Posted by: Jim | January 19, 2009


PD*5578145Happy Martin Luther King Day–the day when you are supposed to do an anonymous good deed for someone. (You didn’t know that? That’s no excuse!)

I don’t honor “reverends” very much, but MLK is one Reverend who I don’t mind honoring one bit. He was had a rare combination of three virtues: genius, compassion, and charisma.  Take a look at this quote, written only 46 years ago:

“Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

And now, only 46 years later, we are on the eve of a Black man becoming the ultimate “somebody.” And while some of the things MLK wrote about in 1963 do still happen, they most often occur in geographic regions that are getting smaller, and by a people who are becoming more and more reviled by the mainstream of society.

“The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.”



  1. The CNN International coverage today has packed in hundreds of mentions of Obama being assassinated and mentioned Bobby Kennedy more times than you’d think possible. They also expressed their concern over how Michelle Obama ‘will behave’ as if she was part giraffe.

    The piece de resistance is the agonising, after billions, maybe trillions wasted by Bush, on whether this inauguration event is too lavish, implying that Obama is a feckless spendthrift, the Mack Daddy, come to party in Washington after swapping a dirt floor for swank. Expect them to comment on Obama’s likely reaction when discovering that he ‘now has HOT and cold running water, and can make dookie inside…’

    Plus ca change

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