It was the shot heard round the world.
Martin Luther King, Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated on April 4 in 1968 by James Earl Ray, a crazed racist. Dr. King had begun to emerge as the face, and more importantly the voice for America and even the world over for racial equality. King was an eloquent spokesman, learned academically, Christian in belief and determined to make a difference. He would never know the difference he would make.
The assassin’s bullet, deadly and accurate, was the beginning in many ways of a new awareness of racial inequalities primarily black and white, but really more than that. It was perhaps the beginning of a new consciousness, a new awareness of differences, diversity where all right-thinking men and women, of good faith, colorblind and Constitutional would begin to learn a new respect for each other and learn how to build different and better relationships. They would learn that the color of one’s skin mattered not, but only the content of one’s character, as Dr. Martin Luther King so eloquently said.
The King assassination triggered a new Constitutional awareness of equality. All men and women says this precious document and of course words framed in our Declaration of Independence, are created equal, and each, EACH ONE has the Constitutionally guaranteed right to:
LIFE, LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS
We the American people have heard those words over and again, perhaps too many times for them to be the living, life-guiding words they were meant to be. Equality between black and white existed on paper only. That was the problem. Frederick Douglass, the former slave in America eloquently stated the real problem:
“THERE IS NO NEGRO PROBLEM. THE PROBLEM IS WHETHER OR NOT THE AMERICAN PEOPLE HAVE LOYALTY ENOUGH, HONOR ENOUGH, PATRIOTISM ENOUGH, TO LIVE UP TO THEIR OWN CONSTITUTION.”
What we the American people had lost or perhaps never had was a loyalty, a faithfulness to our very own Constitution and Declaration of Independence. We had forsaken Constitutional commands and gone our own way, accepting slavery, injustice and inequality. We had lost our honor, our dignity as human beings and we saw too many people of color as UNEQUAL.
We had lost our desire to LIVE UP to our very own Constitution and that disloyalty, dishonor, lack of patriotism and courage to live up to our Constitution was the real problem, the real cause of:
In fact, we the people had become unspiritual. We had failed to recognize that equality was divinely inspired, required and built as a fundamental precept into our Constitutional rights. The right of equality, and the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness was divine, inalienable, unconditional and it was un-American, un-Christian not to understand and LIVE UP to that great command. We had lost our way. Martin Luther King attempted to point us back, encouraged us to GET BACK to our roots, the fundamentals of America and begin anew to:
LOVE THY NEIGHBOR AS THYSELF
We made progress as a people. We abolished slavery. We began to learn how to live together, work together, forge bonds with one another although the progress was slow, and often painful. So slow, in fact, that it birthed the message of Martin Luther King in 1968. We listened to this eloquent champion of civil rights, equality and we respected not only his oratory, but the core and substance of his message. And, more progress was made even after his assassination. His ways were peaceful but many arose who chose violence as the answer, antidote to anger. We saw the rise of the Black Panthers and other aggressive, militant entities determined to get even and not necessarily get equality. But there were, in the day of Martin Luther King calm, still voices working, hoping, enduring and believing, like the NAACP and perhaps like the church itself. Martin Luther King was pastor, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King. Churches, black and white adopted his message and proclaimed the Constitutional truth of equality. We listened, inched forward, painful progress but real, nonetheless. Churches became mixed, neither black nor white but for all persons regardless of color. Men and women, previously distant, became one in the love of Jesus Christ. That love grew relationships and destroyed the barriers of misunderstanding. It was the dawn of a new day where race relations were BORN AGAIN.
Something better was on the way.
Jesse Jackson, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, a disciple of Martin Luther King, took over. He soon, however, many thought, lost the King vision of peaceful resistance and progress stalled. Suspicion and untrust ruled when there should have been new understandings. Other leaders, black and white did perhaps some good but it seemed as though the fundamental, underlying animosities continued to exist. It took action by individuals, by right-thinking private entities, by men and women one-on-one to begin to forge new relationships, new understandings, constantly chipping away at racism. It seemed a never-ending battle. Whether cultural, economic or educational, the great divide was always there. It undoubtedly exists today.
Many Americans feel that the leadership of the last decade, BLACK AND WHITE, did not do enough to heal, create new understandings. Economic disparities continue to exist. Black youth for example, especially males found real employment almost impossible. Education, whether public or private seemed in many ways to forsake its real responsibilities. Cultures divided and segregated. And the leaders of the past decade, whether political, educational, spiritual or economic failed to further breakdown the great racial divide. It seems as though we continue to live in a day and age tense, separated if not segregated, with lingering suspicions and untrust. We seemingly have not learned that mankind is not about:
THE COLOR OF SKIN
THE CONTENT OF ONE’S CHARACTER
All races and ethnicities unfortunately have prejudice. That prejudice can be expressed against other races and even in some cases, among and within one’s very own race. We can in our very own country see misunderstandings between Irish and Italian, North and South, educated and uneducated. Prejudice is everywhere, EVERYWHERE and it is hard to distinguish between:
PREJUDICE AND PREFERENCE
We seem to be more concerned with diversity, differences in people rather than to foster the one common bond we should all have:
WE ARE ALL AMERICANS
First and foremost: AMERICANS.
We should be a people caught up in our Constitution, concerned with its preservation, living out as Frederick Douglass has so well said our Constitutional beliefs, chief of which is that:
ALL MEN AND WOMEN ARE CREATED EQUAL!
And religious prejudice goes on. Misunderstandings abound between Christian and Jew. Islam considers all others INFIDELS. Roman Catholics continue deep divides with Protestants. Denominations hunker down but independent churches and religious practice grow. There seems further splintering, divide, even isolation. We seem to grow farther apart from unity, oneness and true Americanism. There is still a long racial road to travel. For in more than one-half century since Martin Luther King, racial understanding and equality still has a long road to travel.
Racial prejudice, even hatred, exists among all races. Many African Americans are prejudiced against whites. Racism can be a two-way street. It is wrong either way. Hear the words of a right-thinking African American woman living in the great State of Florida Ilene Yocum who spoke out courageously regarding the tragedy in Ferguson, Missouri and the killing of Michael Brown. Ms. Yocum said the following:
“I AM EMBARRASSED BY THE SO-CALLED BLACK LEADERS INCLUDING OUR PRESIDENT FOR NOT TAKING THE HIGH ROAD ON THIS. INSTEAD, THEY PAMPER THE RIOTERS AND IGNORE THE RIGHTS OF THE OFFICER TO PROTECT HIMSELF. I TRULY BELIEVE THAT HAD THIS BEEN A BLACK POLICE OFFICER NONE OF THIS (THE MICHAEL BROWN SHOOTING) WOULD BE HAPPENING. OUR COUNTRY HAS COME A LONG WAY IN RACE RELATIONS BUT BY STOKING THE FIRE, WHO ARE THE REAL RACISTS? YES, RACISM OCCURS IN ALL RACES.”
And indeed it does, Ms. Yocum, indeed it does. How interesting that this very right-thinking black lady and mother saw racism in the acts and the heart of even President Barack Hussein Obama himself. If racism does in fact exist at that level, how difficult it is for we the people to unite in love and peace.
Ms. Yocum further believes that much of the problem of racism has to do with parents, and in fact the lack of parental teaching. She eloquently says:
“AS PARENTS WE HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO TEACH OUR CHILDREN RIGHT FROM WRONG. IN ORDER TO RECEIVE RESPECT, RESPECT MUST BE GIVEN, NOT ONLY TO OTHERS BUT TO ONESELF AND ESPECIALLY TO OUR LAWS AND AUTHORITY.”
Courageous and convicting words, and as right as they can be. If parents do not teach, then the law means nothing. Riots, violence, chaos and disrespect reign and there is little hope for racial understanding, racial equality. Perhaps Ilene Yocum is a disciple of Martin Luther King, a 21st century voice for the real message in which he believed. We need more women like her.
And finally, wonderful words for all Americans from Ilene Yocum:
“WE ARE ALL AMERICANS AND MEMBERS OF THE HUMAN RACE. WE SHOULD BE PROUD TO LIVE IN A COUNTRY WHERE OPPORTUNITIES ARE AVAILABLE FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO WORK FOR THEM, AND OUR FREEDOMS ARE PROTECTED BY OUR LAWS AND THOSE BRAVE MEN AND WOMEN WHO CHOOSE TO SERVE.”
Brilliant, right on, special words of wisdom.
We are or should be all of us Americans and Americans first even as we are members of the human race.
Rather than dishonor or complain, we should all be proud to live in this great country. We should recognize that there are abundant opportunities no matter the economy available for all, all men and women regardless of the color of skin who want to work, really want to work, so well said, Ms. Yocum.
And, we should be proud of and honor those brave men and women who choose to serve and protect us according to the laws of this great country. If we did that, all of that as Ms. Yocum so eloquently stated, racism would end in short order. We would live out the dream of Martin Luther King and of all men and women of goodwill who really want peace and love between the races. The end of racism can not come from political leaders, or educators, or from the world of economics. It can only come from men and women of goodwill, inspired by faith, truly believing in and living in the ways of the God who created these inalienable rights, reaching out, communicating, understanding and learning how to appreciate the different skin colors God created.
A babe was born in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. The angels who announced his birth asked us to glorify God and to proclaim the Godly message from this birth to all mankind:
PEACE ON EARTH AND GOODWILL TO ALL MEN AND WOMEN!
If men and women really want peace, and the end of racial hatred and prejudice, take a fresh look at the Babe of Bethlehem. HE can show you the way to:
LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF!
Regardless of race or color.