It’s been 20 years since the Million Man March called Black men to Washington, DC for a “day of atonement.” The eyes of the world were on what for many was hoped to be the next great March on Washington, picking up on the dream MLK unwrapped in 1963.
So, last week, nearly 20 years later, Minister Louis Farrakhan, Pastor Jeremiah Wright and others again drew crowds to Washington, D.C., under the banner “justice or else.”
Or else what? And even better, we should all ask: “What’s next?
In an open letter to Pope Francis, I recently asked these questions:
Can a Gentile love a Jew? Can a Muslim love a Christian? Is a baby in the womb a person? What is the meaning of love? Is sin a dirty word? Do we have to be filthy rich to be happy? Can the Lion really lie down with the Lamb? The point is, how do we find peace?
In two decades, many have forgotten the goal of reconciliation and given over to implied threats. Not to make light of the frustrations beleaguering the African American community, our nation and indeed the world, we must continue to teach and live out nonviolent solutions to our problems.
For example, just last week, my mother suffered a violent carjacking attack while attempting entry into her gated community. In her own words, she “was not scared or angry” at her young attacker,” she was “frustrated by the misguided effort” to take her property using physical force. In an open letter, she encouraged him to seek Jesus and nonviolence in order to fulfill his destiny.
The very next day, my Pastor and mentor of 28 years, Allen McNair, founder of Believers’ Bible Christian Church passed away. During his lifetime, he taught and demonstrated that the best way to encourage, assist and transform “Black America,” our communities, our cities, the nation and the world is with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
My father, Rev. A.D. King; my grandfather, Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr.; and my uncle, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., stood at the forefront of the cause of basic human rights. In spite of horrible violence perpetrated against them and other African Americans, they held fast to the truth that “hate is too great a burden to bear.” They fought on a platform of love, the one power that can overcome hate.
One of the attendees in the crowd 20 years ago was Barack Obama. He became President.
Today, Dr. Ben Carson is s leading candidates to replace the President. What was unthinkable in terms of race relations for the early decades of my life is now not only acceptable, but the new norm.
The lasting impact of the King Family Legacy is that we seek the way to lasting progress and change through love, not hate. Uncle M. L. once wrote: “Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and as difficult as it is, we will still love you.”
Having survived the bombing of my family home in Birmingham, believe me, I understand the difficulty of what he said. Having lived through decades of enormous advances in harmony between blacks, whites, and others in this country, I understand the correctness of what he said.
His timeless appeal still works with profound and amazing success.
Love builds. Hate destroys.
What is also obvious, however, is that of late we have seen instances of terrible injustices committed against African American men by police officers. We have also seen for years the ongoing injustice of black-on-black crime, an occurrence of which my own mother experienced a few days ago. Our response to this violence, though, should not be to take action that destroys our neighborhoods or tears down our social structures.
Our response should always be to pursue positive change. We need not be passive – the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. was anything but passive!
To be effective and have a lasting impact, our actions must be rooted in love and respect for all. To lash out may be immediately satisfying, but vengeance is not only futile, it’s contagious.
When I heard a speaker at this year’s “justice or else” event chanting, “Down, down, USA!” it saddened me terribly. Not only was this speaker destructive, she was just plain wrong.
As one who sincerely prays for the peace of Jerusalem, which would ultimately lead to reconciliation among the natural and spiritual sons of Abraham, I am concerned about the lack of peaceful negotiations among the factions.
Our nation faces many trials. As the Director of African American Outreach for Priests for Life, I’m particularly grieved by our trampling of the civil rights of the unborn. But the United States has proven over and over again that, having been founded on righteous principles, we can ultimately only achieve justice by lifting up those principles, not tearing them down.
As Americans, members of the human family of Acts17:26, let us begin to meet our challenges by recognizing that each one of us, regardless of our station in life or our stage of life, is entitled to respect. Let each one of us, regardless of our color or ethnicity or even religious understanding, show concern for each other’s wellbeing.
Most of all let us love one another. That was my uncle’s dream, our family’s dream. It’s still rooted in the American Dream today.