Today we remember the death of Dr. Martin Luther King which occurred fifty years ago in Memphis. Dr. King became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the Civil Rights Movement using the nonviolent teaching of Gandhi. Five years earlier, Dr. King, in jail in Birmingham, Alabama, wrote a letter to Christian ministers who had criticized the nonviolent but confrontational tactics used in the Birmingham. As I read this letter, I could hear him speaking to the students of the March for Our Lives Movement and to all those involved in working for justice.
King wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Is it just for an individual to walk into a school and shoot 20 first graders? Or how about shooting fourteen high school students? Is it just for a child to be afraid to walk to school? Where is there justice when these killings go on and on? When we deny life to innocent school children, isn’t it easy to deny justice to Dreamers, the unborn, and creation?
“We must come to see with the distinguished jurist of yesterday that “Justice too long delayed is justice denied.” King quotes British Statesman and Prime Minister William E. Gladstone for a concept that has become a cornerstone of our legal system. The Columbine shooting occurred on April 20, 1999, the first of many such mass shootings. Almost twenty years and what progress has been made in stopping these horrific shootings? Every child killed in a school has had justice denied to him or her.
King expresses frustration with “white moderates who constantly advise the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.” When is it appropriate to fight for one’s civil rights … or convenient to protest school shootings? Some politicians argue that there is never a good time. Is it really a timing or a lack of political courage?
By all accounts, Dr. King was a brilliant and precocious student. He skipped ninth and twelfth grades and entered Morehouse College at the age of 15. He was an excellent orator. His courage to stand up to injustices is a model for the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, for our Dreamers, and all young people with a budding desire for justice. Thank you, Dr. King, for your inspiration, your courage, and your words.