Sunday, August 5, 2007

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Those words of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, jr., came to mind last week as I heard a young woman tell of an injustice permanently etched in her psyche.

The year was 1981 and she was a small child. Her father, a native of Puerto Rico, applied for work at several places in northern Indiana that had advertised vacancies. Somehow those vacancies no longer existed when he came in looking for work. To this day she remembers that injustice.

Children have a very deep sense of justice, one adults often don't appreciate. There are few gray areas when it's either right or wrong.

In the early 1960's I remember watching a documentary on TV (at a time when network news operations did real documentaries) that depicted young black citizens in the south trying to eat at a dime store lunch counter, something I'd done many times as a kid at Woolworth's and Kresge's. The only things they were served were profane taunts and milk shakes and sodas poured on them. I was horrified by this injustice.

As a young police officer in the 1970's, I was off-duty and driving south on US41 near Waukegan when I spotted a woman lying on the shoulder. She appeared to have been drinking and said she was dumped out of a moving car by her boyfriend. Another motorist went to call the police and an ambulance while I took a blanket from my car and put it over her to keep her warm.

When the officer arrived I briefed him on what the woman told me and mentioned that I put a blanket on her to keep her warm and told her not to move. He replied, "Why'd you do that? She's only a nigger."

Words can't adequately describe my disgust for this moron who disgraced his badge.

I like to think we've come a ways since then -- it's always better to light a candle than to curse the darkness -- but I know that we still have a ways to go. And I suppose it's good that memories of injustice are indelible otherwise the pusuit of justice may seem less worthy.

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