My precious five-year-old granddaughter DellaMae came home from kindergarten last week, exclaiming in an excited and very concerned tone, "Mommy, they shot the King!" My daughter quickly figured out that her teachers had done a lesson on Dr. Martin Luther King, whose birthday is officially celebrated today. She immediately explained to DellaMae the true meaning of that lesson. Dr. King's tragic death is not what we celebrate. We celebrate what his all too short life meant to our society, to people of all races.
In 50 years on the surface, it appears we have come a long way in race relations. Then again, in the past year alone we've had instances that send a loud message that we may be headed several steps backward.
For example, the events last year in Charlottesville, Virginia where Neo-Nazis and white supremacists clashed with other protesters resulting in one death, other injuries and many arrests. Charlottesville wasn't the only example that true racial hatred still exists in our country. The appearance of Confederate flags along with increased numbers of marches by those same white supremacists all tend to lead to one conclusion; there is much more racial hatred still alive in our country than we ever realized.
It's not just in the South, it's everywhere. In "Red" states as well as some "Blue" states there are still people who believe the color of one's skin determines your status in life. That premise was wrong 50 years ago and it's still wrong today.
Growing up as a teenager in the 1960's I was there to see the turmoil we went through as a nation during the Civil Rights Movement. I saw the lunch room sit ins, the peaceful protests that resulted in people of all ages including children being hit by water cannons and beaten to within an inch of their lives. I remember seeing actual news clips of police dogs being turned on protesters; an effort to keep them in their " place."
Racism was indeed alive and well then and it's still alive in 2018. Hate is something that doesn't come naturally. It must be taught and white supremacists begin teaching hate at an early age. My granddaughter was taught early on that we must all love each other, just as all my grandchildren have been taught and my two children before them. None of us are perfect but even though we may have lapses in judgement from time to time, hate is not something we carry in our hearts.
U.S. Rep. John Lewis was recently quoted as saying, " We all live in the same house. We need to love one another and be brothers and sisters."
Words that were spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King more than 50 years ago still resonate in our society today. " Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
As we remember Dr. King today and what he stood for, some will spend the day helping others, some will reflect on his words and his teachings while some will feed the hate within their own hearts for everyone who is not like them. I encourage everyone I know to fight injustice in our society with love. To look past the color of our skin and see the good in all people. As Dr. King also said in 1963, "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. "