Tuesday, September 25, 2007

What Would Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Say About The Jena 6?

I grew up in Mississippi in the 1960's. Stories about nooses being hung in trees were not unusual. It fills me with sadness that something like this could still occur in 2007.

Because of racial tensions, hatred, and what is obviously a complete lack of parenting, these teens see violence as a way of avenging a wrong. The difference today, as opposed to the 60's, is that the black teens are free to find a white teen and beat them up because of this insult.

It reminds me of a saying about feminism. We (females) have become the men we hated. Have blacks become the racists they hated?

Everyone agrees that the nooses were unacceptable. Those that hung them are a sad reminder that we have not eradicated racism or hatred in the younger generation.

But what would Dr. King say about the Jena 6 who beat up the white teen? I think we all know what he would say.

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

"Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him."

"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood."

We argue about who was hurt more, how unfair the punishment appears to be, and the equal pursuit of justice. But why aren't we talking about why the kids hate each other?

It's fine for Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton to pursue equal justice under the law for those who commit crimes, but how about spending some of the energy talking to the kids about why they commited the crime to begin with?

I think many adults think that we don't really have an influence on these kids. But you would be wrong. My respect for Mr. Jackson and Mr. Sharpton would be restored if they would only do what we all know Dr. King would do. Meet with the kids who did this, meet with the kids of this city in a room in a church and listen to them. And then tell them what the words quoted above by Dr. King mean.

Tell them that living a life filled with anger and resentment based on someone else's skin color will only bring violence and sadness into their life. Tell them the simple truth, that we are all God's children. Tell them that their mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers did not fight the fight in the civil rights movement so that they would have better jail sentences.

They fought the good fight so that they could have better lives and live lives of hope and happiness.

Tell them that one can be as destroyed by the lies of thugs as any one ever was destroyed by the lies of the KKK.

Ask the white kids if they want their legacy to their children to be one of racism and hatred. Ask them if they really think they are that different from their black peers? Do they not think they share the same concerns, fears, and hope?

These kids are not beyond hope yet. They are still children. We can make a difference. We can speak the words they need to hear.

I'll go with you Mr. Sharpton and Mr. Jackson. Let's talk to these kids. Let's encourage love and forgiveness, not resentment and taking sides. Bring us together, not apart.

That is what Dr. King would say.

Update: Michelle has more.