It was a Thursday and my parents had gone out for the evening. My brother Fred was 12, I was ten, and my sister Nancy was just eight.
I remember it was Thursday because that was the night the TV show Dragnet was on. It was on from nine to nine-thirty and my brother Fred and I had secured permission to stay up past our bedtime to watch the show.
When we turned on the set, when it finally warmed up, instead of "This is the city, Los Angeles, California," we saw a somber announcer telling us that Dr. Martin Luther King had been assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.
Even though we were pre-teens, assassination was old news to us. You immediately had something to compare it to--JFK's. As a Borscht Belt comedian might say, "Now THAT was an assassination."
My brother and I were annoyed.
How dare they pre-empt Dragnet for just another assassination.
Of course we were white and our parents were well-off.
We didn't know who Dr. King was.
I was only five when he was speaking about "being to the mountain top."
So King's death didn't hit me like a bullet from some mercenary's high-powered rifle.
Over the years, I've read and learned. As much as any white man can, I think. I would recommend the book I'm currently reading to anyone who gives a shit. Here's the Times review.
Our country was founded on hate and subjugation. On cruelty, violence and caste. As Malcolm X said, right now, today "the chickens will come home to roost."
What's happening in America now is nothing new. The haters, so afraid of the race they enslaved, kept that race out. No schools for you. No pools. No restaurants, hotels or even a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. No votes, or rights, or opportunity.
They blew up churches. They killed little girls in white dresses. They blinded teenagers with acid and castrated them and shot them in the face and tied them to a large industrial piece of steel and threw their bodies into rivers.
They bound them and gagged them and hung them from tree limbs like a strange fruit. Then they tore their bodies apart, burned them and sold the relics. They printed post-cards and wrote to friends. The whole town turned out, even the little ones, it was the social event of the season.
Then, on occasion, they convened their all-white juries and said "it never happened." Then they laughed the laugh of hauteur and hubris. Then they probably prayed in church and kissed their loved ones and went to bed with the sense of righteousness on their side.
Not many people, I think, will think of Dr. King today. Not as the American ship is being torn-apart by hatred and violence. They'll watch football or go to Raymour and Flanagan or the Toyota dealer because some jackass determined that what are meant to be sober and solemn days of reflection are better off being parts of a three-day-sale-a-bration.
But that's America now.
I think of King today.
I think of an ignorant ten-year-old annoyed.
I think of the hate.
We could all use a little thinking. And a little less hating.