In April 2012, I visited the National Civil Rights Museum at the historic Lorraine Motel in Memphis. If you’ve been, you know that the museum tour ends on the second-floor balcony, where you find yourself standing within a few feet of where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.
When you finish at the Lorraine, you can walk across the street and visit the Legacy Building, where you can look out the window from which James Earl Ray fired the shot that killed Dr. King.
Now four years later, I’ve come to see the site of Dr. King’s assassination, both the balcony on which he stood and the window from which James Earl Ray shot him, as symbolic of two fundamental ways to view the world.
We can look at the world from that balcony and see as far to the left and right as our eyes will allow. It presents an expansive open view of the world.
We can also look at the world through James Earl Ray’s window, which presents an isolated, limited view of the world. You can’t see left, right, up, down or sideways. All you can see is what is framed within the window.
As our nation pauses to remember Dr. King’s life and legacy this week and next, I would like to encourage every American to make a pilgrimage to Memphis and visit the Civil Rights Museum.
Now more than ever, we all need to stand on King’s balcony, look out Ray’s window, and contemplate what happened there and why.
Then, we need to decide for ourselves and for our nation what view of the world we have.