Thirty years ago, a gunman silenced the voice of Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee. In the decades since, people have attempted to gauge America’s progress after days of segregation and freedom marches. Unfortunately, the dream King envisioned of white children and black children playing together happily – oblivious to the differences in their skin color – is yet to be a pervasive reality.
Though issues of race boil beneath the veneer of American society, it seems only the occasional explosion draws public attention. Riots in Los Angeles or Crown Heights punctuate the frustration of a nation still divided by race. Whatever happened to all those who swore that they would work to improve race relations?
Currently we have the President’s Initiative on Race Relations, which has been bogged down with accusations of bias and a political agenda. Why has the spirit that dominated the “good old days” of protests and tear gas been reduced to sitting in auditoriums being lectured at by government policymakers?
It seems as if we are living in a culture of complacency. We are content to ignore what’s broken. People are more concerned with how their mutual funds have been doing lately than on the state of the nation’s social infrastructure. It is almost as if there is a national “don’t rock the boat” mentality in which those who protest the status quo are labeled fringe elements. How far we’ve come, yet we’re still not much closer to reaching King’s dream.
Race is a taboo topic among Americans. In order to avoid offending anyone, silence is maintained, but the deplorable situation continues. We as a nation need to focus our attention on the state of race in this country. It will only be after we take a long, hard look at ourselves and our views that any progress can be made to get to the promised land that King was able to see from the mountain top.