Monday, January 19, 2009

In Memory of King

I was only ten years old when the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. I vaguely remember my sister, eight years older than me, running from her room where she had been listening to the radio, frantically announcing ”Martin Luther King has been shot!” At the time I had no idea who King was, why he would have been shot, or why it mattered so much to her.

Dion’s recording of Dick Holler’s Abraham, Martin and John lyrics later that year help me connect King to John Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy. While in high school and learning about the philosophy of non-violence, I first associated King with Mahatma Gandhi. In seminary I read King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail and thereafter also associated him with Henry David Thoreau and civil disobedience.

I am young enough to never have attended a segregated school but old enough to have seen the Klan, dressed in their white hooded robes, handing out racist literature on street corners in Dallas, NC. I am also old enough to remember the day when there existed side by side in North Carolina, Black Presbyteries (Regional Governing Bodies) and White Presbyteries, as the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) would not begin to heal the wounds of the Civil War until 1983, and in North Carolina would not integrate its Presbyteries until 1989.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and most if not all American churches as well as our Nation has made great progress regarding civil rights but not nearly enough. The United States is about to inaugurate its first President of color but Sunday morning is still one of the most segregated hours in America. Towns and cities across our nation are still often marked by segregated neighborhoods. Even progressive Presbyterians in New York City are plagued by racism.

In many respects, King’s dream is still a dream. The civil rights movement may have dismantled legalized racism, but history has shown that it is much easier to change laws than hearts and minds. Tomorrow, maybe a few more minds and hearts will be won over by the power of love, forgiveness, acceptance, and justice.

1 comment:

luseana said...

Many diverse people I know are standing together now and celebrating the promise and possibility of President Obama.