Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Bending Toward Justice

""Light Breaking Through"
- At the Desert Retreat House -

On this day, fifty years ago, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated as he stood on a balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis Tennessee.

This morning I read an article in the New York Times commemorating Dr. King’s death. It featured an interview with six “African American” teenage students who attend an integrated school in a poor district of Memphis - only a block away from the site of Dr. King’s assassination. I was particularly struck by the degree of hope and optimism expressed by these young people who acknowledged that they live in a city that continues to experience racism, violence and poverty; however, as they saw it, life was so much better today than it was in the in the past in a “Southern”” city like Memphis Tennessee.  Each of the students suggested that they believed Dr. King’s “dream” about a more just society had, to a great extent, become a reality.

Today I am reflecting on some of the comments these students made in the Times’ interview:

Dr. King said, ‘the time is always right to do the tight thing’
and while some people didn’t go by this many did,
so today it’s different than when my grandma was around.
Today I’m comfortable in my own skin and others are too.

Sure there are still people fighting with each other
 but many others are bringing people together and we are better today.
There are lots of different races at our school
 and we all get along.

If Dr., King was here today he’d be amazed right now
to see how far we have come since 1963 to 2018.
He’d proud to see that his dream was a success. 
His dream was accomplished.

Many people who live in America nowadays throw up their hands in despair at the division, bigotry and what may appear to be a renewed sense of racism infecting this country in our own times;  but when I reflect on these hope-filled sentiments expressed by those young African-American students who go to school a block away from the Lorraine Motel, it fills me with a renewed sense of hope.

Yes, Neo-Nazis and bigoted white nationalists marched through the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia a few months ago, but that event was matched by a great resistance as thousands if not millions of people of goodwill flooded the streets of almost every city in this land advocating for the dignity of every human being. Yes, today there are numerous examples of hate-filled prejudice, the oppression of immigrants, the degradation of “others” who adhere to a “minority religion” different from that of the popular culture, African-Americans recklessly shot by police on the streets; and yet, like those students in Memphis said: “Today is so much better than it was 50 years ago.”

For every instance in which people try to “tear others apart," there are even more instances where people work at "bringing people together” and indeed “we are better today” than we were in the past.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said:

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice

Today as I reflect upon the life and legacy of Dr. King I strongly believe in this wisdom. There are plenty of places in which hatred continues to show its ugly head; but in the end, Love will win, ultimately Love prevails. We are “bending toward justice.”  A powerful thought for this Easter season.

I agree with those hope-filled students in Memphis: “If Dr. King was here today, he’d be proud to see how far we’ve come since 1963 to 2018. He’d be proud to see that his dream was a success.”

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