DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR
It was 1964.
I left my home in Honduras to come to the United States to go to school. My missionary parents made the difficult decision to send me back to the States since the educational opportunities in Honduras were painfully lacking at that time.
It was a traumatic transition to say the least. And I’m not being dramatic when I say that the most traumatic element to that whole experience was the incredible inhumanity and hatred that I saw when I made my new home in a boarding school in the deep south of Louisiana.
I had never seen racism. Never. If it existed in Honduras, I never saw it. And I simply could not understand it. It was vile. It was degrading. It was embarrassing. I wasn’t even a religious person but I knew it was ungodly.
The boarding school I was in did not allow us to watch TV, but I did have some access to the newspaper. What I read turned my stomach.
But there was this one man who although vilified, one sensed that there was a change happening. His name was Martin Luther King, Jr.
I read his words, although I knew full well that I wasn’t getting the whole context of what he said. I heard the commentary by so many of the people around me. I knew from their vitriol that this was someone I needed to know more about.
Unfortunately, I was too young to have an impact on anyone’s thoughts at that time, but I was deeply disturbed and angry by what I observed.
However, the one thing I began to notice was that this Dr. King was different from every change-maker I had noticed before. See, I grew up in a country where change was effected by military will. I lost count of the number of revolutions I went through. But this was different. Dr. King spoke of peaceful resistance. He spoke of a willingness to suffer for change. He spoke of a change within.
What I began to notice was that the Black community began to be willing to pay the price for change. And those within the White community that were so filled with hatred toward them, did not change. I presume because they were not willing to change.
I’ll never forget how at the end of the school year in 1968 (now in a different school) I was stunned with the news of his assassination. I had never even considered that such might happen in America. I sat there in a friends home watching the news, literally trembling. And I made a commitment that day that as a White guy, I would never, never tolerate or ignore racism.
Many years later now, as a man who since his youth has discovered a relationship with God and has a greater passion for what America should stand for, I say uncategorically that there is NO place in America for patriotism AND racism. The two cannot coexist.
In spite of the fact that many of our American forefathers were slave owners, and were so wrong for that, the very nature and character of America is rightful equality and opportunity for all who seek that ideal.
Anyone who exerts any, ANY effort to decry or deprive anyone of their equal rights and opportunity is neither a true American nor a patriot.
I also learned something else from these many years of observing the racial struggles of America. Change comes only by those willing to suffer for the change.
Today, I recommit myself to suffer for the change that America so desperately needs.