Robert F. Kennedy’s powerful speech about Martin Luther King’s assassination four decades ago makes a potent bookend to Barack Obama’s recent speech on race in America. Reading RFK’s speech in light of Barack Obama’s campaign makes one sees both how much and how little progress has been made on issues of race in America; it would have been unheard of that a black candidate for president would be the top democratic vote getter among white men in some of the whitest states in the union; yet economic and social gaps between whites and blacks (despite the rice of many blacks into the middle and upper classes) remain appallingly wide
Both Obama and Bobby Kennedy called for us to transcend the natural polarizing forces of race in America,wrestling with America’s racial demons and evident imperfections in our efforts to build the unified vision that MLK preached: “I have a dream that one day in the state of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveoweners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood…”
David Brooks writes today that Barack Obama exemplifies MLK, Jr.’s strategy of finding a way to work through the organizational and institutional structure towards a more perfect union. Read David Brooks remarks here “The View from Room 306” (in the Lorraine Motel outside of which MLK was shot on the balcony).
MLK, Jr. may your soul continue to guide us in our efforts towards economic and racial justice.