When Silence is No Longer an Option

A Huddled Masses Mobilization Network blog post by the Rev. Ken Curl, Martin Luther King Memorial Baptist Church, Renton:

April 4th of this year will mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. So as a tribute to Dr. King and the tenants on which he stood I dedicate this article.

I don’t know about you, but I am sick and tired of good people trying to justify racist behavior! I am even more saddened by otherwise good people who say nothing. These people are like the proverbial ostrich with their heads buried in the sand.

We have a President who sits in the Oval Office spewing hateful language during a meeting with Senators, representatives and others in the room. Now we have people saying that they either can’t remember or changing their story to deny that he even said those words. In addition I have watched a parade of political pundits come on television and justify his behavior by saying, well you know, the President is not always politically correct and that’s why people voted for him. CNN commentator, Paris Dennard, a black man, is helping lead the way. In fact Mr. Dennard said there was nothing wrong with then candidate Trump saying: look at my African American over there, during one of his campaign events. The person may be an African American but I am almost positive the person did not belong to Donald Trump. Hogwash!  Let’s call it like it is. The President is a racist, plain and simple.

I assume people know what racism is but just in case I am going to explain it. See there is a difference between racism and prejudice. Racism is systematic. Racism involves the creation of systems that the majority population uses to control and inflict harm on people of another race. For example the school-to-prison pipeline is a form of racism designed to in-prison young black and brown people who lack education; knowing full well that their next stop most likely is prison.

Whereas, when people are prejudiced, they may have racist views but they do not have the power to inflict harm in a systematic way. Yet they may be able to inflict harm through individual actions. A good example of prejudice is Dylann Roof. Mr. Roof is an American white supremacist mass murderer convicted in December 2016 for perpetrating the Charleston church shooting on June 17, 2015.

[…]

As we near the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s death, his words are as relevant today as they were in the 1960’s. As we celebrate his birth we must also contemplate the reason for his death. The reason Dr. King died at the tender age of 39 is simply because of hate. Hate which had reached a level only the Devil could relish. You see America had taken on a hate so complete in its vileness that it had permeated a large swath of American society.

King said “darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

I work with a guy, I’ll call him Bob. The other day we were riding around in a van with other people and somewhere during the conversation a Muslim person came up. Bob said the person is a Muslim and should not be in this country. I told Bob that America was founded on the principle of religious liberty. This is why it is important that we know our history.

I also suggested that he familiarize himself with the constitution. He said America was not founded on freedom of religion but on freedom of speech. Bob’s partially right, but he doesn’t know that the right to freedom of speech had to be added to the constitution through the first amendment. I asked Bob why he was so full of hate and he clarified that as an American he had a right to hate. And this right is protected by this same constitution.

I believe this hatred is driven by what some people feel is an erosion of their power base or political and economic standing. I remember watching television during one of President Barack Obama’s campaigns, as a demure white woman was explaining that she could not believe that a black man was over her. Being “over someone” is an old southern phase meaning someone has the power to control one’s life.

Some of the white population of America are deathly afraid that they are now, or will soon be, the minority in this country. These people are used to white people having the power to call all the shots. Many of these same individuals are under the misconception that America was built by white people, when in fact this country was built on the backs of Africans of which the majority came to this country as slaves.

Some have not quite figured out that America is not made up of a specific race or certain group of people but a conglomerate of races, cultures, immigrants, and orientations. America is a social experiment. The current majority feels threatened by the number of people represented in these groups, especially when they turn out to be eligible voters.

What are they afraid of? Are they afraid of the possibility of black and brown people being “over them,” then they would treat whites like they have treated others? These new found leaders would also be driven by hate. Boy, that has got to be a scary thought.

[…]

Dr. King said that nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. How can blacks murder each other at such an alarming rate? Or how can a significant segment of the American population believe that all Muslims somehow hate all Christians and all Americans? Or that all Haitians have HIV or that all African nations are shit-hole countries? For many, if Trump said it, it must be true.

Dr. King said “that the function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” If America is to remain a great nation it must educate all its young people and not just a select few. This is a short-sighted and selfish strategy that one day may very well make America a third world nation. America must educate all Americans if it is to remain a world power not just a select few. Dr. King said “there is nothing more dangerous than to build a society with a large segment of people in that society who feel that they have no stake in it; who feel that they have nothing to lose. People who have a stake in their society, protect that society, but when they don’t have it, they unconsciously want to destroy it.”

Dr. King asked Americans to consider one of life’s most persistent and urgent questions, “What are you doing for others?” We all need to do some soul searching as it relates to this question. Do you volunteer to work with young people or read to older people in nursing homes? Or perform some other civic good?

Dr. King said that “the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.”

God is calling us to be bold and to speak truth to power. King said “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

I can somewhat understand our friends who say they love the President’s economic policies, particularly those who are benefiting from these policies. But what I don’t understand is why those same people seem incapable of denouncing his racist attitudes and comments against people who do not look like him. It makes them suspect in my mind that they too harbor racist views and tendencies.

Dr. King said “we as a people must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.” Dr. King also said “in the end, we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools. We must speak out against injustice wherever it rears its ugly head. Silence is no longer a viable option.

Read the full blog post here.

*The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are those of an individual and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Faith Action Network. FAN is an interfaith organization, committed to celebrating and embracing the diversity of faith traditions. If you have questions about FAN’s position on any public policy issues, please feel free to contact the FAN office at (206) 625-9790 or [email protected].
To learn more about contributing to this blog, click here.