Exactly forty years ago today, Martin Luther King Jr. was killed by an assassin while preparing to attend a rally for sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. The night before he was killed, on April 3rd, he delivered his last speech, in which he offered both an optimistic view of the future, and a prophecy that he may not live to see that future:
“Something is happening in our world. The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; or Memphis, Tennessee — the cry is always the same: “We want to be free.”
“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop!”
“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!”
Less than 24 hours after delivering that speech, King was killed outside his hotel room.
I won’t pretend that King was without controversy, and I won’t pretend to agree with every single thing he said (particularly in relation to the Vietnam War), but it is impossible to deny that he was a great figure in American and world history, and a man who believed in freedom and equality for all.
And that brings me to the point of this post. King’s vision for our country, laid out in his most famous speech, of a nation that sees completely beyond the look of a man, remain unfulfilled, but unlike when King was still alive, I believe that those now blocking that vision from coming true lie primarily in the minority communities. Obviously, there are still those suspicious, or even hateful, of minority groups, and that sad fact will only be changed by the death of those people. But more than forty years after the accomplishments of Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, as a new generation rises to lead America, Blacks have a better shot now than ever before to achieve trueequality, the kind that many of all races desire, and the kind that MLK spoke of, yet, unless they begin to reject those who are perfectly happy with playing the race card at every turn, those who welcome the opportunity to remain the helpless victim who must receive legal favoritism to come close to equality, and those who like nothing more than to turn everything into a Black vs. White issue, they will never get there.
To achieve true equality, you have to want true equality, and like it or not, many in the Black community, including some of its most visible leaders, don’t want true equality. For true equality to be achieved, African Americans must cast off those who use the race card to promote their own faces and political agendas, and the must begin to reject the idea that all of their problems were created by other people, and that the ills facing the Black community can only be solved through massive government assistance, or legal favoritism in the form of racial quotas or “affirmative action”, because they can’t. In fact, the reverse is true, many of these programs breed resentment, anger, and the same kind of racial tension that they seek to eliminate. True equality can and will only be achieved when the African American community (particularly its leaders), begin to seek and work for it.
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