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The Long, Slow Arc of Justice

MLK book coverRosa Parks said, “The only tired I was, was tired of giving in,” when asked if she didn’t give up her seat because she was physically tired.

I was eight months old when Birmingham, AL, bus driver, James F. Blake, demanded that Rosa Parks give up her bus seat to a white man. I can’t find the name of the white man who boarded the bus and wasn’t given the seat by Rosa Parks, but think that it must have been sad for both of these men to live with that legacy.

Segregation in the schools was declared unconstitutional the year before I was born. I first shared a classroom with a black student in the sixth grade. Her name was Regina, and she drew my name for the Christmas party gift exchange. Funny what you remember.

I was playing drums in the sixth grade at a friend’s home close to West Woods Elementary in El Dorado, Arkansas, when I learned that Martin Luther King Jr. had been killed. I felt no emotion at all. I knew nothing of the man.

I never spoke of this to my classmate, Regina. I wish I could talk to her now. I’d ask her how it was that she was so brave in the sixth grade. I would ask her about what she felt when she learned that Martin Luther Kind had been killed.

Though I could rationalize that I was just a typical uninformed kid, I still feel sadness at my lack of emotion when I first heard of Dr. King’s death. The significance of his death and his work became more relevant throughout my life. His words have gained tremendous significance to me. Strength to Love became one of my favorite books and I referred to it often.

King said, “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” I thought today how long and slow that arc bends! In many ways, struggles for fairness and equity still continue today. In some ways, little progress has been made.

As I wrote this, I was reminded of a song lyric by Dan Fogelberg – “When faced with the past the strongest man cries.” I’m at least thankful that tears come into my eyes when confronted with our country’s continuing legacy of racism and discrimination. The arc of history needs to bend toward justice much faster! 

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