---And White As Well
The assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Thursday night in Memphis,
Tenn., will not be the end of a chapter. Unless all signs are misleading, it
marks the opening of a new and bloody era in American history.
Before this long summer has passed into memory, the nation may see even more
shocking tragedy. One or more of our Presidential candidates could join the
ranks of the martyred. Party convention cities may be the scenes of blood baths.
Blacks and Whites alike will be slain as the extremists on both sides try to
seize control. Public buildings will be burned and private property losses will
amount to many millions of dollars. Neighbor's hand will be turned against neighbor.
Terror will stalk the land.
Such predictions are not lightly made. They are based on a conviction that
too many Americans do not believe in equality of rights among the races; such
individuals will not surrender because of a Supreme Court decision, a law passed
by Congress or a civil rights leader's murder. They must be convinced the old
order has been changed.
All the elements for widespread disorder are present. Blacks are on the march,
hungry for more of the good things in life. Many Whites are alarmed and think
of resistance only in terms of 19th Century terrorism. National leaders's attention
has been so occupied by international problems that they have only makeshift
answers to the questions posed by both sides. Beleaguered law enforcement agencies
in a pinch fall back to employment of their traditional weapons- the club and
Wild and reckless youth- Black and White- are seizing their opportunities for
defiance of authority. Communists take advantage of the situation to feed the
flames of rebellion. Fascists preach placement of government in the hands of
a chosen few: their followers increase as disorder spreads.
These still are minorities. Most Americans want a peaceful, equitable society
with opportunity for all. They can achieve this by refusing to follow the extremists
and by voting for candidates who have practical proposals for reform. In fact,
they should insist upon pledges of concrete action. Florid oratory and vague
promises no longer will serve.
Americans have sidestepped issues for too many years. They have looked the
other way and made believe their towns and cities were beyond criticism. Private
and official bigotry have been encouraged by a general failure to take issue
with those responsible.
The day of reckoning has arrived. Our dedication to personal gain and our complacency
with evil have been exposed. American compromise with immorality and weakness
had brought us to a time of lawlessness which must be arrested firmly and fairly.
Either that or an admission that government by the people does not work and
a slide into chaos and eventual dictatorship.
White American today is in even more dire straits than the Black minority.