Good Riddance


I just watched a video of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech 50 years ago (“Be Loving To Your Neighbor,” Aug. 23). … It is by far the best speech I have ever heard. His delivery was perfect, his content was perfect, and his message was perfect. I agree with every word he said and am ashamed that so many of my fellow Americans don’t get it. They really don’t understand how racism is a cancer that destroys us all.

It is true that Jewish store owners were burned out when Dr. King was assassinated, but why blame the victim for that? It is true that Jews ran away from perfectly good neighborhoods, again and again, rather than live next door to a black family seeking a better life for its children, but why blame the victim for wanting to live in a safer neighborhood? It is true that some qualified white people did not get accepted to medical school because of affirmative action, but why blame those who were slaves and chattel and then kept ignorant and without possibility of advancement by racism for generations; why blame the victim for wanting a part of the American dream?

Much has happened in 50 years. Legal segregation has ended, but we have a long way to go until our society is truly free. A man with a black father has been elected president of the United States, a possibility beyond one’s wildest imagination 50 years ago. He is deserving of much legitimate criticism for his leadership and policies, as is our right in this democracy, but how much of the venom and absolute hatred poured on him is racism?

If only the rest of the world would learn the lessons of the civil rights movement. Nonviolence proved the most effective weapon in the war on racism and segregation. Had the blacks started an “intifada,” they would have been crushed. Instead, they appealed to the conscience of the American people and shamed white America into giving the promise of equality to all.

Dr. King was a flawed human being. He didn’t always practice the high morals that white critics demanded of a black preacher. His public persona wasn’t always identical with his private failures. However, I would pick him over that phony cross-dresser, J. Edgar Hoover, who terrorized and intimidated presidents for generations by threatening to reveal their foibles. Hoover hated Dr. King. … In the war for equality, King was a saint compared to his foes. Had Dr. King resorted to violence, Hoover would have had him shot on sight. I am sure he was itching to do so.

The good old days that I grew up in Alabama are gone, and I thank God they are long gone. In my youth, the motto of the Alabama Democratic Party, printed openly on its ballot, was “White Supremacy for the Right.” That element has joined another political party today. Good riddance.

These opinions are my own and not representative of anyone or any organization with which I am affiliated.

Rabbi Leonard Oberstein

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