Today, we observe the anniversary of the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1929 and honor the great civil rights leader’s legacy.
Had he not been cut down by an assassin’s bullet in Memphis, Tenn., on April 4, 1968, King might well still be alive today and just turned 85.
Surely, he would have reason to be proud of the advances we have made in civil rights since the 1960s and the improvement in racial relations inspired by his life and teaching.
But there are some disturbing and ugly trends in our culture today, some of them made possible by the same Internet technology that has given us such broad access to information and free communication that could scarcely be imagined 50 years ago.
What would Dr. King think of the abuse endured by black actress Tamera Mowry, 35, who along with her twin sister Tia were the stars of the 1990s television comedy “Sister, Sister”? Mowry is married to Fox News correspondent Adam Housley, who is white. She has been excoriated on social media, called all sorts of vile names, for marrying a white man.
“They say, ‘Oh, Tia’s a true black woman because she married a black man,’” Mowry told Oprah Winfrey last week. “Oh -- I’m less of a black person because I married white?”
How can it be that, after so many years, an interracial marriage is in any way controversial? Few people would dare insult Mowry or her husband to their faces. But when granted the anonymity of the Internet, their hate comes raging through.
So have we made any true progress in racial relations? Or has the filth that used to fester openly merely been swept under the rug?
In his famous speech at the Lincoln Memorial, King spoke of his dream that “my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
Clearly, that day is not yet here.
King’s message was foremost a positive one, appealing to our better nature, our common humanity and the duty we owed one another. He sought not to tear down one group of people for the benefit of another but to lift us all up together.
Civil rights legislation has made all kinds of racial discrimination illegal. These have been important advances for our society, not to be underestimated. But unfortunately, some still have quite a way to go to eradicate the hatred that resides in their hearts.
This weekend is a good time to reflect on Dr. King’s dream, as expressed in his 1963 address, that one day, “we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope,” and that “with this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.”
We’re not there yet -- there’s still too much jangling discord to say we have a symphony. But at least we’re starting to get in tune.