We need to remember King's legacy
by James Coffin
Forty-five years ago this spring, the most high-profile figure of the U.S. civil-rights movement was cut down by an assassin's bullet.
At the time of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s death, about 60 percent of our current U.S. population hadn't yet been born. Millions more were too young to have any personal recollection of the man or his mission. So keeping his legacy alive requires effort.
We would do well to remember that ...
For the first 300 years of sustained European activity in North America, blacks were slaves. That ended with the Emancipation Proclamation, 150 years ago this month.
The 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868, gave citizenship to all freed slaves, and the 15th Amendment, adopted in 1870, gave voting rights to black males. (All women were given the right to vote in 1920.) Tragically, the discriminatory legal doctrine of "separate but equal" soon emerged, holding sway for decades.
In its 1954 watershed decision, Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court finally acknowledged that separate is, by definition, not equal. That decision opened the floodgates of opportunity for civil-rights advancement. Fortuitously, that same year, King made his public debut by becoming pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala.
The next 14 years witnessed the convergence of King's talent and tenacity, the mood and momentum of the times, and the determination and dreams of thousands of activists, many of whom had been working quietly but resolutely for decades. The result was an unprecedented and unparalleled period of civil-rights progress.
But King didn't advocate just for his own race. He sought justice for all. He fought against poverty wherever it existed. He decried war. For his efforts, he became, at age 35, the youngest recipient (to that point) of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He lost his life at age 39.
As a society, we face the challenge of appropriately celebrating the great advances that have been made without losing sight of what remains to be done. To their credit, an array of organizations in Central Florida use the MLK holiday each year, Jan. 21, as an opportunity to reflect on and recommit to MLK's vision for a more equitable world for all people.
James Coffin is executive director of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida. For a schedule of events today through Jan. 26, go to mlkorlando.com.
Supreme Court hears case of DUI suspect forced to take a blood test without a warrant
The Centers for Disease Control estimates Americans drove drunk 112 million times in 2010.
The Supreme Court is now considering whether police are violating those drivers fourth amendment rights to privacy if they obtain a non-consensual blood test without getting a warrant first.
"The police will not always be as scrupulous as they need to be protecting privacy on the other side of the balance," said Steven Shapiro of American Civil Liberties Union.
All 50 states have laws requiring those arrested on suspicion of drunk- driving consent to a blood alcohol test.
The ACLU says 25 states also have laws requiring police to seek a warrant when drivers refuse.
Lawyers for Missouri and the Obama administration do not think police should have to wait, and many prosecutors agree.
"It's crucial for law enforcement to obtain the blood alcohol level in a timely fashion and evidence being destroyed every minute we wait," said Scott Burns, Executive Director of National District Attorneys Association.
Forty-seven years ago the Supreme Court ruled that officers could only forgo a warrant in special circumstances.
Today Justices struggled with whether the dissipation of alcohol in the blood over time meets the threshold.