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60 Years and Counting. How Long? Too Long. - How Dr. King Missed It

Photo: NPR

On this 60th Anniversary of the March on Washington, three families in Jacksonville, Florida are planning funerals this week. Three families. What if it were your family? Could be. Could have been. Any day, yours or mine. An unvarnished view.

White nationalism and violence are being fueled by white Christian evangelicalism in America. Sad on so many fronts, but true. It is what it is.

And it was a black Christian pastor who asked the question 60 years ago, "How long?"

There are no unified national voices of pastors, no reasoning together, no goodwill and statesmen and stateswomen standing together. There never is anymore.

But we who remember must stand against this new wave of old hate. Just as generations before us did.

People of various faiths, no faith, different cultures and backgrounds, and races came together to beat back this evil. So must we now find our voice, footing, and courage to do the same.

Love may win, but evil never dies. Thankfully neither does justice nor truth.
Hatred and racism are generational. And are the bait and hook that still catch the great white hope.

Hatred and racism never die. They just morph from a Governor George Wallace to a Governor Ron DeSantis. Hatred and racism are generational and the bait and hook that are sure to catch and keep alive the great white hope.

Does this sound harsh? If it does, slip off your shoes and try on ours. It is a style that has never worn out in America and never will. It fits each generation and each grows into and benefits from its legacy.

Privilege? How can you know privilege when privilege is all that you have known and been? It's like trying to explain water to a fish. What does it mean for a fish to be wet when wet is all it has ever known? It is part of the ecosystem of its existence.

Racism is ecosystemic and so is privilege. I can no more explain from a black woman's viewpoint what it means to be privileged and white in America to our white brothers and sisters than they can explain to me what it means to be black in this ecosystem of humanity we share.

It's like a fish telling us what it's like to be wet -- it's just their environment. As wide as the ocean and as deep as the sea is privilege to the melanin-challenged in America.

And just as wide and just as deep is the burden of blackness to those who aren't.

Both are what they are. As they were on this day in 1963 in D.C.

Today, former President Donald John Trump is under four criminal indictments and nearly 80% of our white brothers and sisters of faith yet support his divisiveness and lies.

A far cry from a president named Lyndon Baines Johnson who was under no criminal indictment but an indictment of conscience as he stood with Dr. King against what I would wager 90% of our white brothers and sisters of faith who didn't support even the most basic human rights for blacks.

I refer to them as "brothers and sisters" because, in the Christian world of religion, we supposedly belong to the same family with the same Father.

I have since learned better and outright reject the religiosity of religion. It is too late for me because I have discovered my true identity in Christ. I need neither the validation nor the faux family of the religious. I am an Ambassador of the King adopted into the family of God and I have the privilege of knowing him as Abba Father and King.

White Christian pastors were as absent from the national scene in 1963 as they are in 2023. It was Jewish Rabbis, not "Christian" pastors who stood shoulder to shoulder with Dr. King.

And it would be two young New York City Jewish men, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, who along with James Chaney, a young black man from Meridian, Mississippi who would be murdered a year after the March on Washington in the backwoods of Mississippi by white racist law enforcement officers.

The trio was arrested following a traffic stop for speeding outside Philadelphia, Mississippi, escorted to the local jail, and held for a number of hours. As the three left town in their car, they were followed by law enforcement and others. Before leaving Neshoba County, their car was pulled over. The three were abducted, driven to another location, and shot dead at close range. The bodies of the three men were taken to an earthen dam where they were buried. (Source: Wikipedia)

The remains of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, August 4, 1964

There is no record of any white Christian pastor being executed for standing for justice and righteousness. Even though these are the very character and nature of the God they preached. And still today. But a tree is known by the fruit it bears and they bear little to no fruit. Their fruit has never ripened nor produced any significant harvest.

A stark contrast of character and a stark contrast of what this day should mean. "How long?" Asked Dr King, rhetorically.

You be the judge. Our history is being erased and rewritten. Jobs and freedom, the focus of that long-ago march are still unequal. It is easier and more fluff to focus on the "I Have a Dream" part of the speech when, but for prompts from Mahalia Jackson, Dr. King would have kept to himself.

This was not the focus of the march. Jobs and freedom were. And today I would add a third. Safety. Because you see, it's not safe to be black and shop. Black and jog. Black and drive. Black and just be.

But alas, it gives many the warm and fuzzies. It's okay to dream as long as none of us have to wake up to the nightmare that has become America. We keep on dreaming because far too many of us keep on sleeping.

On this the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington, the question still begs, "How long?"

Three families in Jacksonville, Florida have a long week and long days ahead as they plan funerals this week.

"How long? Not long."

Mother Emmanuel AME, Charleston, S.C., 2015; Tops Friendly Markets, Buffalo, NY, 2022; Dollar General, Jacksonville, FL, 2023.

"How long? Not long."

"How long will prejudice blind visions of men?"

"How long? Not long."

But that road keeps getting longer and time keeps passing.

"How long? Not long."

It's all relative Dr. King. It's all relative. You rightly thought they read from the same good book. But while sir, they do, far too many read still today with the eyes of those whose vision is yet blind with prejudice.

How long? Too long.

Hatred and racism are generational and the bait and hook that are sure to catch and keep alive the great white hope. How long? Generation after generation after generation. Dr. King underestimated the determination of the fishermen.
Rest on Dr. King. The arc yet bends.

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