April 5, 2018

GRACE UNBIDDEN (profanity alert):

A Gift of Grace to the United States: Reflections on Martin Luther King, Jr., 50 years after his assassination (Lance Morrow, April 2, 2018, City Journal)

I admired Martin Luther King as much as I admired any American in the twentieth century. I felt--still do--a reverence for him. Charisma is Greek for "a gift of grace." King was a gift of grace to the United States--a country that may have been unworthy of the gift, or else unable to understand it. Toward the end of his life, blacks had given up--a bit--on King and his ways. With amiable humor, they called him "De Lawd." Travis referred to him that way. Some even used the lethal term, "Uncle Tom." The Nobel Prize--a suspect apotheosis, bestowed by Whitey--subtly discredited him in contrast with black firebrands (H. Rap Brown, Stokely Carmichael) to whom satyagraha was the wrong idea: they meant to take the passive out of passive resistance. King was getting to be passé-- your father's station wagon.

Few Americans have shown more courage than the civil rights workers in the South in the early 1960s: the Freedom Riders and others, those working for voter registration and access to public accommodations. One night in the summer of 1964, I was on a late shift at the old Washington Star. A long-distance call came in to the city desk from Sunflower County, Mississippi. I heard a frightened young voice coming from a house way out in the dark Mississippi countryside--a civil rights worker who told me that she just wanted someone to know that she was out there in the middle of the night and scared to death, and that now and then she heard a pickup truck. We talked for a long time. Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman had disappeared a few weeks earlier from Philadelphia, Mississippi. Their bodies would be found in the earthen dam where Klansmen buried them. 

The most conspicuous and vulnerable of them all was Martin Luther King. He saw it coming ("I may not get there with you"), but he never stopped. His gift to the country, apart from the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965, was his miraculous example of grace and courage. 

Posted by at April 5, 2018 3:47 AM