Friday, August 23, 2013

Martin Luther King, Jr., Would Be Disappointed With....The African-American Community Today

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • It was the summer of 1958. I was ten years old. Our family was headed to Florida for a vacation in my uncle's sweet 1957 two-tone, Chevy convertible. We decided to drive straight through leaving the South Bronx early morning. One of our stops was a gas station just south of Atlanta, GA. As a New York kid, I wasn't prepared for my first real introduction into segregation. We stopped at one of those long-gone gas stations. In those days they were referred to as filling stations and/or service stations. While I don't recollect  the brand of fuel, I still remember pulling up to this old, dilapidated white building (looked somewhat like the old train station buildings of that day). It had two old-fashion pumps standing out front.  As soon as we pulled up, an attendant greeted us to pump the fuel, check the oil and wash our windows. I had to go for the usual pit stop and we wanted to get something to drink anyway {McDonald's were few and far between in those days}. I recall walking toward the front door of the station to ask where the bathroom was located. As I approached the rickety screen door, an older black gentleman was also walking toward the door at the same time. So, as my parents had taught me, I held open the screen door for the man. As I did, he looked down at me, hesitated for a moment, as if saying, "What the hell are you doing? You're not supposed to do that son." He bowed his head and went inside the station. I remember grabbing a coke from one of those antique red coolers, and heading outside to where the rest room was located. It was at that very moment when I came face-to-face with segregation--a sign below the rest room sign that said "white" and "colored" with an arrow pointing to the direction of the rest room that was to be used. It freaked me out.
  • That was a large part of America five years before Martin Luther King made his great 1963  "I Have A Dream" speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial in the March on Washington. It was six years before the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • This week and next week, America will be commemorating the 50th anniversary of that speech, one of the greatest in the history of our young Republic. Five decades ago the mood surrounding that speech was all about freedom, justice, jobs and ending racial discrimination and segregation.
  • The fact is we're a different and better nation today because of what happened on that day.  While it would be absurd to say racism is no longer a problem, it would be just as absurd to proclaim---as many have---that we've not made great strides in human dignity for all racial groups. For example, we are currently living in the era of the first black President of the United States, a president who was elected by a majority of white voters. I sincerely believe Martin Luther King is smiling down on America for that great achievement in American history including  the 42 black Americans in Congress today as well as 10 women, 31 Hispanics and 12 Asian Americans.
  • Having said that, I also believe Martin Luther King would be disappointed in the African-American community today. I believe he would be saddened by the  disturbing amount of black-on-black crime and gang violence occurring on American streets today. I believe he would be troubled to learn that the number of black children being raised by single mothers is 54% nationwide and as high as 75% in many of our urban areas. And, as I wrote earlier this week, I believe he would be angry at many black Americans who promote perpetual victimhood as well as black leaders who stroke the flames of racial conflict and tension. I also believe---based on many of his writings and speeches---he would be displeased with the pursuance of so many failed social programs that promoted anguish, dependence and misery (that's been evidenced by looking at public housing alone). In other words, the black community also has a lot of work left to do.
  • So, as I did in my previous piece, I'll leave you with this from a man who helped shape the greatest nation in history: