On April 4, 1968 I was a senior at Bullock County High School. I was looking forward to graduation and going off to college. On that same day Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. Over the next several days this Country was in crises. People were understandably upset, angry and scared. At that time I was in a class with the first African-American teacher I ever had. I remember her as a very calm, nice and smart person. One afternoon, a few days after Dr. King’s murder she opened up to us and told us how scared she was – scared for our Country and scared for her own safety. It was the first time in my life that I ever had such an adult conversation with a person of color.
Until very recently I had thought that Dr. King had helped change the way we thought and interacted with each other. It felt like white people and black people were coming together in a common desire to make our Country live out the greatness of its dream. Recent events have disabused me of that mistaken belief. It feels like we are on the verge of a civil war. An angry mob has stormed the Congress of the United States. Angry racist militias have been emboldened and called to action. Like my senior High School teacher, I am scared for our Country and scared for the safety of myself and my family.
The Psalmist wrote that the wicked flatter themselves in their own eyes and that their words are mischief and deceit. We have seen that with our own eyes over the last few days. But how can we resist the temptation to descend into hopeless despair. Perhaps the best way to regain hope it to listen to the words of Dr. King – what I like to call the King music: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.” And finally this: “In some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”
As we approach Martin Luther King Day, let us remember the words of the song-writer, James Taylor. “Oh, let us turn our thoughts today to Martin Luther King. And recognize that there are ties between us, all men and women, living on the earth; ties of hope and love, sister and brotherhood.” May God have mercy on all of us, and may God bless America.
Lynn Jinks is an attorney with Jinks, Crow & Dickson, P.C.