January 26, 2015

Martin and Malcolm

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:38 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

On Saturday a couple of weeks back, I went to see the movie Selma. It told me only one thing I had forgotten, that Malcolm X had visited Selma, and talked with Coretta, but did not talk directly to Martin King, Junior. On the Monday after I saw the movie, Malcolm and Martin showed up at the “4 Mile March 4 Justice.”

In front of the Ferguson Police Station, the group paused to hear a speech, a poem and a song. One young black man spoke about many things. He said he was a father who did not want to raise his daughter in a world where she was 80% more likely to be shot during an encounter with the police than the average white American. I understood that completely.

He then testified to learning of King’s non-violence approach. He said that maybe this was the right way, and sometimes maybe not.

From my point of view this means this Saint Louis youth did not yet understand King’s approach. Even Gandhi said that if the choice was quiescence in the face of evil, or taking up violence to stop evil, violence was the better path. But non-violence is an absolute way of rejecting and countering the violence of oppressors with the power and courage and clarity of the ultimate truth. It is backed with what King called God. Non-violence depends upon a faith stance, that Love is the greatest power, and it bends the universe toward Justice. This abiding in Truth, gives the non-violent protestor strength and courage, and it leaves no room for maybe.

But this young man did not have that kind of faith, (I don’t know for sure if I do either) at least not yet. After this brief mention of King, the speaker said, “I have also studied the ideas of Malcolm X and Elijah Mohammed.” He said something positive about their ideas on black self-determination and self-defense. He spoke of standing against oppressors. I could not tell if he was promoting violence.

Then, his voice rose a little, insistent, addressing directly his black brothers and sisters. His exact words are lost to me now, but he said something like this: “If we are killing each other we are only helping our oppressors.” I understood that completely, even though it was a bit simplistic.

I can’t remember his exact words. Someone recorded them, but I can’t find that recording online. Perhaps I mis-understood, perhaps I got the flow of his ideas wrong. They did get my attention and got me thinking, even if I did not understand him completely.

That afternoon, as the air cooled and the sun slid low in the sky, I was happy to hear that Malcolm were carrying on the dialogue they never really had when they were alive. There they were, in the minds of those who follow after them.

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