ERROL CASTENS: Repentance vital to the Dream

Many remedies of official injustice that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called for 50 years and two days ago have been fulfilled. Legislation may have jump-started the process for some of us, but it was ongoing recognition of wrong, confession, repentance, forgiveness, and changed behavior that made civil rights real and made acceptance part of our cultural fabric.

Segregation is no longer the law of the land. Instead, discrimination in housing, hiring, health care, education, accommodations, public benefits and a host of other arenas because of skin color is illegal.

Today, discrimination of whites against blacks is often unintended, perhaps even unaware. It’s usually the soft bias of assumptions rather than actions. It’s hurtful, as is any kind of devaluing, but it is far from the officially sanctioned discrimination and persecution that were common a half-century ago.

Today, other than incarceration for crimes in which the perpetrators are the only victims, official discrimination and societal shunning don’t impose the kind of misery in black communities that they did 50 years ago.

Much of that misery today is self-imposed. Black-on-white crime is far more common than white-on-black crime. More common than either, though, is black-on-black crime.

It’s probably fair to say that Dr. King, were he alive today, would be stunned that the same voices that spawned national outrage over Trayvon Martin’s death are hauntingly silent about the killing of young black men by other young black men on a scale that turns whole communities into war zones, with noncombatants frequently caught in the crossfire.

He might also be disturbed that blacks are disproportionately both perpetrators and victims of lesser assaults, as well as property crimes.

Dr. King, a preacher with a wife and four children, would be appalled that 7 of 10 black children (and 4 in 10 of all children) in America are born to single women/girls. He would fully appreciate that the greatest predictor of a child’s future connection to poverty, crime, drug abuse, suicide, and other societal ills is whether he or she lives in a household with a married mother and father.

Having dreamed of a society where his children would be judged not “by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” Dr. King would probably be troubled that the skewed national concept of character leaves children so vulnerable.

Legislation won’t do much to change such problems in any element of our society, but Dr. King might recommend the Christian principles that helped in the past 50 years: recognition of wrong, confession, repentance, forgiveness, and changed behavior.

Lather; rinse; repeat.

Contact Daily Journal reporter ERROl CASTENS at (662) 816-1282 or

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  • guest

    You should be ashamed of yourself Errol Castens.

    I understand that an opinion piece lends some wide latitude with facts and rhetoric but it is clear your ideology is clouding reality for you. Much of what you discuss has happened within yours and mine lifetime – why you wish to revise it is beyond me. I also feel it is shameful that you use the MLK and Civil Rights celebration to promote this drivel.

    To start off with civil rights in the south did not come about because of “ongoing recognition of wrong, confession, repentance, forgiveness, and changed behavior” but by the federal government dragging a kicking and screaming Mississippi (and other states) into compliance. Discrimination is illegal with housing, education, public benefits because of law – federal law. Please list for us anything Mississippi has done own its own or yourself for that matter. I noticed you left off voting and the point that the Voting Rights Act has now been gutted – with all the states that have rushed in voting restrictions it is good to see the “changed behavior and repentance” you mentioned on full display.

    It is also strange how you equate the death of an unarmed Trayvon Martin (who was killed because a gun white man created a situation then felt threatened) to black on black violence. Prosecutors follow up on these crimes everyday to cries from civil rights leaders with little fanfare from the press and by your article – no help from you. Your implied idea of contradiction makes very little sense and distracts from the core problems.

    I would suggest before you go about discussing “content of character” you reflect on yours. We know there are issues within the black community the point is people like you only use it to promote some shallow ideology that offers no other solution than to just tell people how they should live.

    I offer an idea – perhaps you can take your platform and do a story on a black leader. Highlight their life and accomplishments without your opinion – just think of the good you can do to highlight a black leader to both white and black readers.