A day for honoring Martin Luther King Jr

As we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr, we might pause to consider how much has changed since he came to Chicago in 1966 to advance the cause of fair housing.

Dr King described his time in Chicago, where he rented an apartment at 1550 S Hamlin Ave, as “a first step on a 1,000 mile journey.”

It’s right and fitting that we honor Dr King’s memory with a focus on how many steps remain on that journey, but also by noting how far we’ve progressed toward his goal.

In 1967 Father James Groppi led a group of open housing marchers across Milwaukee’s 16th Street viaduct onto streets flanked by snarling, hate-filled whites hurling rocks, bottles and insults. I was one of those marchers and the scenes I witnessed, common then, are absent and almost inconceivable today. The open discrimination that was once the norm has vanished, and subtler forms of discrimination are slowly diminishing.

It was Dr King’s oft-repeated assertion that “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” The arc doesn’t bend towards justice of its own accord. Dr King and many like-minded people bent and continue to bend the arc in that direction.

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