Thursday, April 4, 2013

45 Years and Counting

Forty-five years ago this evening, I was at a lecture (or maybe it was a panel discussion - it was 45 years ago forgodssake who remembers all the details) on ghetto violence and what are known as race riots in American cities.  After the basic talk and as the Q & A was about to begin, someone handed a note to the moderator/introducer who made the announcement, shut down the program, and told everyone to get home safely.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been shot.

He died that night in Memphis, of an assassin's bullet.

The night before he gave a speech in support of striking sanitation workers.  It was a speech about race, sure.  But it was really a speech about economic justice and economic power.  And it was, some say, prophetic.
And they were telling me --. Now, it doesn't matter, now. It really doesn't matter what happens now. I left Atlanta this morning, and as we got started on the plane, there were six of us. The pilot said over the public address system, "We are sorry for the delay, but we have Dr. Martin Luther King on the plane. And to be sure that all of the bags were checked, and to be sure that nothing would be wrong with on the plane, we had to check out everything carefully. And we've had the plane protected and guarded all night."

And then I got into Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?

Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind.  Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
It's now 45 years and a day since that speech, 45 years exactly since he was murdered. Sanitation workers in Memphis are struggling again (if they ever stopped struggling) to keep their jobs and make a decent wage.  That "arc of moral justice thing"? The promised land is still a hell of a long way off.
  • While Sam Alito wonders how there can be a right to same-sex marriage when smart phones predate the first laws specifically permitting it (although cell phones predate by far longer the first laws specifically prohibiting it)
  • while New York is trying to defend a policy of stopping and frisking people who've done nothing wrong and don't even appear to have done anything wrong except be black or hispanic - damn, they shouldn't have done that)
  • while income inequality increases, congressional Democrats pay fealty to banks and money markets and congressional Republicans bow obeisance to the millionaires and billionaires who must have lower tax rates and damn what it will do to the po
  • while North Carolina works to repeal the Racial Justice Act because people on death row were just getting too much damn justice
  • while - hell, name your favorite outrage
45 years ago tonight.

Here's a link to the text.

No comments:

Post a Comment