A Point in History

It just so happened that the morning after the U.S. presidential election, I found myself standing outside the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN.  I was with ten others who comprise CRM-US’s leadership who are meeting this week in this city beside the Mississippi and we spent the morning at this landmark.

This museum is built around the Lorraine Motel, the spot where Martin Luther King was assassinated.  The facade and that actual area of the building remains as it was that fateful day in 1963 on the balcony pictured above.

The poignancy of the moment was gripping.  Here I was at the site of perhaps the most tragic event of the American Civil Rights movement the day after the first person of African descent has ascended to the highest office in the land.

The feelings were multiple and even conflicting.  On one hand, it is remarkable to see how far the nation has come in these intervening years.  Regardless of one’s politics, the election of Barak Obama is a landmark in the long struggle for racial justice and equality.  On the other hand, it’s sad to see how long it has taken to reach such a milestone and to be reminded once again of the appalling price paid by so many over the years in this journey.

At lunch today, an African American pastor from Memphis summed it up well:

“It is mind blowing to think in my lifetime this country would ever live up to its creeds.  I have always told African American children they could be whatever they wanted to be.  However, now I no longer have to qualify it with “but …”

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