My friend Dana has become a racial justice activist late in life. I was reminded of her response to another of our problematic holidays, the one about "bombs bursting in air." Her sentiments seem appropriate to this one too.
... it was the Fourth of July, and we did our usual things — a speaker spoke, we told another horrible story, we said the person’s name. And while I was kneeling, I thought about this song that I loved. A song I loved all my life, but that has never made a whole lot of sense. “America the Beautiful.”
It was the Fourth of July, we finished saying their name. I walked out into the middle of the road, and I turned and faced everybody, I said, “You all know this song,” and sang “America the Beautiful.” When I was done, I said to them, “I know that I will never be able to, and I don’t think my children will ever be able to, but I can only hope that if they make it to my age, my grandchildren will be able to sing that beautiful song without the same sense of irony with which I just sang it: ‘God shed his grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.’”
I don’t think so. I mean, it’s a wonderful idea, but it is potential that has been unmet. And that for me is really sad.
That's how I feel on the King holiday. But he didn't give up and neither can we.