Tuesday, November 24, 2015

In Minnesota, as in Alabama, "the slow path of patience is a path of injustice"

Matthew Filner, a political science professor at Metro State, writes in the Star Tribune: 

On April 16, 1963, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Four days earlier, a group of eight white clergy members, with the support of some white “moderates” — including businessmen, journalists, political leaders and academics — had published a letter calling for an end to civil rights demonstrations in Birmingham, Ala. They called for “law and order” and “common sense.” They urged that “racial matters” be “properly pursued in the courts” and applauded “responsible citizens” who were engaged in a “constructive and realistic approach” to racial problems.

By contrast, they criticized “outsiders” who were “impatient” and led demonstrations that were “unwise and untimely” and “extreme.” In short, they wanted an end to what could be called “political theatrics and opportunism” and a return to moderation and caution.

The similarities between the clergy letter 52 years ago and Tevlin’s column are striking. In both, people in positions of relative power and privilege patronizingly lecture civil rights leaders about how “properly” to express their grievances. And just as King argued 52 years ago, “responsibility” and “moderation” are code words for inaction and the status quo.

In Birmingham in the 1960s, the calls of moderates to be “measured” and cautious rang hollow. King knew then, and the Black Lives Matter movement knows now, that the slow path of patience is a path of injustice. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) called the action in Birmingham “Project C” — for “confrontation.” The SCLC understood that only by direct action — by causing confrontations and disruptions — would the patterns of discrimination, oppression and injustice be eliminated. They also understood that no amount of patience and “measuredness” would cause people in positions of power and privilege truly to confront the oppression they had created. So, King refused to wait and refused to support a “measured” response.

The rest is here.

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