Fifty years ago today Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn.
His murder sent shock waves across the country, sparked numerous riots and made ours a fearful nation on edge about what was to come.
What came next for places such as Harford County was an uneasiness not quickly vanquished. Dr. King, the iconic leader not only of the civil rights movement, but also of most Americans of color, was as much a hero as he was a leader.
His seminal “I Have A Dream” speech was a dream far from being achieved when he delivered it Aug. 28, 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial before what was reported to be the largest crowd in Washington, D.C. It was still far from being achieved four and a half years later when he was slain on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel.
For that matter, while there have been strides made to help us get closer in civil rights and just plain decency and humanity espoused by Dr. King’s I Have A Dream, as a nation we still have far to travel.
Some accomplishments made in our country would have been unthinkable a half-century ago.
First and foremost is the election and re-election of Barack Obama, our nation’s first African-American president. Not many thought we would ever see that, but we did.
Sadly, the election of President Donald Trump showed racial enmity is still alive and strong in our country. The divisiveness that we’re hearing from Washington, D.C., is so much worse, and little more than the lingering continuation of the racial divide that started in our country long before it was a country.
It’s hard to change the generation-to-generation hand-me-downs that perpetuate the belief of some white people that they were so superior to African people that it was OK for them to capture them, kidnap them and whisk them away to America where they were sold into generations of slavery.
It’s even harder to change the bitterness of those who were enslaved and then freed during the Civil War era only to be treated far less than equals to whites for the next 100 years after as a people they had been freed.
Along comes Dr. King, preaching equality and nonviolence to accomplish it. His dream became the dream of every black man, woman and child.
When he was gunned down, it was a vision delayed, not abandoned.
As we sit here on the 50th anniversary of that horrible day in our nation’s history, a history rife with too many tragedies, we see some in our county and our country desperately trying to cling to some of the worst of our past.
Confederate battle flags, despite some loud rebuttals, are hurtful symbols of what the Confederate States of America stood for: slavery and treating the enslaved African-Americans as sub-human. Displaying those symbols of hate serve no purpose other than reminding those around them of the inhumanity put upon African-Americans.
That continued for a century after President Lincoln freed the slaves, inspiring Dr. King to use words and peaceful deeds, not violence, to point out the continuing injustices to all Americans.
Dr. King’s message resonates today, 50 years after his murder, as we look toward the next half century with hope that his “I Have A Dream” will truly be accomplished.