On Friday April 4, the fortieth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s untimely death by assassination, men and women of all races, creeds and colors commemorated this tremendous loss.
It was a true testimony of Dr. King’s dream – that men and women, boys and girls, white and black, Jews and Gentiles – would come together and be known by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin.
I remember 1968. I was a young mother who had grown up in the segregated South – in a tale of two cities.
In one city, black folk – formerly Colored, then Negroes, now African Americans – lived and often thrived in their own world when devoid of white interference.
Then there was the other one – same city, different world – where we were not wanted, unless of course, we went to serve them. White, privileged, racist and definitely superior, at least in their minds.
So 13 years after the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement, we saw the murder of the man “most wanted’’ by the KKK, most investigated by the FBI, and most revered by those of us set aside as inferior, subservient, not worthy of equal opportunity for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
I was not at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis when King was cut down, nor was I there when his death and life were remembered in lofty speeches.
But I watched from afar. One such speech came from Sen. John McCain, who was booed when he apologized for voting against recognizing Dr. King with a national holiday.
That same day, I was sent an email in which ColorOfChange.org demeaned McCain for appearing at the ceremony.
Since the president of ColorOfChange.org worked for MoveOn.org, the organizations have the same agenda.
Both are special-interest groups that seem to exist solely to promote the expansion of the Democratic Party while demeaning anything Republican.
So I’m not surprised at their focus on McCain as they talked about Dr. King’s legacy.
What I find odd is the re-interpretation of Dr. King’s dream and the facts surrounding his life and death.
Dr. King fought the racist policies and practices perpetrated by the KKK, Democratic politicians and businessmen who hated us and him, yet civil rights activists act as if they were Republicans.
When Dr. King and the protesters marched in the streets of Birmingham, Democratic Police Commissioner Eugene “Bull” Conner released attack dogs and firefighters with high-pressured water hoses on them.
When Dr. King marched on Washington and delivered his famous “I have a Dream” speech, Democratic President John F. Kennedy was incensed.
When Dr. King criticized America’s involvement in Vietnam, Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson became angry.
The longest serving member of Congress is Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd, a former Exalted Cyclops of the KKK. Yet the black community has forgiven all these Democrats for their racist politics, while condemning Republicans as the racists.
One should ask the question, “Why”?
As a young girl growing up in segregated Alabama, I was kept in fear for my life by these racist actions.
So as I commemorated Dr. King’s death, I wondered why those who stood with him on that balcony on April 4, 1968 would want to rewrite history.
When did our enemies become our best friends? When did it become politically incorrect to be a member of the party that freed the slaves and worked to free us from racists and unequal treatment?
The day after we honored Dr. King’s death, actor Charlton Heston died. Heston marched with Dr. King before it became popular for actors to be involved in civil rights. Yet when he became president of the National Rifle Association, he was called a racist.
Heston stated he learned the “awesome power of disobedience from Dr. King,’’ saying, “You must be willing to be humiliated…to endure the modern-day equivalent of the police dogs at Montgomery and the water cannons at Selma.”
John McCain was willing to be humiliated when he spoke at Memphis. And if we can forgive racists like Sen. Byrd, surely we can forgive McCain.
Dr. King would have wanted it that way.
Barbara Howard is president of Barbara Howard & Associates and the Florida state chair for C.O.R.E. (the Congress of Racial Equality).
Barbara Howard • BHoward@bhowardandassoc.com