It was 54 years ago today that Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Dr. King’s murder came only three years after the assassination of Malcolm X. Within a year, Fred Hampton would be dead in Chicago, dying in a hail of police bullets while he slept.
Anyone who lived through those times will remember that the idea of Black leadership being under attack was not just a barbershop conversation item, it was real. The documentation from the FBI and COINTELPRO have revealed that J. Edgar Hoover and Richard Nixon and many others were complicit in creating an atmosphere where Black leadership could be decimated in such a public fashion, and we many never know how many guilty hands were busy doing Satan’s work.
Looking back, we now know that the trajectory of a Black liberation movement went through fundamental changes. Activism was channeled into Black capitalism and Black political power in more traditional venues. The results have been mixed. Black capitalism has benefited a significant number of Black Americans, but an even more significant number of Black Americans live in the shadows of inequity and institutional racism.
Black political power has transformed the history of this country with Black mayors, Black governors and even a Black president. But a Constitution that rigged the electoral system has seen no more than four Black United States senators in those 54 years – and we have painfully learned that without power in the Senate, all other power is ephemeral at best, a faint hope being a bad to worse outcome.
We have seen the Black Lives Matter embraced in parts of America where no Black people live. We have also seen the outright banning of the historical truth about Black America banned in parts of America where no Black people – as well as in states and cities where there are many Black people.
Hope is never a failure. But hope does require revival, and sometimes resuscitation.
So, people of good will across this land can hope that somehow, some way, the next 54 years will bear the promise of a better day for all.