It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.
– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
It’s a new year and a new page; I believe it is fitting to conclude this five part series on the day commemorating one of the greatest civil rights leaders in history.
On this day, dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I’d like to look at where from here?
2014 was, no doubt, an incredibly tumultuous year. The after effects will shake the criminal justice system for years to come.
The January 26, 2015 cover of the New Yorker magazine, created by Barry Blitt, features a beautiful watercolor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., on the cover. He is linked arm and arm with Eric Garner, whose death is the center of controversy of policing tactics in New York, and with Officer Wenjian Liu, who was slain by a madman in retaliation for recent police involved shooting incidents. Also pictured are Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. Some view it as controversial, but Barry Blitt hit the main point.
“It struck me that King’s vision was both the empowerment of African-Americans, the insistence on civil rights, but also the reconciliation of people who seemed so hard to reconcile,” Barry explained to “The New Yorker.”
“In New York and elsewhere, the tension between the police and the policed is at the center of things. Like Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, Martin Luther King was taken way too early,” said Barry. “It is hard to believe things would have got as bad as they are if he was still around today.”
Dr. King was a leader. He abhorred violence in all forms. He encouraged everyone to self actualize, and used non-violent means to change the law. He hated the violence that the police were using against citizens; but he also encouraged citizens to vent their frustrations in peaceful ways, not through rioting or violence. He was the only one who could get political leaders, to the average man on the street, to listen. Was he the only civil rights leader? No. But history showed him to be the most effective.
Oprah Winfrey received major backlash for comments she made regarding the recent protests, in which she claimed there was a lack of leadership. There are local leaders; but we have yet to see another Dr. King emerge — a person who can speak truth to power, lead the people, and command respect from all corners. Some claim the Dr. King model is “outdated”; but one thing is for sure: as a result of his work, laws changed. And when laws were changed, people’s actions were forced to change.
The law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me.
On the other side of the coin, even some conservatives see the need to embrace this movement. Margaret Hoover, a lifelong Republican, wrote an interesting opinion piece about why the Republican Party should embrace the #ICantBreathe movement.
This is critical when we look to Capital Hill, and see Representative Steve Scalise. He admitted to addressing a group supported by David Duke. David Duke, a Louisiana politician, became a household name after two failed Presidential bids and when it was revealed he was a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Duke has never been shy about his beliefs; he continues to espouse neo-Nazi and racist views to the present day. In Scalise (#3 man in the Republican Party) associating with David Duke, we’re not talking about the sharing of conservative views pertaining to abortion or fiscal ideas…we’re talking about hate, and a group that made killing African Americans their mission.
Edward Brooke, the first African American senator and a Republican, stated in the years before his death, that African Americans were evicted from Republican Party. These words seem to ring true when we see House Majority Leader Representative John Boehner’s actions in standing by Representative Scalise. If Capital Hill sticks their head in the sand and pretends racism does not exist, then this sets the tone for the rest of the country. This causes those who feel the effects of racism to feel that there is no hope, no justice, and no reason for peace. When you have the most powerful politician who tries to call racism by another name, it’s denial. And this is the depth of denial causes anger, protests and unrest. It’s all connected!
Hence, going forward, we must continue to discuss, and listen. If we see racism, don’t pretend it’s something else. Confront it, and banish it. We’ve come so far as a country; we can push just a little bit more to achieve the dream that Dr. King gave his life for.