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Assassination of Dr. King: The American Way

Fifty-six years ago, on April 4, America’s champion purveyor of social justice, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.  While standing on the balcony of his room at the Lorraine Motel, this true believer in non-violence was struck down violently by a racist who evidently adhered to a racist creed that you have a right to murder those you disagree with in life. When it was publicly announced that Dr. King had passed away, other gun-loving racists commenced shooting their weapons in a celebration that they had finally ridden themselves of that enemy who preached non-violence and social justice. That same night in Indianapolis, Indiana, Democratic presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy was scheduled to address the Black community at a rally organized by his supporters. He began his remarks by telling the crowd, still unaware of what had happened in Memphis, that Dr. King had been shot and killed. Kennedy deviated from his planned political speech and instead addressed the grieving crowd. He said in very prophetic words, “What we need in the United States is not division. What we need in the United States is not hatred. What we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness… What we need is love, wisdom, and compassion toward one another and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country.” Kennedy’s words were meant to mitigate the hurt and pain people felt at that moment. Now, 56 years later, those exact words are applicable …

Fifty-six years ago, on April 4, America’s champion purveyor of social justice, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.  While standing on the balcony of his room at the Lorraine Motel, this true believer in non-violence was struck down violently by a racist who evidently adhered to a racist creed that you have a right to murder those you disagree with in life. When it was publicly announced that Dr. King had passed away, other gun-loving racists commenced shooting their weapons in a celebration that they had finally ridden themselves of that enemy who preached non-violence and social justice.

That same night in Indianapolis, Indiana, Democratic presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy was scheduled to address the Black community at a rally organized by his supporters. He began his remarks by telling the crowd, still unaware of what had happened in Memphis, that Dr. King had been shot and killed. Kennedy deviated from his planned political speech and instead addressed the grieving crowd. He said in very prophetic words, “What we need in the United States is not division. What we need in the United States is not hatred. What we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness… What we need is love, wisdom, and compassion toward one another and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country.”

Kennedy’s words were meant to mitigate the hurt and pain people felt at that moment. Now, 56 years later, those exact words are applicable as racism has raised its ugly head in the streets of America, as Black Americans continue to be the target of racist bullets from both the police and vigilante groups. One would assume that 56 years would have brought about change, but that is nothing more than a pipe dream. I do not want to place the blame on the sudden rise of white nationalists that came out from hiding during the election of President Barack Obama or on the rhetoric coming from former President Donald Trump. The truth is that this country may not be capable of change. The sickness of racism is so ingrained in the fabric of America that this experiment with freedom and justice for all its people may never work.

The United States was created on an ideal, and I believe that, for the most part, the majority of the men and women in this country are basically good people. But when good people are silent, then the bad ones will prevail. That seems to be what is happening with the hate and divisiveness that continues to fester and grow. And as Dr. King wrote, “The silence of the good people is more dangerous than the brutality of the bad people.” 

This is something for all of us to consider as we move forward to the 2024 presidential election.

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