It amazes me how easily we become enamored by a catchy saying made by authority figures. We fall into lock step with those who would have things exactly their way and become the vocal army they build the illusion of leading.
In today’s America we see forces building and leveraging the core hatred and racial prejudice that Dr. King gave his life to overcome.
In his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” Dr. King notes.
“In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.”
He goes on to describe the difference be just laws and unjust laws as
“An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal. Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law.”
So we come to the present. Our federal and state institutions have made strides forward in protecting the rights of the Negro, or Black, or African-American, but still – every day their uniqueness is made the central issue of any story. Dr. King struggled to bring equality to the African-American community; until those we allow to lead us truly believe in equality it will not happen. I find neither party truly supports the equality of the races. The Democrats would have them become wards of the state through dependence on welfare, while the Republicans have lost sight of their foundational beliefs, and having gained the traditional white southern Democrats as members, seek to maintain the status quo.
Again as Dr. King noted in his letter.
“I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
Between these two factions grows the ignorance and intolerance of racial hatred.
Today Charleston South Carolina grieves because a racist young terrorist or thug went into a house of God and took the lives of nine worshipers. Everyone from the President on down has made comment on this, but what I see is a difference in America that is subtle, and should be unmistakable. Within hours of this horrific event the authorities identified, tracked down, and captured the perpetrator. How different than what Dr. King experienced in the church bombings of the 60’s where the state authorities actually helped cover-up the evidence? Unfortunately, so many choose to use our differences to divide and gain advantage that we are unlikely to appreciate the evolution.