I like many went to see the movie Selma after its nationwide release and I was moved by the sacrifice and courageousness of everyday people in the film. I saw Dr. King in a light that we don’t often see. Many are aware of the,” I have a Dream” speech, the marches and the letter from Birmingham prison and think of King as a natural leader, a legendary figure, a real life hero. However, the movie showed a humble man that would have been satisfied just being a Reverend of a small church, providing a home for his loving wife and children but the injustices that was happening all across the south was something he and many others could not ignore.
Jim Crow laws in the south fringed upon the rights of many simply for the color of their skin. Dr. King strategized with many others on ways to successfully obtain the fundamental right to vote in order to change the very laws that dictated their lives and access to certain freedoms. Dr. King had to make tough decisions. He selflessly owned the burden of innocent lives being killed for the cause, and often had doubt and pause about decisions he would have to make. He was heavily criticized for his non-violent approach that many felt was too passive and less gratifying than just simply fighting back. Dr. King understood, just as it is now, that the results from reacting violently would have only took more innocent lives and would not reverse a system embedded in law. Yet, all of this bickering was going on while he and his family remained the target of death threats from despicable racists. It wasn’t what he signed up for but through the grace of God he courageously stood up and pushed forward for righteousness and freedom.
Many scenes in the movie mirror what we see today. The pain of witnessing innocent, unarmed black men and women being abused or killed unjustly is the same pain and frustration we have for Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, John Crawford III, Tamir Rice and countless others. We can also include the added insult to injury, of these perpetrators getting off without any accountability for their actions, thanks to unjust laws and often majority white juries. Sadly, we still have inner fighting between more radical and conservative black empowerment groups, and the young verses older leadership. We become divided because we don’t agree upon which method to take in order to achieve the same objective. However, the movie Selma showed the strength in unity and how some were able to place their differences a side in order to unite for the same cause. We had multiple issues to tackle back than and we still have multiple issues to deal with now. The fact that we still have issues to tackle should not be a deterrent to resolve them.
What we lack today is an organized strategy. On a local level, we have a lot of solutions thrown out without an organized effort to enforce it. There is also a need for everyday people, with the willingness to stand up and take action. In Selma, Dr. King stressed that their method to combating injustice was to negotiate, demonstrate, and resist. There has to be people at the table to negotiate with legislators and ballot initiatives by the people to enforce or change the law. The only way to make legislators give a damn and others care, is to demonstrate and resist. Many pessimists said marching was ineffective but the citizens of Ferguson, MO continuous protest made the nation and the world aware of the injustice.
People heard about mistreatment of blacks in the South but it wasn’t until “Bloody Sunday,” March 7th, 1965 that the nation saw for its own eyes the brutality against people of color. Fast forward to 2014, and after months of unarmed black men being executed without recourse to justice, it took the images of Eric Garner to make people from all walks of life demonstrate nationwide after seeing him gasp for air, stating, “I Can’t Breathe,” for seconds in a deadly chokehold by an officer. Sometimes it is the raw, unfiltered, and ugly truth that make people who are normally silent react. It is Dr. King who said, “it is not the words of our enemies that we will remember but the silence of our friends…” Therefore, in this ongoing fight against police brutality, it is my hope that the many who stood up and spoke out for Mike Brown, Eric Garner, John Crawford III, Tamir Rice and countless others, do not retreat into complacency without justice. I often avoid the marches celebrating Dr. King on his birthday because to me is just symbolism without a real effort to fight injustice. Many come out for the feel good moment to lock hands with someone of a different race and illustrate what they believe Dr. King fought and died for. Dr. King was so much more. If those same people cannot stand with us in the midst of struggle and controversy I cannot stand with them under false pretence.