lessons from martin luther king, jr. in the age of mass deportations


Every so often, I take a moment to reflect on the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement more broadly. The tweet above talks about a non-violent form of resistance to ICE raids – locking arms around a van to prevent the detention of an undocumented person. This is one of the things the movement taught us – non-violence can be effective.

There are other lessons that I take away from King and his approach to social change. First, he had his idea that the real barrier to progress was not the militant racist. Rather, it is the moderate who says nothing or does not care. That is why so many of his tactics are not aimed at persuading the extreme racists, but they are attempts at shaming and goading moderates. This is a real lesson for the pro-immigrant movement in America. The hard core alt.right member will likely never yield. Mass deportations will only end when the middle of the road American finally sees that there is something disgusting and dehumanizing in having armed men and women following people around and pouncing on them as if they are untamed animals.

Second, a consistent theme in King’s writings is the idea of Christian love for all men and women. This is important as we are now in the age of vitriol. With social media, cable news, and scare mongering web sites, it is all too easy to see the struggle for human dignity as just another partisan fight. Rather, the Christian and Kingian vision of social change is to start with the assumption that all of us, including the people yelling “go back to were you came from,” are people with worth. Thus, social change is not the Manichean struggle of the Marxist, or the zero sum screaming match of the Fox news host, where victory means domination over others. Instead, victory means that you create a new way for people to relate with each other in a way that leads to love.

In the age of mass deportation, that means that we should realize that borders do not create different classes of human beings. There are just human beings. And they should left alone. Walls that separate them do not encourage us to become better people. When we meet people who have a genuine belief that non-natives are a problem or a threat, we should begin by understanding that they may simply be misinformed or, more likely, they have a misleading emotional reaction. When we talk to people, we should emphasize that the Mexican migrant, or the British exchange student, or the Syrian refugee are all people with fairly mundane wants and needs – love, employment, family, and so forth. That can be best accomplished from a foundation of respect, even for those whose harbor ill will towards others.



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Written by fabiorojas

July 24, 2019 at 3:16 am

Posted in uncategorized

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