He was only 39 years old when he was killed on the second floor balcony of a motel in Memphis TN on April 4, 1968. Martin Luther King Jr has been gone from this earth forty years today. The day before his death, he delivered his “I have been to the Mountaintop” speech at Mason Temple, wherein he spoke of the bomb threat that had been called in on the plane he was traveling on. He also spoke about not fearing his own death:
“And then I got to Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?
Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
Days of riots hit our nation. I was fifteen years old when King was taken from us. But I remember the events as if it was yesterday. I remember watching the news reports of the riots in major cities here in the United States. The National Guard was called out and thousands were arrested, many were killed as well.
The sickening irony was not wasted on me that violence broke out from sea to shining sea over the death of a man that always advocated non-violence as the method to attain change in our country.
So how have things changed in these United States of America forty years on? People of color still live in poverty in a disproportionate level compared to their white counterparts. The unemployment rate for people of color is still vastly higher than for white folks. Inner city schools, mostly populated by African American's and Hispanics, graduate a lower percentage of their students than those of the suburban areas of our nation. A few examples of the graduation rates in major urban areas:
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