From Martin Luther King Jr. to his followers in Congress, the rights movement has changed.
In a providential alignment of historic dates on the national calendar, Monday of ‘Inauguration Week’ was the annual celebration of the great civil rights leader Rev. Dr Martin Luther King Jr., news reports circulated that early civil rights activist and now senior Representative John Lewis and a growing company of protesters would not attend the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, which shared attention with reports that a Women’s March on Washington the day after the inauguration would bring hundreds of thousands of protesters to DC to repudiate the new president and what they expected would be the damage wrought by his perceived policies.
Dr. Martin Luther King delivered one of his lesser known talks, ‘Our God Is Marching On’, in 1965 to encourage engagement in public policy and the political process, with a timeless message.
Let us march on ballot boxes until we send to our city councils, state legislatures, and the United States Congress, men who will not fear to do justly love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God.
Let us march on ballot boxes until brotherhood becomes more than a meaningless word in an opening prayer, but the order of the day on every legislative agenda.
Let us march on ballot boxes until all…God’s children will be able to walk the earth in decency and honor…
And yet, this week is a snapshot in a ‘what’s wrong with this picture?’ look at the setbacks King’s aspirations have suffered in the modern day splintering of the movement into diverse ‘rights’ groups, many based on identity with redefined terms and redirected energies.
Here’s one, based on the new activism of Congressman John Lewis against President-elect Trump, with Lewis leading a boycott of the inauguration by members of Congress who don’t see the incoming president as ‘legitimate’.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) on Tuesday accused Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) of resting on his status as a civil rights icon, arguing he has done little in Congress.
“I have long contemplated the idea of just going to the [House] floor and saying, ‘John Lewis, thank you for your contribution to civil rights during the Civil Rights era. I would appreciate it if you would contribute something since then…
King also criticized Lewis and other Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) members for sharpening divisions in Congress.
“When they formed the Congressional Black Caucus back years ago in the aftermath of or in the immediate beginning of the civil rights movement, the shape of that, I looked at it even then and said, ‘How can you form a caucus that’s established on race?’” he asked. “And now, the Congressional Black Caucus, I just openly say it – they’re the self-segregating caucus.”
“I mean, the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. – as [this week] we celebrated his birthday – wasn’t about segregation, it was about de-segregation,” King added, citing Monday’s holiday for the civil rights leader.
“But now, they self-segregate and use the vehicle created as the self-segregating caucus in order to advance a leftist political agenda that is not at all reflective of Martin Luther King [Jr.’s] memory.”
This is all a shame. Dr. King and his family who continue his work today have long referred to ‘the Beloved Community’ based on ‘love and mercy, peace and brotherhood, decency and honor’. That’s pretty much gone in this post-election transition time, as it was through the campaign and election season.
And about “God’s children”, not only does this week fall within a week of the anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade Supreme Court law legalizing abortion on demand – which King’s niece Alveda never stops reminding the country is the new civil rights movement – this year the annual March for Life in DC is preceded by a Women’s March on Washington to protest the presidency of Donald Trump and the perceived harm his administration will do to women’s rights.
But can’t they walk together, as Dr. King asked in his day, especially of fellow clergy in Letter from Birmingham Jail? Isn’t there some common ground?
The stated goal of the March for Life is “a world where every human life is valued and protected.
The vision statement…of the Women’s March pledges a commitment to nonviolent solutions, noting that there is “no true peace without justice and equity for all.
Furthermore, even though the women who are organizing the Women’s March had only two months to put their event together, they have created a diverse, enthusiastic and eager community.
Since those words were written in that article, the women planning this event narrowed their community to those who shared the core belief in abortion as a woman’s right. So the Women’s March grew less diverse, when organizers disinvited New Wave Feminists and other pro-life organizations. Though some enthusiastic and eager pro-life women plan to go anyway.
But that’s January 21st, a full news day away from all the planned protests in DC of the inauguration, the parade and celebrations scheduled for those historic events. If only those who celebrate King’s legacy actually tried to live it, we would have more decency and honor.