Monday, August 25, 2014

"We must substitute courage for caution"

Today, as Michael Brown's parents and family said goodbye to him, I was reminded of the words Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at a funeral for four little girls in Birmingham 51 years ago. His wisdom is as much of a challenge to us today as it was to those in attendance back then.
And so this afternoon in a real sense they [the four little girls] have something to say to each of us in their death. They have something to say to every minister of the gospel who has remained silent behind the safe security of stained-glass windows. They have something to say to every politician who has fed his constituents with the stale bread of hatred and the spoiled meat of racism. They have something to say to a federal government that has compromised with the undemocratic practices of southern Dixiecrats and the blatant hypocrisy of right-wing northern Republicans. They have something to say to every Negro who has passively accepted the evil system of segregation and who has stood on the sidelines in a mighty struggle for justice. They say to each of us, black and white alike, that we must substitute courage for caution. They say to us that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers. Their death says to us that we must work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American dream...

And so I stand here to say this afternoon to all assembled here, that in spite of the darkness of this hour, we must not despair. We must not become bitter, nor must we harbor the desire to retaliate with violence. No, we must not lose faith in our white brothers. Somehow we must believe that the most misguided among them can learn to respect the dignity and the worth of all human personality.
Talk like that is why Ta-Nehisi Coates said Dr. King had a "shocking, almost certifiable faith in humanity." Was he right to harbor that faith? Can white people "learn to respect the dignity and worth of all human personality?" Believing its possible and working towards that goal is what courage is all about.

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