-appointed race baiters.

“Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty we are free at last.” Dr. King’s Dream lives.