By Steve Robinson | March 9, 2019 - 10:43 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

NORMAL – When the 43rd Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Awards Luncheon was originally scheduled for the weekend before Dr. King’s birthday holiday in January, a snowstorm forced organizers of the event, the Human Relations Commissions of both the City of Bloomington and the Town of Normal to cancel the event almost four hours before it was to begin.

And in trying to get it rescheduled, this time for Saturday, March 9, organizers must have wondered if weather would again, this time in the form of heavy rains, would nix their plans. This time, however, and although scaled down from being a full luncheon, the program went on as scheduled, this time at the Bloomington-Normal Radisson Hotel and Conference Center.

The keynote speaker for the event, retired WEEK-TV morning news anchor Garry Moore, told the close to 1,000 attendees he recalled being 9-years-old when it was announced that the civil rights leader, then age 38, had been gunned down outside the Lorraine Motel.

Moore called King a spiritual being. “Spiritual beings say things like ‘Mine eyes have seen the coming of the Lord,’ a reference to part of the last public speech he gave to striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tenn. on April 3, 1968, the day before he was assassinated.

Living on the corner of Chicago’s 46th St. and Michigan Ave., “I knew the Promised Land wasn’t the Jim Crow South, where Chaney, Schwerner, Medgar, and Till, and countless others were killed years before,” Moore said, referencing people who have become familiar names for those engaged in the struggle for civil rights.

“Lest we forget, land has been at the center of world wars,” Moore said, including some African continents where blacks were brought over to the new world as slaves, and “the land fell under new management.”

“Dr. King said we must be careful not to allow our spiritual world to be governed by conflicts of devices, techniques, mechanisms, and instrumentalities, the means by which we live,” Moore pointed out. Saying that, Moore said, King was warning people that they “have allowed the means by which they live to outdistance the ends for which we live.”

To that point, Moore stated, “Enter Facebook and your Smartphone. Would Dr. King ‘unfriend’ Lyndon Baines Johnson?” It was a question that produced a couple chuckles. Moore went on to say King “might ‘unfriend’ J. Edgar Hoover,” a line that generated a little more laughter when the famed first director of Federal Bureau of Investigation was mentioned by name.

“Dr. King wasn’t just talking about the physical space when it came to decent housing, although it certainly was a part of his promised land,” Moore added.

Moore related the story of an uncle who died in World War II, but anticipating his return, his family expecting to be able to use the GI Bill to “elevate the family status” and be able to purchase a home. But what the uncle’s family found instead, Moore said is documented in the book, “Color Of Law” by Richard Rothstein. It paints a picture, Moore told the audience, of whites being able to use guaranteed housing loans in order to buy homes to increase suburban residences, but that black vets were not able to take advantage of the GI Bill’s housing provisions.

“Banks generally wouldn’t make loans for mortgages in black neighborhoods,” Moore explained was the reason for that. “In short, the GI Bill was very pivotal in terms of the growth of the middle class in this country. It helped foster a long-term boon in white wealth, but did almost nothing to help blacks build wealth.” To show the contrast, Moore said if a person had bought a home in the 1950s, the home’s worth would be around $250,000. By contrast, had a black person purchased a home for the same price, Moore explained, its value today worth between $8,000-$10,000.

Another issue Moore said we should concern ourselves about is something he mentioned in quoting author Neil Postman. Postman has written a book called “Amusing Ourselves To Death.” Moore said Postman points to another author’s acclaimed work, George Orwell’s “1984” where it’s set in a society of banning books. Moore said we should pay attention to Alex Huxley’s work, “Brave New World.”

“In Huxley’s book, he talks about it’s not so much you’re going to live in a society where you’ll ban books as it is you’ll live in a society where nobody’s going to want to read,” Moore explained. He added information won’t be hidden from you but rather, “there’ll be so much trivia that you’ll have to find the droplet of truth in this ocean of trivia.”

In that vein, Moore said, “We have an access to excess and our young people are confused. That’s because the values are distorted. In a system of inequality, there’s an unequal distribution of values.

“How do we expect young people to make sense out of this?” Moore asked.

“Every day, they see on the television, they see stuff that they want,” he added.

Moore also took a shot at the music industry, saying that industry has “become a vehicle by which to degrade themselves and call it entertainment. Moore questioned whether Dr. King would approve of young men “who have $50,000 on their wrist and driving the Bentley?”

“Dr. King said we are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries and the size of our automobiles, rather than by the quality of our service and relationship to humanity,” Moore stated. King was concerned about America’s values toward the end of his life, Moore added.

Moore said going through with one’s education and becoming someone who can think critically in order to solve problems, and learning to work with others can help overcome some of the concerns Dr. King emphasized.

Stressing the “Golden Rule” and teaching business ethics, Moore said, is one way to set matters straight.

Moore concluded by mentioning some troubling habits the media has. One of those, he said, happens when a story involves people of color being denied access to something “because of the color of their skin.” Moore said he found that wording troubling. “He wasn’t denied because his hat was too big or her shoes were too small. By mentioning their skin, what’s implied is that there is something wrong with the victim.”

Moore said the change that was made in writing an explanation of a person being denied something “was because of racism.” The explanation brought applause from the audience.

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