On this day, January 17, 2011 we once again take time out and time off to recognize one of the greatest Americans ever produced, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Once again we listen to the oh so familiar speeches, our children do worksheets about having a dream, and the children of the movement reminisce with great pride and pain. Yet we find ourselves wondering how did we get to such a place as this?
As we look across the political/social spectrum and while we gaze across our communities we as American people seem to be divided today in very dangerous ways. I am legitimately concerned about the ways in which our social political differences are causing us to forget our humanity.
Last night I sat with my wife and watched Oprah Winfrey’s new television network; “the OWN network.” there was a wonderful show on entitled master class. The special guest who was giving wisdom nuggets to the audience across the nation and the world was none other than one of my favorite writers Mrs. Maya Angelou.
Now if you’ve read anything from Maya, then you know that Maya will blow your mind with the ways in which she weaves her experiences into the English language and creates a beautiful, moving, powerful direction for the reader.
Dr. Angelou stated last night that one of the lessons she had to come to learn in her life was that she is a human being, and the child of God. And therefore because she is a human being nothing human can be alien to her.
I took that statement to heart. I am a human being and a child of God, therefore nothing human can be alien to me. Which means I have to see the person with the opposite point of view, the very individual or group for which I disagree the most; I have to view them as a human being and a child of God and therefore worthy of worth, value, and grace. this is a lesson that must be a part of the way in which I treat my fellow human. My disagreement with another human does not give me permission to lose my own humanity, because when I do I devalue both of our existence. Unfortunately for us today this shared understanding of who and whose we are is lost in the discourse of buffoonery.
With my background in youth development and youth violence prevention; the phenomenon of gangs and mob activity seem to permeate every conversation regarding urban youth and their behavior.
However this mob phenomenon does not solely rest in the activity of urban youth in major metropolitan areas across our country; this mob mentality is something that Dr. King spoke about in 1956. In that year on March 18th, Dr. King delivered a sermon at Dexter Ave., Baptist Church entitled ” when peace becomes obnoxious.” In this great speech he was responding to the desegregation of the University of Alabama and how a landmark case in which a judge handed down an edict which stated that the University of Alabama could no longer deny admission to persons because of their race. Therefore the first Negro student to be admitted in the history of the University, Ms. Authory Lucy began school on 3 April.
When she arrived that morning, crosses were burned; eggs and bricks were thrown at her, she was spit upon, and even the car for which she was driving was jumped upon by an angry mob. Following this raucous activity fueled by bigoted, cold-hearted individuals, the president and trustees of the University requested that Ms. Lucy stay at home the following day for both her safety and the school’s.
The following day the local newspaper in Alabama had the following headline,”Things are quiet in Tuscaloosa today, there is peace on the campus of the University of Alabama.”
Dr. King responded to the events of this day lamenting that the peace that had come to the University that day came at a great price to both the movement and to human beings here in America. One of the most powerful lines that i’ve of ever read from King,( and I’ve read a lot from King); was where he warned people from every walk of life that in this particular case and in many other cases around the nation at that time, we had allowed for “mobocracy to reign supreme over democracy.”
The concept of mobocracy still permeates today. Some weeks ago I blogged about the party of no. Within this culture of mobocracy lies the guiding principles that have created the great divisions that we see today. When things are tough, and were not sure of our futures, human nature teaches us to go back to tribalism. This tribalism forces us to pick a team no matter how much we’ve won or lost before; we have to pick a mob. The mob then becomes that for which we protect even to the point where we blindly agree with things that we know are not just. To be a part of the mob comes at a great price. As we reflect on and observe this” King” in our lives; let us make sure that in our businesses, our families, in our churches, and in our homes we do not succumb to allowing mobocracy to reign supreme over democracy, justice, peace, and most of all the liberating power of loving our neighbors as ourselves.
Peace, love, and observation.