Why Do Black Lives Matter?: Ask MLK Jr.

From an old post on Martin Luther King Jr. and the Black Lives Matter movement:

Through transcendent love, King brought his Dream of a more racially equal America closer to fruition. It was this God-like love that influenced the way in which he and his supporters planned their strategies to effect change on the federal level. Any strategy that was not grounded in this love, King believed, could not realistically be expected to bring about any effective or valuable changes. This love ought to extend itself to one’s enemies, especially to those who are perpetuating racial inequality and injustice, precisely because of its “transformative and redemptive power”:

“Because if you hate your enemies, you have no way to redeem and to transform your enemies. But if you love your enemies, you will discover that at the very root of love is the power of redemption.”

Only agape can subvert an unjust power dynamic. Approaches to achieving a just society that are motivated by anger and frustration can only continue the endless cycle of the power dynamic.

“Hate for hate only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. If I hit you and you hit me and I hit you back and you hit me back and go on, you see, that goes on ad infinitum. . . . The strong person is the person who can cut off the chain of hate, the chain of evil.”

Power for its own sake cannot subvert an unjust power dynamic; it can only continue the chain of injustice. It can only breed further violence and disorder. It distorts our sense of identity and leads us further away from true justice.

Our identity as human persons is rooted in God’s unconditional and gratuitous love for us. “The way to be integrated with yourself,” said Rev. King, “is be sure that you meet every situation of life with an abounding love. Never hate, because it ends up in tragic, neurotic responses. . . . You can’t see right. The symbol of objectivity is lost. Hate destroys the very structure of the personality of the hater.” Hatred makes it impossible because of the way in which it distorts our capacity to live in a true relationship with reality. “You can’t see straight when you hate.” Returning to Giussani, it is precisely the authority figure’s relationship with the objectivity of reality and his awareness of his need and desire when facing it that allow the authority to grow in certainty of his identity and in relationship with the Infinite.

Responses to racial injustice that proceed from anger, despair, and a thirst for vengeance hardly share in King’s pragmatic goals and concrete strategies. King and his fellow civil rights activists effectively brought about changes in America precisely because their strategies were rooted in the creative force of love. Only when justice is rooted in a transcendent love for God and neighbor can true fruit be borne. The Civil Rights Act has not eradicated racism from the United States. I would hardly say, though, that a utopian society devoid of prejudice and sin was part of King’s Dream for America—at least not while he remained on this earth. His ideal for racial equality was founded in God’s justice, which can only be fully realized when we reach the City of God. Those who strive to enact a society that is purified of all sin and prejudice will be wont to find success while living in the City of Man; thus the frustration of many young people who are still awaiting the dawn of the day when “we shall overcome” all injustice, “someday. . . .” Until then, an activism based on anger, despair, and a utopian vision of society will struggle to bring about the kind of changes that can be actualized by a commitment to the transcendent, creative, and fruitful force of love.

Check out the rest of the article at the Church Life Journal.

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