Friday, April 4, 2008

40 years

Today is the 40th anniversary of the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Let us take a moment to reflect that while, yes, Dr. King did have a dream that this nation would one day be one where people would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character, he was also well aware that this was still just a dream, and that we still had much to do to work towards it. Let us reflect that Dr. King also fought against war, militarism and imperialism. Let us reflect that while he battled to demolish forced inequality, he also fought to foster true equality--a battle that many, perhaps most, whites would not join him in. An excerpt from Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?, his last book:
With Selma and the Voting Rights Act one phase of development in the civil rights revolution came to an end. A new phase opened, but few observers realized it or were prepared for its implications. For the vast majority of white Americans, the past decade--the first phase--had been a struggle to treat the Negro with a degree of decency, not of equality. White America was ready to demand that the Negro should be spared the lash of brutality and coarse degradation, but it had never been truly committed to helping him out of poverty, exploitation or all forms of discrimination. The outraged white citizen had been sincere when he snatched the whips from the southern sheriffs and forbade them more cruelties. But when this was to a degree accomplished, the emotions that had momentarily inflamed him melted away. White Americans left the Negro on the ground and in devastating numbers walked off with the aggressor. It appeared that the white segregationist and the ordinary white citizen had more in common with one another than either had with the Negro.

When Negroes looked for the second phase, the realization of equality, they found that many of their white allies had quietly disappeared. The Negroes of America had taken the president, the press and the pulpit at their word when they spoke in broad terms of freedom and justice. But the absence of brutality and unregenerate evil is not the presence of justice. To stay murder is not the same thing as to ordain brotherhood. The word was broken, and the free-running expectations of the Negro crashed into the stone walls of white resistance. The result was havoc. Negroes felt cheated, especially in the North, while many whites felt that the Negroes had gained so much it was virtually impudent and greedy to ask for more so soon.

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