GENE ROBERTSON: We should honor King's legacy by supporting his principles

Monday, January 16, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:44 p.m. CST, Monday, January 16, 2012

I am both baffled and embarrassed that some of my close friends and acquaintances have continued to participate in the charade known as the Columbia Values Diversity Celebration and the pilgrimage to the former sewage unit on the MKT Trail.

The MLK Memorial is located far away from access by black youth. I think it was dubbed the MLK Memorial to easily acquire funding for it. My friends are intelligent people who know the history of Martin Luther King Jr. and the history of the memorial site as well as the history of the diversity charade in mid-Missouri.

They appear to participate in these events as though they think that if they pretend the events have integrity, they will somehow acquire it. They appear to be desirous of the respect that their white shirts and ties and new cars coupled with their quiet grace and humor might earn them at these events. This kind of needed respect is baffling to me.

Fulfillment can only come from that person in the mirror becoming authentic. King would have been in the midst of the Occupy movement. Around the time of his assassination, he was working as an advocate for sanitation workers.

My friends behaved as though the occupiers were an inconvenient embarrassment to them. They were reluctant to participate with the occupiers or assist them in any way. They would not even honk their horns or give a thumbs up.

So how do we celebrate a man's legacy while ignoring the principles for which he died?

I am certain my friends and some of my relatives are just as baffled and embarrassed by my participation in the Poor People's Breakfast as a reaction to the diversity breakfast and my commitment to the Occupy movement for me and King. Only in America can you be embarrassed and baffled by those dear to you and continue to love them and wish them well.

William E. "Gene" Robertson is a Columbia resident and a professor emeritus at MU.

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Greg Allen January 16, 2012 | 10:10 a.m.

In a culture which in many respects overtly and covertly speaks against diversity, and which works backwards from the civil rights gains of forty years ago, we need to keep some sense of common community and awareness going if we're going to make any further progress. I'd wager that we're dealing with the 80/20 percentage rule here, like much of the work in churches: eighty percent of the work is done by twenty percent of the people. I would not want to disparage the people who believe but don't act; they are the ones who rise up to fill the ranks when the wagons really need to be circled. Until then, cultivation of the community and awareness prepares them.

I do agree, however, that the Occupy movement is where people need to be circling the wagons, and most are remaining silent. I am just as guilty as most.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle January 16, 2012 | 9:33 p.m.

Here's his whole "Beyond Vietnam" speech:

The Very Serious, Selfish-Righteous People around here would be livid with indignation and scorn if such a man were alive today.

(Report Comment)

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