On this day in 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated by a man not worthy of having his name mentioned. His murder was the direct result of the hatred and discrimination against a people simply because of the color of their skin. Dr. King worked long and hard to right the wrongs of a long established institutionalized segregation. They called it 'Separate but Equal,' but it was far from that. I remember traveling through the segregated states as a young child. I rode a bus from my home in New Rochelle, New York to my Grandparent's home in Hominy, Oklahoma. I remember stopping along the way at bus stations to eat, and not knowing, heading over to a food service stand. I was politely told, by the black gentleman that I was at the wrong counter. He pointed to the sign that read 'Colored Only', and directed me to the 'White Only' counter. This was my first encounter with segregated America. As a young boy, I was blissfully unaware of the forced separation of the races. I was shocked by this, and by the way that I saw black Americans treated.
Dr. King dedicated his life to initiate positive change in America and make it really the land of the free. He preached and practiced, as Gandhi did, passive resistance. He, and all those who worked with him, from all races, made the government see that change had to come. Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law. Dr. King, and all those who marched with him, had accomplished something that was long overdue. He was not done. He would not rest until all the walls put up to stop equality for all were torn down. He was cut down before he could accomplish his goals. He was just 39 years old.
Today, although we have come a ways down the road, we are still not done. We still have inequality in this beautiful country. We have politicians that still find ways to discriminate, whether it's through laws that make it harder to vote, tearing down regulations that benefit workers, or the word put out by some to target certain members of our society. We have politicians running for office who prey on the fears of some citizens and openly call for discriminatory actions against other citizens of this country, whether it's about race, religion, or national origin. On the one hand, they clasp the Constitution to their chests and declare that it's a holy document; on the other, they urge that we violate the rights of those who are of different religions, or ethnic groups than they. I find these actions unconscionable. We've seen things like this before. We've seen people who were different rounded up and put in camps. We've seen them have their property confiscated. We've seen the rest of the citizens either turn a blind eye or cheer the actions. It is a sick road that some would lead us down. It's easy to journey on it, and not so easy to return and recover. Dr. King would be sick over it, as would LBJ, JFK, and Lincoln. As would all who worked so hard to continue to improve the lot of all citizens.
Take a moment this evening to mourn the loss of a great visionary who wanted all of us to live together in equality. Take a moment to think about where we stand today as we mover further into this new century. Do we choose equality, or discrimination? Do we continue to embrace suspicion, or do we reach out to each other in brotherhood? It's up to us, the people of the United States to decide where we will go.
As always, I wish you Peace, Love, and Tranquility.
John Zaffino Kent Lakes, New York April 4, 2016