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 firstname.lastname@example.org.