Today marks 56 years since the murder of four young girls at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. At the time this act of white racist terrorism was described in Martin Luther King Jr’s eulogy to the girls. “These children-unoffending, innocent, and beautiful-were the victims of one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity.” MLK Jr. further described their deaths as having something to say to “every politician who has fed his constituents with the stale bread of hatred and the spoiled meat of racism.” One additional thing the girl’s death had to say to us was “we must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy, which produced the murderers.”
MLK Jr. continued by looking at the horrific deaths as possibly resulting in a change in Birmingham leading to a “bright future”, or a “white South” coming to “terms with its conscience”.
Sadly, none of what the deaths had to say in King’s words or King’s desire for positive change are one bit closer than the tragic 56 years we have experienced since that horrible day. Now we mark each month, each week and each day by what degree of horrific tragedy has been meted out by some deranged, hate filled man with a weapon of war traveling amongst us while shopping, learning, being entertained or praying. Also, sadly, there appears to be no possibility of any of King’s insight and optimism leading to a change in the “system, the way of life, the philosophy, which produced the murderers.”
A sad day and a day to not be silent.