Archive for Thursday, January 24, 2008

King’s victory worth our annual celebration

January 24, 2008

It's been nearly 45 years or two generations since Martin Luther King Jr. shared with us his dream. Those of us who remember the speech are now in the minority with even the middle aged unable to remember the America that King addressed that day on the Washington Mall.

It is appropriate to look back at the progress made since that day. King did so himself in the speech at the progress the country had made since the Civil War and Emancipation Proclamation. He testified that day in April 1963 that "the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition."

Those were strong words, but fully appropriate for that day when Jim Crow segregation laws were still enforced in the South through the power of the state and unofficial terror. It was one of the great victories of our history that the nonviolent movement organized by King and others overturned those laws and defanged the shadowy groups who helped prop it up through violence and intimidation.

It was a victory King foretold in this speech when he challenged America to live up to the principles of its founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Race relations are still not what they should be in the United States and too much still separates the races when it comes to material prosperity. But we are all indebted to King for leading the fight to remove the stain of legal discrimination from American law.

We can recognize as King did that that isn't enough, but that shouldn't diminish the significance of that victory or the courage needed to fight it.

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