2016, MLK Day—I’m reading the classic book, Jesus and the Disinherited by the brilliant black theologian Howard Thurman whose work influenced King. It reminded me of my blog of 11/27/14, ‘Ferguson’s Accomplishment’. In it I stated the Ferguson event “desecrated the memory of MLK, a true black hero honored by all people regardless of race. He emerged from a society much more deeply steeped in prejudice, yet he brought non-violent pressure to right the injustice of segregation.”
I stand by my statement that the Ferguson’s riots dishonor his memory. It was clear that MLK stood on the side of a just cause; blacks were innocent victims of institutional prejudice, yet he led peaceful protests and the million-man-march never resorting to violence and brought about the desired change. With Ferguson 'the right’ is less clear; there is blame on both sides . . . are the police ‘trigger happy’ when it comes to black youth? I think it is clear that is true—yet that is not the only consideration . . . the function of a police force is to maintain order in society; their effectiveness requires that society respect and support their authority. Over the past few decades a ferment of anger, disrespect and hatred grew among black youths against police. That hatred was echoed in the rap-music of insults and calls to oppose police . . . ‘kill the pigs’. The police, when their authority is not respected or supported, tighten their reactions against perceived violations.
I thought I understood the duel nature and shared blame for the violence in Ferguson but Thurman helped give me deeper understand of the disinherited people’s anger, he explained the why and how of it—I quote his book:
Pg. 69: “Hatred in the mind and spirit of the disinherited, is born out of great bitterness—a bitterness that is made possible by sustained resentment.”
Pg. 70: “your hatred gives you a sense of significance which you fling defiantly in the teeth of their estimate of you.”
Pg. 72: “thus hatred becomes a device of which an individual seeks to protect himself against moral disintegration.” (the devaluation he sees in the eyes of the strong).
Pg. 74: “Every expression of intolerance, every attitude of meanness, every statute that limits and degrades, give further justification for life-negation on the part of the weak toward the strong.”
Thurman gives insight to the genesis of the anger and hatred that is found among the disinherited—but sees its true nature beyond the violence it births—
Pg. 76: “hatred destroys finally the core of the life of the hater.”
Martin Luther King heard Thurman’s message and understood its truth. He refused to accept disinheritance and used the strength of truth and justice to wage his fight, winning the ear and respect of all who value justice.
We are still seeking the way to co-exist. There are two roads to the future;
--will we choose the way of Ferguson through hatred and violence?
--Or Thurman’s and King’s way through peaceful insistence upon what is right and just?