The Rev. John Thomas, the retired general minister and president of the United Church of Christ, is now a professor and administrator at Chicago Theological Seminary, where he publishes a blog. His post this week explores the meaning of Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy.
Thinking about Ferguson and other examples of racial injustice that have erupted today in our nation and the world, Rev. Thomas quotes Tavis Smiley’s description—in Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year—of Dr. King’s understanding of the violence that had erupted in Detroit and Newark and Memphis:
“A riot is the language of the unheard. What is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that promises of freedom and democracy have not been met. It has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”
Rev. Thomas reminds us: “The yearning for tranquility is understandable, even natural. Few of us enjoy watching riots on our televisions, or navigating demonstrators on our way to Christmas shop, or coping with traffic delays on our commute home caused by protesters. ‘Can’t we all just get along?’ But tranquility is almost always a possession of the privileged.”
“As long as we embrace the privilege of tranquility over a commitment to justice and the dignity of all humanity, the language of the unheard will continue to cry out.” “King’s word from Montgomery still resounds: ‘My people, my people, listen!’”
I urge you to read Rev. Thomas’s profound post as we remember Dr.King today.