Sitting beside my best friend, we tensed as policemen clubbed civil rights protesters. We teared up as Martin Luther King Jr. marched alongside James Bevel, as Coretta Scott King talked with Malcolm X, and as the leaders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee strained to relate to their elders. Selma was an experience: visceral, soulful, inspiring, and shocking.
A visual image that struck me was based in sound: microphone before King, organ pipes behind him.
Once you finally get a job, then you need to get a “real” job. Then you can expect to be laid off at least once in your life. Then you have to retool and enter the workforce again. Then even if you get your “dream” job, you might come to the realization that you’re destroying your family and your personal life, and the dream becomes a bit of a nightmare. Then you begin to realign all your goals. Then you begin to look toward retirement, and you begin to imagine what your vocation is going to be when you retire.
During the early 1950s, the Century’s editors could hardly be classified as strategists in the war for civil rights, but they tried their hand at analysis and expressed sympathetic support for both the commanders and the ground troops.
On June 9 the Justice Department reported on its 21-month investigation into the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, concluding that U.S. agencies were not involved in murdering Dr. King. Like earlier investigations, it concluded that James Earl Ray was the lone killer.
Getting arrested, as advocates for gays and lesbians did at the United Methodist General Conference in Cleveland this month, has become a banal form of protest. Incidents of civil disobedience are now jointly orchestrated by participants and police so they can be carried out with minimum fuss.
The greatest difference between now and 1964, when I began teaching, is that public policy has pretty much eradicated the dream of Martin Luther King. In fact, the public schools today are every bit as segregated as they were in 1964.
If salvation for the United States means the flourishing of nonviolence, racial integration and economic justice—the three interrelated dimensions of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “beloved community”—a quick review of current politics and racial and class demographics reveals that we not only have