A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

My Photo
Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Friday, April 04, 2008

Martin Luther King, Jr. – Forty Years On

It was 40 years ago tonight that my brother and I performed our usual evening routine of an after dinner bath. When we came downstairs in our pajamas, the television networks interrupted their usual evening fare with the news that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated in Memphis. We had never heard of him before this night, and although we wouldn’t realize it for some time to come, our world was changed forever.

Our street in Frankford remained quiet for the rest of the night, but beyond our street, America exploded. Race riots broke out in many major cities. Entire neighborhoods were looted and burned. One area of Washington DC, known as the H Street Corridor, was a victim of the racism that manifested itself that night. As of the early 1990’s, this area had still not fully recovered from the scars inflicted on it.

Racism is so many things. It’s a virus that afflicts both the victim and the oppressor. It’s only incurable if we want it to be.

It is the elephant that has been in America’s living room, even before the Founding Fathers gathered in Philadelphia to declare their freedom from an oppressive English king. It is rooted in the ethnocentrism that declares "our group is better than yours is". Countries, political organizations, even whole cultures and religions show signs of this root in their everyday practice. Personally, I have no use for ethnocentrism or its finished products.

Now 40 years later, Martin Luther King, Jr. is not remembered so much as a man, but rather as an icon of the civil rights movement. The label icon seems so impersonal: martyr would be a better description. Yet we shouldn’t dwell on this, but we should remember – as many will today – his words, his actions, and his legacy.

A new generation of leaders is actively pursuing his goals. Barack Obama, who is poised to get the nomination for President, gave an inspiring speech on race in America several weeks ago. It was intended in part to address concerns that he had not distanced himself from his preacher's racist rants, but this just shows that the road to meet King’s goals is long, winding, and tricky. Obama and his contemporaries will surely advance these goals one footstep at a time, but over a period of years the goals will be realized.

So, like my brother and I - naïve and unaware of the world and its problems when we stepped into our bathtub only to step out into a different world 40 years ago - we are all still learning the rudiments of world brotherhood. It is a long journey to the world that King foresaw. We have come far, and we still have a long way to go. We all need patience along the way: love, faith, and understanding are all works in progress.


Post a Comment

<< Home