In March of 1955 a black woman in Alabama is arrested for refusing to give up her seat to an older white man. Civil rights and black community leaders along with the ACLU rush to her side and she is chosen to be the face of the anti-segregation movement. If you’re perhaps a little too young to understand the significance of that, talk to your history teacher. Of course he might mistakenly think I was talking about Rosa Parks, but I’m not. I’m talking about Claudette Colvin. And while Colvin did testify before a three panel judge regarding segregation she was never chosen to be the face of the Civil Rights movement… She was 15 and pregnant with the child of a married man. It would eventually be Rosa Parks who becomes the face of segregation but before that happened, a young black minister would gain prominence, and not just in the black community either. He would host a speech in Detroit that would attract over 250,000 people, lead the bus boycotts, and force one of the largest pushes in Civil Rights.
What happened to Ms. Colvin was a tragedy, but if not for the ACLU’s decision to stand down, we’d never had heard of Martin Luther King.
I actually didn’t know until I started writing this that he attracted over 250,000 people to his “I have a dream” speech, and be mindful that this was before Facebook. Now if you want a march or a protest you just throw it up on Facebook. You don’t have to attend a social club or be an active member of a “movement”. “Lisa shared an event” boom, you’re an activist. I honestly wonder though, how impressed would MLK — forgive the shorthand — be with our crowd sizes? How concerned was he with the number of people who heard his message?
When I post a video or write a Sunday Edition my wife can attest that I pour over the numbers quite closely. I’m always wondering how many people I’ve reached. While MLK was indeed a Godly man and a person who by all appearances was more concerned with a the depth of a person’s soul over how many people they could reach in a given day, I have to imagine that this worried him.
Or maybe not. I think to an interview Nichelle Nichols — the original Lt. Uhura — gave where she talked about meeting MLK. She expressed her excitement and his eventual profound disappointment. See MLK was a huge fan of the series and it became a tradition for his family to watch it whenever it was on… but Nichols was planning to leave the show. “You can’t do that,” MLK insisted. He told her for the first time on Television “you don’t have a black role, you have an equal role.” It didn’t matter to MLK that the franchise had terrible ratings and while certainly praised by award shows and the like, was all in all a flop. It was the heart of the thing. It was the message.
I see all these marches. I see the massive crowds they draw, not just in the United States either. I’ve seen protests in Canada, the UK, France… And it worries me.
It worries me not because they’re protests. We should protest. A truly detestable human occupies the Oval Office. A villain. A monster. A man who advocates for violence against dissidents, and the sexual assault of women. A man who gladly lies to further his own agenda and hides behind innuendo and technicality to enforce bigotry and further his own gains.
But what is being lost is the message. You can’t burn down parts of UC Berkeley and expect anyone to hear our concerns or take us seriously. Turn your thoughts today to Martin Luther King (thanks James Taylor) and his example; Never one time did he lead a violent protest. Never one time did he endorse violence. And while the price for the gains he got — and I am more than understanding that there is a very long way to go — may have been his life, he did make gains.
Thank you Doctor King for what you did and the lessons you left behind for us to learn.
The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy, instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. — Martin Luther King Jr.