Well, this Wednesday marks 44 years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, TN.
Now, I was a few months shy of my 12th birthday on that April 4th night in 1968, but I remember vividly the tragic and senseless murder of a man who both taught and lived the model of non-violent resistance.
In the days and weeks following his death, the honorable memory of this Christian leader who based his teachings on the lesson of the New Testament was besmirched by those who used it as an occasion to riot in the streets, loot businesses, and burn down buildings.
By doing the very things Dr. King spoke out against and which he resisted such as violence and indiscriminate hatred, they dishonored his life's work and his life's ministry.
Such moments bring out the worst in some and yet the best in others. While some exploited his death for their own purposes to fan the flames of racism and others merely used his murder as a means of looting, burning, and stirring outright mayhem, there were some voices of reason and compassion who rose above the noise of the streets to speak the wisdom of heaven.
Governor Winthrop Rockefeller was Arkansas' first Republican governor since Reconstruction. The day after Dr. King was killed; Governor Rockefeller stood with black leaders on the steps of the Arkansas State Capitol. He linked arms with them and he sang "We Shall Overcome" as a tribute to Dr. King.
It was a remarkable act of courage on the part of Governor Rockefeller, especially since in some Southern capitols, governors all but celebrated Dr. King's death.
Because of the vision and leadership of Dr. King and his bold dream, and the willingness of courageous leaders like Governor Rockefeller to take a stand for righteousness, things are much different today.
No longer are there separate water fountains, theater entrances, and restrooms for people of color. No longer do people who are black sit in separate waiting rooms in a doctor's office or a train station. No longer does a person of color receive a different wage than a white person for doing the same job.
And no longer is a black child forced to go to a separate and inferior school than the white child. But that doesn't mean our country has completely embraced the heart and spirit of Dr. King.
The heartbreaking killing of a young unarmed 17-year-old in Florida has re-ignited deeply seated anger and bigotry. Some are exploiting the tragic death of a teen for their own purposes to raise money or to raise their own profile by pretending to be outraged just for the cameras, but it seems that the real goal is not raising a voice for justice, but raising their own profile for personal profit.
Since we don't yet know what really happened that night in Florida, maybe fewer speeches and more tears would be in order; maybe less taking it to the streets and more taking it to the churches; maybe fewer demands for revenge, and more for reflection of the unnecessary death of a kid would be in order.
Instead of Al Sharpton and Spike Lee raising their fists in rage, maybe a modern day Winthrop Rockefeller raising his arms with his black brothers to say "It's not a white/black thing; it's a right/wrong thing."
That's my view…and I welcome yours.