Come on, children of the 80s, sing along with me... "Early mornin, April 4, shots ring out in the Memphis sky. Free at last, they look your life, they could not take your pride."
Thanks to the inimitable Bono, these words from U2 are ingrained in my mind so I can never forget the day and the location where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed.
As a blogger who periodically writes about race, I would be remiss if I didn't in some way comment on the 40th anniversary of Dr. King's assassination. Initially, I felt guilty that I was not able to post this piece on the day itself. Yet as that Friday wore on and as I heard countless mentions of the anniversary, my guilt diminished and now I think it's better to have held onto this post for a few months.
Too often, the media latches onto a cause or issue and barrages us with information until. we have little emotional choice besides rage or complacency. I am hard-pressed to find two states of being less compatible with the legacy of Dr. King than rage or complacency. Rather, by hanging onto this post for the past few months, I hope to achieve something far more in synch with what Dr. King preached - I hope to bring about awareness, to remove ambivalence, to incite action.
One need not look deep into the psyche of America in 2008 to realize race is still a volatile, visceral and immediate issue we all encounter. Today's Washington Post and MSNBC featured an article reporting that nearly 50 percent of Americans believe race relations are in bad shape and three in 10 acknowledge feelings of racial prejudice. And while 51 percent of people described race relations as "excellent" or "good," that's an average across all people - when you break down people's perceptions by their race, it becomes apparent that white people still take a much sunnier view on the state of our nation than do racial minorities.
As Barack Obama shifts to a national campaign for president, it's high time we all look at ourselves and our neighbors and recognize that while we've come a long way, we still have a bumpy road ahead of us on the journey to actual interracial understanding. And with increased immigration and migration among Hispanics and Asians, that great big melting pot is going to get stirred around quite a bit more before it all becomes something palatable.
I scanned Wikipedia for some special connection June 22 might have to the idea of race relations and actually came up with a few (albeit slightly random) connections. One, today is St. Thomas More's feast day and he created the idea of a "utopia." Of course, in this worldview any challenge to unified Christianity (aka Protestantism) was keenly rejected, so he may not be the best example. June 22nd also marks the death of Judy Garland who sang about a perfect life over the rainbow. Then again, she died of an accidental drug overdose.
Maybe the best connection to the legacy of Dr. King lies in that fount of great wisdom, my friend and yours, James Brown, who always reminded us to "Say it loud - I'm Black and I'm proud."