In 1960, when prompted by Christian Century editor Harold Fey to expound upon his considerations of nonviolent social action in light of his own personal sufferings -- having been arrested, beaten, his home, bombed, and stabbed near the heart -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. penned the following response; "If only to save myself from bitterness, I have attempted to see my personal ordeals as an opportunity to transform myself and heal the people involved in the tragic situation which now obtains. I have lived these last few years with the conviction that unearned suffering is redemptive."
As I first mourned the tragic death of teenager Michael Brown three months ago, I ultimately arrived at the conclusion that his demise had provided for us an opportunity at redemption, a great opportunity in which to work together to heal and to transform our nation.
As such, I proposed several ways that I believed this great opportunity could be manifested, holding that no one who posted, shared, or tweeted an image of Michael Brown's lifeless body should ever again share anything that glorifies violence on social media platforms; that persons who cared about the death of Michael Brown must also care about violence within their own communities, be it domestic, child-related, or sexual trafficking, and ultimately; that no one who cared about the death of Michael Brown, or the scourge of police brutality, could ever choose not to vote, as not only did people die so that we could vote, but people die because we do not vote. I was hopeful that Michael Brown's death would prove redemptive as we proactively carried out our justified rage at the polls.
The midterm elections have now come and gone. The results revealed that many dismissed this opportunity and chose to stay at home. Our great opportunity was squandered, the sacrifices of those whose sufferings secured for us this right, spat upon.
Now, as a Ferguson Grand Jury has rendered its decision showing reasonable cause for Officer Darren Wilson's fatal actions against the unarmed Brown, another opportunity has emerged. The opportunity before us appears providential, as if gifted to us directly from the hand of God. Having failed so miserably earlier this month to express our justified anger at the ballot box, this Thanksgiving weekend, along with its Black Friday promotions, throughout the holiday season, and for whatever necessary days or months to come, we have been given the opportunity to express our justified rage, anew.
On December 1, 1955, a middle-aged seamstress boarded a city bus. She forthrightly took a seat. When it was demanded that she move, she refused. She was then removed from her seat and arrested.
The sanitizers of our nation's racial history have domesticated Rosa Parks' courageous actions for years. She has been presented as a docile woman who was most perturbed that fateful winter day because her feet were hurting after a day of labor. She was simply a poor soul who wanted to rest her tired soles.
This cannot be farther from the truth.
Ms. Parks was a freedom fighter! She boarded that bus with animus. It was a direct action against an oppressive system. A student of nonviolent social action and civil disobedience trained in the freedom school movement, Ms. Parks knew well what she was doing. That day, she was not a victim, but an aggressor, not a passive participant, but an enlisted soldier who crept behind enemy lines to plant a mine upon which Jim Crow could be imploded. Her actions strengthened a movement, and through a coordinated economic boycott led by the Montgomery Improvement Association, for 381 days, not one Black soul placed their soles upon a city bus, driving the industry to near financial ruin and transforming our nation for the better.
While our nation has often responded to our marches and sit-ins by trudging along towards the cause of justice with "all deliberate speed" (which is actually no speed at all), sustained economic boycotts have consistently brought structures of injustice crumbling to its knees. We must take this prime opportunity to express our disdain at the cash register and the electronic shopping cart. This opportunity will likewise enable us to stand in solidarity with those fighting for worker's rights, as the rivers that devalue human life and deny fair compensation, safe working environments, and benefits flow together into the vast ocean of racism and classism perpetuating our nation's existence.
If indeed money talks, let ours now rise in chorus to speak in an unwavering voice.
Black lives matter!
Our children's lives matter!
And we will not take these injustices any longer!
We must not miss THIS opportunity.