The occasion of the 50th anniversary of the killing of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has sparked an outpouring of commentary in regards to the great leader’s legacy, the progress that has been made — or not made — since his death, and the outlook for future progress for Americans of African descent in this country. As to be expected, the resulting outpouring of thoughts is a mixed bag indeed.
Dr. King’s legacy — in spite of occasional unscrupulous, cowardly and juvenile attacks from the far right — remains intact and indeed has been enhanced over the years as we have now had time to reflect upon the attributes that made him one of the greatest men of the 20th century. Indeed, as with Abraham Lincoln (one of his few rivals for the position of “Greatest American of All Time”), Dr. King’s stature will continue to grow far into the future. Again, as with Lincoln, he truly was a man custom-made for his time here on Earth.
The timely rise of Gandhi, Roosevelt, Washington, Joan of Arc and other outstanding leaders throughout history makes one wonder if there is an all-seeing hand that oversees the affairs of men and nations, placing the right person on the planet at exactly the right time and in exactly the right place — or do the times make the men and women rise to the occasion?
However, in the grand scheme of things what does it matter? Either way, we seem to get the person we need when we need them, and, conversely, we sometimes get quite the opposite. Note the rise of dictators throughout history and around the world as we here in our beloved country seemingly are sliding down the slippery slope of rule by a would-be tinhorn autocrat and buffoon.
The progress we blacks have made in numerous areas since the untimely death of Dr. King is in some respects remarkable. We can now drink from any water fountain in the country, ride in the front of the bus, train or plane, live in any community we can afford, and dine wherever our appetite dictates. These are truly noteworthy advances that we now take for granted since they seem so routine. Indeed, to most Americans who didn’t experience the blatant, in-your-face racism of Dr. King’s time, any other way of life seems downright laughable.
But those were the easy fixes — the accomplishments that were easily given by whites, even those who were unalterably opposed to black progress. A seat on the front of the bus was easy to give, but a position on the board of directors of the bus company has proven more difficult to attain.
What those opposed to black progress did was to redraw the lines of resistance. The forces of evil bigotry and hatred built other barriers to black progress and are striving mightily to maintain them. Fifty years ago I was among the first men to attempt to integrate the building trades, and while some progress has been made, when Trump was out in Richfield, OH recently, behind where he spoke were bleacher seats filled with heavy equipment operators — virtually all white. The formerly all-white, all-male building trades have been far more willing to let white women in than blacks — male or female.
And other companies and institutions are still erecting barriers rather than opening doors. Many of them have established an “Office of Diversity,” but we now know they are not much more than a sign on the door. The people inside have no clout; they are only window dressing put in place to placate minorities that demand fairness and equal treatment.
The one thing that would, I suspect, upset our great leader the most were he to revisit Earth, would be the number of unarmed black males that have died at the hands of officers of government in the last 50 years. The fact that our legal system is still designed to protect trigger-happy cops rather than assuring accountability remains a mote in the eye of justice and serves as a constant reminder of just how far we have to go as a race to achieve the full equality Dr. King lived, fought, and died for. It’s only after the goal of equal treatment is achieved will our beloved Dr. King be able to truly rest in peace.
The struggle continues …
From CoolCleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier mansfieldfATgmail.com. Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author at http://NeighborhoodSolutionsInc.