The color of character

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Oshawn Jefferson
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
When I heard the news of Corretta Scott King’s death Jan. 30 many thoughts ran through my mind.

I first thought of her husband, Martin Luther King Jr., what he stood for and what he believed in -- people of great character. Then I thought about her legacy and how she carried on his dream and made it her own.

I went back and read her history and a date stuck out to me Jan. 30, 1956 a bomb was thrown onto the porch of Dr. King’s Montgomery, Ala., home. Mrs. King and Roscoe Williams, a wife of a church member, were in the house with their oldest daughter, Yolanda Denise. No one was injured.

She died fifty years to the date of that incident. Someone else’s jealousy, racism, pride and hate almost took her, the life of her daughter and a family friend.

What if they had succeeded on that faithful night? Would Dr. King have become that man we look up to today or would he have quit right there. How would the incident be remembered, the death of a black lady, her child and her friend? Would it have been just marked in history as another senseless killing in the history of America, another person killed and remembered because of the color of her skin? ‘She died because she was black’ history would write. What would we have missed?

After that bombing incident the next few years showed Coretta Scott King’s character of sharing. As full partner in her husband’s work, she walked beside him in marches, traveled abroad with him, and gave him speeches when he was unable to do so. She also made her own personal contribution. On behalf of the Women’s Strike for Peace, she was a delegate at the Disarmament Conference in Geneva, Switzerland in 1962, and she often gave concerts on behalf of the civil rights movement, for she was still keeping up with her music.

When her husband was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., in 1968, Coretta King showed character by continuing his work. Just four days after his death she led a march of 50,000 people through the streets of Memphis.

The following year, King traveled to India to accept an award that had been granted to her husband the previous year, and on the way there she visited Italy, where she was given a special audience by the Pope. She also stopped off in Britain, where she preached at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London -- probably the first woman ever to do so. However, King’s main concern in 1969 was the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, which she planned to create in Atlanta.

Over the years, her character helped her work hard to raise funds for the center, which now covers three full blocks and houses a library and archives of the civil rights movement. King oversaw the center, which succeeded in achieving her other major goal -- to get her husband’s birthday honored as a national holiday which she accomplished in 1986.

She had a third goal -- a continuing one, before her death she continued to speak out against injustice, especially racial injustice, doing what she can to make her husband’s dream of fairness and equality come true.

When I look around my office, this base and the Air Force as a whole I can see the effects of her hard work. I see many different races of people from different countries working together to complete a mission all over the world.

Her life’s work should not just be looked at as an African-American’s personal quest to overcome jealousy, racism, pride and hate, but as an American who fought for the quality of all people regardless of color, race, sex or religion.

She and her husband labored so people would not look at the color of skin but be judged by the content of their character. Fifty years after someone tried to kill her for just being black and wanting to be treated equally -- we as a whole still tend to look at the outside.

Her legacy taught me that I am more than just a color; I am a God-fearing man, a husband, a father, a son, an Airman, a supervisor, a subordinate, a confidant, a friend, an American.

We are more that just a color, Mrs. King labored and worked so we can look at more than just the outside. Take a look around -- Black History is your history, Latin American history is your history, Asian-American history is your history -- don’t let yourself or someone else’s jealousy, racism, pride and hate limit your thinking.

That kind of thinking can rob us of a person of great influence and ultimately rob history of some of its character.