Thursday, January 21, 2010

Some thoughts on MLK Jr.

I'm obviously a few days late posting this but I had to share some thoughts from Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Of all the days we have in our country named after a person, this day is by far the most deserved.

I've been doing some reading on slavery, Jim Crow laws and the civil rights movement. It's amazing how quickly a system dominated by rich whites was able to 'correct' itself after the Civil War. For the first 10 years after the Civil War, black people made huge economic, educational and political strides. But when local and national leaders found ways to start ignoring the new laws and constitutional amendment, blacks were forced back into a new form of slavery and oppression. And racial oppression wasn't limited to the South, it was simply more obvious in the South. The racial oppression in the North was more covert but it was just as strong.

It's hard for me to imagine what it would be like to keep running into the invisible (illegal) but real barriers that obstructed the life of a black person. It's also impossible to imagine how people could be killed simply for joining the civil rights movement. What would cause someone to attack and kill passengers in the freedom rides simply because the bus was segregated? But even more disturbing, how could local and national government figures, including Attorney General Robert Kennedy simply ignore the slaughter of the freedom riders?

Below are two quotes from King followed by my own summary of his life.

"It is inevitable that we've got to bring out the question of the tragic mixup in priorities. We are spending all of this money for death and destruction and not nearly enough money for life and constructive development... when the guns of war become a national obsession, social needs inevitably suffer."

"If we are arrested every day, if we are exploited every day, if we are trampled over every day, don't ever let anyone pull you so low as to hate them. We must use the weapon of love. We must have compassion and understanding for those who hate us."

The life of MLK Jr. is a revelation. It reveals the limitless good that can come out of a life completely committed to God's purposes, no matter the cost to self or even family. It reveals that a revolution can triumph without violence and that justice can be delivered even in the absence of the sword. Finally, his ...death reveals what happens when a person dares to speak out against unjust systems whether they be systems of racism, economics, military violence or politics.