By John Klar
The leftist racial tension of 2020 in America teaches the opposite of Martin Luther King, Jr., advocating racial violence as the solution to racial conflict. For this reason, the current Black Lives Matter “movement” — loosely organized, vague of message, quick to commit violence and silence others — is much more akin to the Malcolm X than the Martin Luther King philosophy. Indeed, BLM activists would likely call MLK an “Uncle Tom.”
But King was right about using love to conquer evil, and those who seek to tame the toxicity of the more criminal elements of BLM must embrace the King message even while those who purport to advance racial liberation favor violence, intolerance, and hate. The irony is evident, but there is no alternative path.
Many Americans remember the fictional character of Archie Bunker from the hit 70s TV series All in The Family. Archie was an evident racist, yet viewers easily fell in love with him. Why? Because it was always clear that Archie Bunker loved his wife and children, loved his country, worked hard and was no criminal — his crime as a racist was borne of pure ignorance, which viewers watched peeled back as he got a wake-up call from his enlightened son-in-law, or his black friend Lionel (Sammy Davis, Jr).
Also in the 1970s, Americans saw a reverse racism in the lovable if prickly George Jefferson,(The Jeffersons), a powerful story of the actual sufferings of slavery in Alex Haley’s Roots, and the contemporary reality of inner city ghetto-dwellers in Good Times. All of these were sincere efforts to wrestle with the American racial conscience, but in our current climate of “raising awareness” these shows (except for Roots) would likely be banned. This sort of awareness would not be tolerated today — it is not angry; it does not label all whites as complicit in ancient and current violence by virtue of inaction; it does not embrace and condemn “systemic racism” as a permanent and insolvable injustice; it recognizes the humanity of even racists.
Those of us who were “woke” in 1980 did not fall asleep. Indeed, we are “woke” now to the dangers of a political movement such as BLM which wraps itself in the tragedy of a victim (George Floyd), advocating violence and destruction as solution. Imagine if every time a white woman were raped by a black man the entire nation rose up against all black men. Yet here we see this objectionable phenomenon in reverse — every time a black person is killed by white police (regardless of whether there is ANY evidence of racist animus, as in George Floyd’s case), there is a self-righteous eruption into … violence against all white people and the undefined “systemic racism” they are alleged to employ.
For black America, the tragedy of this response is much greater than the tragedy of George Floyd’s death. Indeed, would George Floyd endorse this degree of hostility and hate in his name? Do people not see where this leads?
The irony is that Americans who comprehend that the BLM movement is counterproductive must embrace MLK’s teachings against hate in response to BLM’s violence. That irony is not just that white people must embrace Civil Rights era tactics to defend themselves against false allegations of racism. The greater irony is that those (mostly white) people who have declared themselves the champions of black liberation in 2020 aren’t “woke” to the simple truths of MLK and Gandhi — you don’t change people’s hearts by screaming at them, killing them, or silencing their opinions.
In truth it would be unfair to tie today’s BLM with Malcolm X, for he also would object to this extremism. Malcolm X only advocated for violence in self-defense, and he did not label “inaction” as a violence requiring counterattack. He taught that “… it is criminal to teach a man not to defend himself when he is the constant victim of brutal attacks.” By the same token, it is criminal to teach black and white Americans not to defend themselves against the criminal anarchy that BLM and Antifa have now demonstrated themselves to be.
It is not “defending oneself” to physically assault people who wear a “MAGA” hat, display a confederate flag, or wear a shirt one deems offensive. As Malcolm X stated in a speech in November 1963:
There is nothing in our book, the Koran, that teaches us to suffer peacefully. Our religion teaches us to be intelligent. Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts a hand on you, send him to the cemetery. That’s a good religion.
That is sound counsel, and if BLM protesters put a hand on anybody, Malcolm X tells us where they should be sent. But this is violence in self-defense: BLM is agitating for violence AGAINST people and property across the country — in the name of, but directly opposed to, liberty and justice. MLK’s wisdom is vindicated in 2020, as American cities are destroyed:
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 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.
Many in the left-wing BLM movement call to dismantle the First Amendment and U.S. Constitution: they advocate chaos in their stead. They have cast off from King and X, and offer only conflict: peace or reconciliation are not even stated goals. The stated goal is to “tear down,” not build up.
America is being torn apart. It is terrifying to see violence and hate so dominate our headlines. Yet, we can take comfort in the truths taught by both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X — this violence will fail. Positive change will only arrive through respect and reconciliation: never through violence and intimidation.
John Klar is an attorney and farmer residing in Brookfield, and the former pastor of the First Congregational Church of Westfield.