After honoring the life of Doctor Martin Luther King Junior 50 years after his assassination, many in the city of Memphis are taking an honest look at race relations here. Just this week, Republican candidates for Shelby County Mayor say the city made a mistake removing Confederate flags. Local 24’s political analyst and commentator Otis Sanford gives his point of view.
We are just over two weeks past the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., an event that changed history and forced Memphis and the nation to look at ourselves through the lenses of race, and commit to change.
But if this week is any indication, we have not changed as much as we thought.
It has been a week in which Memphis found itself in a 21st century civil war, of sorts, with members of the Tennessee legislature over the removal of monuments honoring those who fought in the original civil war to preserve slavery. 56 Republican House members, none of whom are from Shelby County, voted to strip $250,000 dollars from the state budget for Memphis’ bicentennial celebration next year. And they proudly stated that the vote was punishment for removing the statues. Among those voting yes was House Speaker and gubernatorial candidate Beth Harwell.
Meanwhile, all three Republican candidates for county mayor added to the divide by saying the city made a mistake removing the statues and is now paying a price.
Except, it wasn’t a mistake. The statues needed to go.
So, a month that began with renewed hopes of racial healing likely will end with more racial animosity. A sense by most Memphians that it’s still us against them. It’s sad, but we must ask ourselves if we really have made racial progress after all.