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White-hot irons of grief and rage have seared the memory of Memphis and all that followed into the national consciousness. It has happened, and never again shall we be the same. There is no turning back for the American people. But shall we indeed overome or are we only moving further into the dark night of chaos that is our inescapable destiny?
THAT NON-VIOLENCE has suffered death at the hands of violence does not necessarily mean that the dream of Martin Luther King is bankrupt. What it unquestionably does mean is that we live in bondage to racism. For many Americans that is a hard saying, difficult almost beyond comprehension. Overt bigots we may not be, but that is of little value when even our good will and best intentions are subject to the corrosive influence of an all but invisible enemy. Consciously or unconsciously, and in a multitude of ways which are dimly perceived at best, black and white together have been corrupted by the racist institutions within our society - institutions which, in denying to blacks the opportunity to be men, have diminished the humanity of whites as well. Memphis has made clear the reality of our bondage.
In bondage, and shall we ever overcome? Yes, but only at the cost of our racist institutions and power structures. It is true that morality can not be legistlated, that what is demanded is a radical change of heart and mind, and that all of this takes time. But it is equally true that the institutions and power structures in which morality is formed can be changed. And here is where it must begin, with a convulsive effort to root out these racist structures in which our lives have been rooted. The spiritual cost alone will be staggering, for no man can lightly throw out that which he has inherited, tear down that which he has helped to build, condemn that which he has condoned. What, for instance, would it cost us at Hanover to be brutally honest about our institutional ways and resolutely discard all those shot through with racist overtones?
IT WILL COST, yet here is where it must begin, and begin now-not because one man died, but because many men cry out to live. It was this cry which Martin Luther King heard and heeded, and for which he poured out his life. Not solely a black man's cry or even a poor man's cry, but the cry of all men, even as the dream which he dreamed was a national dream, a human dream. The passionate premise as well as the dark tragedy of this hour testify to the fact the dream is neither illusory nor bankrupt. It is our dream even as it is our freedom and our humanity that is at stake. And someday, black and white together, we shall overcome-but we must have the courage to begin now.