By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – The debate this week over racism in Boston has not been especially eloquent or edifying.

Instead of a serious discussion of a vein of hatred no serious person claims doesn’t exist in our city and our country, we’ve been subjected to a nasty back and forth over who really said what when, who the real victims are, and other foolish distractions.

I suggest we all take a deep breath, summon some humility, and turn the debate over to someone far more eloquent than any voice we heard this week, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose famous words at the Lincoln Memorial 54 years ago still ring true.

mlk Keller @ Large: Turn Boston Racism Debate Over To Words Of MLK

Dr. Martin Luther King waves to supporters on the Mall in Washington DC during the ‘March on Washington’ August 28, 1963. (Photo credit – AFP/Getty Images)

That day, Dr. King cast the Civil Rights movement as a financial transaction, in which black Americans had come to cash the check written to them by the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, the promise that “black men as well as white men would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation,” he said, “America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked insufficient funds.”

And Dr. King called on all Americans to live up to our country’s core promise, that “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

That’s the promise that is broken when we fail to respect each other’s dignity and equality. That is the crime of the racial slur. Keeping our promises and fighting such crimes is the uncompleted task this week’s events remind us of.


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