I was impressed with your Jan. 16 editorial “King’s legacy lives still,” particularly the line “but human hearts are harder to reach, much harder than passing laws.” However, there is a third task as well: dealing with the legacies of past injustice.
Those of us who lived through the Civil Rights Movement witnessed a number of laws passed, to remove the barriers of segregation and to help those injured by those barriers. I believe that many hearts have been reached, especially for young people.
President Obama’s two electoral victories would not be possible without progress on both fronts, but it clearly isn’t enough.
Imagine a relay race in which some participants were enabled to run freely and some forced to drag heavy burdens. Simply removing those burdens will not correct for the head start gained by the favored ones; neither will changing people’s attitudes so that future burdens will never be forced on those discriminated against. The head start of the favored ones will confer an ongoing advantage until steps are taken to correct it.
The challenge of future justice for all involves providing paths to overcome the consequences of the past reality, while recognizing that white Americans born since then are not the ones who passed Jim Crow laws, and (mostly) do not share the prejudices of the centuries when white supremacy was the mainstream attitude.
How do we achieve this? Can we learn to “live together as brothers ... or perish together as fools”?
Joe Swain Jr.