This week will mark the 40th anniversary of the tragic day when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was taken away from us by a sniper s bullet. But the important lesson is not how he died.
In his life Dr. King taught us that great moral crises must be met with courage, principle and an uncompromising stand for what we know to be right. He taught us that violence, in whatever form, will never be more powerful than love. As he often said, Violence creates more problems than it solves. Dr. King also issued a warning: I can still hear that voice crying through the vista of time, saying, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you. And there is still a voice saying to every potential Peter, Put up your sword. History is replete with the bleached bones of nations, history is cluttered with the wreckage of communities that failed to follow this command.
But today, in the streets and neighborhoods of America, King’s important lesson is in danger of being lost. Across the nation, homicide has become the leading cause of death among young African-American men. A recent Department of Justice study (pdf) found that nearly half the people murdered in the U.S. each year are black, and three out of four of these homicides involve a firearm. Blacks are more than twice as likely as whites to be confronted with a gun during a crime.
I was deeply honored when Coretta Scott King agreed to join Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy as honorary co-chairs of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. They courageously served CSGV for many years. It was a great privilege to work with these two women, who knew only too personally the great pain that gun violence can inflict.
We must remind ourselves of the challenge that Dr. King left us: We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. This may well be mankind s last chance to choose between chaos or community.
I hope that you will join the movement to make our communities, our schools, and our homes safe from gun violence. That would be a fitting way to honor the legacy of Coretta Scott King and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.