Two questions often raised are “what would Dr. King do” or “what would Dr. King think”? The bold proud Black Lives Matter Movement (BLM) has often been referred to as today’s equivalent of the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement. No question the cause of black men unjustly murdered by police is equivalent, no question BLM has successfully raised awareness of the murder issue to the equivalent status of the 1960’s civil rights issues. Unfortunately, the sometimes use of violent tactics by BLM would mean that Martin Luther King Jr. would not be 100% proud of BLM, but as we approach April 4, 2018, the 50th year since he was assassinated, there is a Movement he would be 100% proud of!
Non-violent protest shows up to oppose but always respects the rights of the opposition, violent protest does not. Non-violent protest shows up to join the program in order to draw attention to its own opposing views, violent protest shows up to disrupt and shut down the program. BLM would sometimes merge political violence with their political protest.
For instance, BLM protesters at rallies for Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton started the new practice of jumping on the stage while they were speaking. The protesters would stand in front of them shouting out their own speech and denying Clinton or Sanders the ability to speak. Due to the rightness of their cause, the candidates allowed them the stage and the media gave them huge coverage. The cause was 100% correct but the methodology was 100% wrong. In fact, it was violent. Dr. King taught us non-violence is not merely the absence of physical assault. Denying anyone the right of free speech at their own rally is violent.
Thousands of BLM protesters shut down three New York City bridges in response to a grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who fatally shot unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. A move that stranded innocent, probably sympathetic to the BLM cause, citizens in traffic for hours. This was an example of the sometimes disconnect of the BLM protest tactics with achieving their desired end goal. If a grand jury is denying someone justice, then why not shut down a courthouse instead of a public bridge used by people who probably support your cause. They also splattered NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton with fake blood when he showed up at the protest, another violent act.
The one sure thing Dr. King would say to us today is that no matter how righteous the destination, a violent road taken to that righteous destination can never be justified.
But the greatest lesson Dr. King taught America and the world was how to make change non-violently. Before the Civil Rights Movement, Americans and people throughout the world relied on unsuccessful rioting like the labor strikes of the early 1900’s to force change. Dr. King’s successful use of non-violent protesting has become standard practice not only in America but across the globe. He taught America and the world how to make systemic change non-violently.
50 years later a bright shining example of the lesson learned is emerging, one I know Dr. King would be 100% proud of because it contains all the original components of the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement. Not only does it have all the original components, it has one Dr. King would have loved to have had but didn’t, meaning this movement has already made a historic achievement!
The historic movement is the March For Our Lives Movement started, organized, and led by student shooting survivors of the Majorie Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on Feb. 14. It left 17 students and staff dead replacing the 1999 Columbine High School massacre as the deadliest school shooting in American history. Many of the survivors along with thousands of teenagers who used social media to document the horror, decided not to wait for adults to make changes to prevent the next school shooting. They decided to take their destiny into their own hands.
In doing so they have followed practically step by step Dr. King’s non-violent methodology. Like Dr. King and unlike BLM they have organized and planned all their protest actions, in other words, no impromptu last-minute emotional social media calls to meet up at a random location and raise hell. 4 of their organized game-changing moves are:
March 1, 2018: Company Boycott
Students began encouraging companies who partner with the NRA to sever their ties with the organization. Over a dozen companies have done so. Inspired by the students’ actresses Alyssa Milano and Debra Messing along with director Justine Bateman, and Shannon Coulter the co-founder of #GrabYourWallet are planning a full-day boycott of three specific companies that have ties to the NRA, Amazon, Apple, and FedEx.
March 14, 2018: National School Walkout
A very successful national school walkout was held on March 14. At 10 a.m. in every time zone, organizers encouraged teachers, students, administrators, parents and allies to walk out for 17 minutes — one for every person killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
March 24, 2018: March For Our Lives
The Parkland student survivors with support from national organizations like Everytown for Gun Safety, the gun safety group founded by wounded former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, and Planned Parenthood are planning a March For Our Lives March on Washington, D.C., to call for school safety and gun control. According to the March For Our Lives website, “The mission and focus of March For Our Lives is to demand that a comprehensive and effective bill be immediately brought before Congress to address these gun issues,” “No special interest group, no political agenda is more critical than timely passage of legislation to effectively address the gun violence issues that are rampant in our country.” The Facebook page of March For Our Lives says the march starts in Washington D.C. at 10 a.m. Supporting marches have also popped up around the world and in other major U.S. cities including New York City, Chicago, San Francisco and Boston. Information on other rallies is available on the March For Our Lives website.
These student future leaders have already made history by being the 1st protest boycott movement in America to garner corporate support, corporate support Dr. King could only dream about but never received. Aside from the over dozen companies who have responded to the boycott, another example of the strong corporate support can be found in the following tweet:
April 20, 2018: National High School Walkout
The Parkland, Florida student survivors have inspired their fellow students across the country. Another nationwide walkout is being planned by Connecticut high school student Lane Murdock. It will be held on April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine, Colorado, shootings that killed 12 high school students and a teacher. Lane started an online petition which garnered more than 45,000 signatures. It asks students to “walk out of school, wear orange and protest online and in their communities. Her plan calls for high school students to walk out on April 20 at 10:00 a.m. local time until the end of the school day. The walkout encourages students to stay on campus in a common space for 17 minutes of silence in honor of the 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and then to participate in an open mic.
Because the students have taken the time to research gun rights and all its ancillary issues they have been able to establish realistic non-emotional goals for gun control change. Their persistence has already paid off in the state of Florida. For the first time in 22 years, the student movement has forced the Florida Legislature to pass gun control measures and the Governor to sign them into law. The measures include a three-day waiting period for most gun purchases, raises the minimum age to 21 to purchase a gun and gives police more authority to confiscate weapons. These are major victories for the student movement and major setbacks for the National Rifle Association (NRA).
Because the students have taken the time to PLAN all their protest activities, especially the rally’s and protest demonstrations just like Dr. King did, there has been ZERO loss or damage to person or property. All protest activity of any kind and the victories that they have reaped so far have been done and achieved non-violently. This adherence to Kingian non-violence principles has attracted people, institutions, and corporations to openly support the March For Our Lives Movement. As this historic first time corporate support of a boycott of any kind, anywhere, anytime in the United States of America proves. The Black Lives Matter Movement’s use of violent tactics caused people who strongly support their cause to not do so openly, thereby diminishing their ability to achieve their very admirable and needed goals.
If Dr. King were alive today that’s what would make the difference between him being partially pleased with the Black Lives Matter Movement, versus him being 100% proud of the March For Our Lives Movement.
It’s a well-known fact that there was sadness felt by Dr. King in the last year of his life, some have even claimed he was deeply depressed. Deeply depressed is an exaggeration but definitely, a sadness existed just below the public surface he maintained. It made him sad to see the violent turn the movement was being tempted to take by the violent tactics of the then “Black Power” proponents. It made him sad to realize that as black people were gaining true freedom and white people were acknowledging the humanity of black people, most people black or white weren’t really adopting and living by his non-violence philosophy. He realized for most people it was just a tactic to fight discrimination, not a way to live life, this realization brought him great sadness. It made him feel even in the midst of all the great civil rights achievements that he had partially failed America.
50 years later there’s proof that his sadness might have been premature, maybe it’s just taking us mere mortals a few generations to catch up to a visionary such as Dr. King. The March For Our Lives Movement is a true heir to the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement and its Kingian non-violent philosophy, the students reflect this in their own unique words, deeds and protest demonstrations.
They have produced a movement that accomplishes one of Dr. King’s most important personal goals, as he said: “Let my living not be in vain”. The March For Our Lives Movement conducting itself in a way that Dr. King would be 100% proud of, is the proof that his living and the life sacrifices of countless other Civil Rights Warriors were not in vain.
Isaac Newton Farris Jr. is the nephew of Martin Luther King, Jr. and serves as Senior Fellow at the King Center. Growing up in one of the most socially and politically active families has given him a unique perspective on current events. Drop by his website for straight talk free of one-sided political spin.
Originally published at isaacnewtonfarris.com on March 19, 2018.