When someone is killed while they're in the line of duty trying to save us we are left in a profoundly vulnerable place. It shakes people down to their core. The most difficult thing that we do in life is say goodbye to someone who is central to our lives. Now that 1968 is so far behind us it's difficult to remember what King meant to each and every individual who was counting on him. They were seriously suffering.
We were lucky that we had for him as long as we did. Before he was assassinated he knew that it was coming, and he probably knew it from the very start. He could have quit early for his family's sake but he made the conscious decision to sacrifice himself and to allow them to be robbed of their peace of mind because it was critical to get Americans to stop participating in "Separate but Equal" because it was irrational, paranoid and dangerous.
As much as we really hate it and as much as it hurts, when someone who is special to us dies they don't come back and it's up to the survivors to decide whether to stick together and stay on course, or to drift apart and abandon their hope for the future. It creates a fractured, disorganized community.
When the person who encouraged you to take your rightful place at the table dies and no longer exists, and then all that is left are strangers who can't "see" you and they don't care that you're missing or they may even encourage it, than after awhile those are the only voices that count because they're the ones who are alive and they win just because the deceased are silent. For that reason, it's just as important now as it was during the 1960s to keep replaying his speeches. We're lucky that there's a national holiday to remember him by in order to keep the conversation going forward.
If Martin Luther King, Jr. were alive today, and he was in a position to see who is working at the law firms and corporate offices in San Francisco's financial district, he would say that we still live in segregation but to a lesser extent because there are relatively few African Americans there who have the kind of jobs that lead to home ownership and a promising future for their kids.