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To the Editor:
The recent assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King carries with it far more profound implications than the death of another great man, John Kennedy, four years ago. It strikes me as very ironic that America’s apostle of non-violence and brotherhood should become a victim of the very thing he deplored, violence and hatred. In the aftermath of this tragedy, every white American must ask of himself, “What can we do to stem this hatred?”
Perhaps in law the black man is “free” and “equal,” but certainly not in practice. The President’s Commission on Civil Disorders stated that white racism is the “fundamental cause” of Negro rioting. Yet how many of us on this so-called “Christian” campus would accept that indictment? A very small percentage, I’m afraid. “The Negro problem,” Gunnar Myrdaln stated twenty years ago in An American Dilemma, “is predominantly the white man’s problem.” For generations the vast majority of Negroes, although suffering the consequences of the failure of America to live up to its creed of equality, justice, and the basic dignity of man, were “under the spell of the national suggestion.” This is no longer simply post-Civil War America, this is post-Watts America, and those “long, hot summers” clearly indicate that the black man has fallen out of his spell; he has lost faith.
Thus, I ask again “What can we do?” Unless each white American can honestly examine himself and admit his blame for racist behavior patterns and understand that this crisis is a failure in human relations and the practice of democracy -- unless we recognize these things and do something to change them -- we will never cure the basic sickness that corrodes our society. No amount of federal programs, increased job opportunities, or civil rights legislation can bring America closer to its ideals unless we white Americans admit our guilt and begin to make up for 3-1/2 centuries of indignities heaped upon our black brothers.
Martin Luther King was perhaps his most eloquent in August of 1963 during the March on Washington when he stated: “I have a dream, I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,”
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