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MLK SHAMED: Not Your Grandfather’s Civil Rights Movement

By Dr. Mom
Clash Daily Contributor

I am devoutly hoping that this weekend offers opportunities beyond just stuffing turkey and faces, or shopping until you drop enough cash to justify spending what amounts to a full workday waiting in a line outside Walmart. I hope that some people talk and others listen. More specifically, I hope that those who are of an age to personally remember the struggles of the Civil Rights movement talk, and those who are of an age to arrange anti-social flash mobs on their iphones listen.

I’m trying to remember more clearly that time when Martin Luther King went down to a lunch counter and threw a rock through its window, then burned it to the ground.

Oh, right. He didn’t.

Martin Luther King understood that the only way to move the wheels of the American justice system of the time was to demonstrate its injustice. Righteous resistance is non-violent resistance, because the use of force delegitimizes any group whose aim is peace.

Make no mistake: discrimination, persecution, and slobbering racism were on full display during the civil rights era, and factions of the movement (the Malcolm X wing) thought the judicious use of force would accelerate the movement’s momentum. However, despite almost unremitting opposition willing to do anything to hold its power, King and his followers maintained non-violence.

If the launching pad for the “second civil rights movement” ends up being an effort to railroad an innocent man into a federal trial that no evidence supports, the first civil rights movement will be tarnished and cheapened. Martin Luther King did not spend his life seeking mindless revenge for imaginary slights. Non-violent resistance is not supposed to result in the kind of “peaceful protest” that ends in 20-some minority businesses reduced to ash and minority small-business owners reduced to tears. Racial justice can never be served by violating a man’s Constitutional and civil rights or by terrorizing a community with nights of violence and arson.

Had Martin Luther King and the leaders of the civil rights movement attacked the troopers, they could not have won the public. Americans had to see the pictures of patently harmless, innocent people brutalized by the crushing force of a system entirely contrary to the Constitution and the laws.

We see no such moral high ground in Ferguson.

The Ferguson riots have been mob violence, not moral suasion. The lasting images America will have of this chapter of American history will be vulgarity-spewing mobs rampaging through a town most of them didn’t live in, venting their rage at a system they now apparently see as too protective of the accused. How ironic that those same leaders who claim that African-Americans are too often unprotected merely because of the color of their skin now unapologetically seek federal charges against a man the grand jury could not indict—and they seek them solely because he is white. (Grand jury documents here.)

Shooting a violent suspect who is charging you after having already attempted to take your gun and kill you is not a crime—not for anyone, and certainly not for a police officer. Officer Wilson did not commit a crime. Let me say that again. Officer Wilson did not commit a crime.

Moreover, the shooting itself was not about race. Had Brown been white, the only difference in the unfolding of events would have been in the aftermath. No TV trucks would have turned up. No out-of-state visitors would protest the death of a white strong-arm robber with drugs in his system who tried to kill a police officer. Big-talking, national community organizers and agitators would not have descended on a small town in Missouri, pinning their hopes for continued national relevance on one police officer who came home alive because he took a life in self-defense. The Obama administration would have sent no one to the funeral, and CNN would probably still be trying to figure out what happened to that Malaysian airplane.

More sadly, if Officer Wilson had failed to stop Michael Brown from shooting him with his own gun, the story would have ended sadly and quickly. Officer Wilson’s loved ones would have mourned him, and Michael Brown might have faced trial, if caught. The entire episode would have been largely forgotten in a matter of days. Barack Obama and Eric Holder would not have cared. Al Sharpton certainly would not have cared. The only time they care a whit for the police is when they’re seeking union endorsement.

So to those of you who were there– who marched the bridge at Selma, who suffered the indignities of the water cannons and the batons, who stood with Dr. King and who listened to Bobby Kennedy when he pleaded for a movement-preserving calm after the Reverend was assassinated—talk to those who think they are following in your footsteps.

Tell them of Dr. King’s insistence on nonviolence. Ask them how looting advances the cause of racial equality. Demand they look at the faces of the shopkeepers standing in the ashes of their work, and ask them how they sleep at night. They need to hear you. Because I can’t believe this is what you had in mind.


Kerry JacobDr. Mom is a married mother of three boys and the author of Souls, Bodies, Spirits: The Drive to Abolish Abortion Since 1973. The hills she chooses to die on are the Bible and the Constitution, in that order. In addition to her American Studies doctorate, she also holds a Master’s degree in Forensic Psychology and is, therefore, perfectly equipped to interpret the current Administration. She also tweets as DrKC4.