The slaughter of innocents cries out for justice. That is precisely what happened on Monday, when a terrible race crime finally received closure. Although the murder must never be forgotten, Americans can now feel some satisfaction that the proper recognition has taken place. As President Barack Obama said: “We must continue to fight for the ideals of equality and justice for which they gave their lives.”
No, I have not lost my mind. All this did happen. But, as you may have guessed, I am not referring to the announcement in Ferguson, Missouri, that no charges would be brought against the white policeman who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager. I’m talking about an event that took place 50 years ago in Neshoba County, Mississippi, when three civil rights workers — two white and one black, named Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney — were killed by the Ku Klux Klan. At the White House the three men were posthumously given the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in America.
The reason I’m linking Ferguson with Mississippi Burning (as the event is known) is not the piquancy of having the two events on the same day — although it cannot be ignored — but that there is a clarity that comes with historical perspective.