In his article, “The Current Crisis in Race Relations,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. states: “The problem of race is indeed America’s greatest moral dilemma. The churches are called upon to recognize the urgent necessity of taking forthright stand on this crucial issue.”
In response to an impending protest of a “hate-driven“ Unite the Right rally, clergy gathered for a night vigil on Aug. 11 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The clergy responded to this almost 60-year call to action from Dr. King.
They understood his message, and the need, to reintroduce a national moral leadership that has been sorely missing around race in these United States of America. More importantly they knew the threat was real and dangerous. Despite the risk, they gathered to demonstrate love in the face of hate, respect for all humanity and patience in the need for change. They envision one America. Instead, they were terrorized by demonstrators carrying torches and subjected to Nazi taunts of “blood and soil” intended to spread fear and intimidation.
The following day the white supremacy marchers during their protest crossed all boundaries by beating these clergy with clubs and brass knuckles much like Dr. King described years ago in his Playboy interview.
“Such things happened as Klansmen abducting four Negroes and beating them unconscious with clubs, brass knuckles, ax handles and pistol butts.”
Is this not history repeating itself?
Have we learned nothing from our history? Have we learned nothing of what hate does to our soul? Look closely at the photos of the faces of hate! How does the world see us? More importantly how do we see ourselves?
Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney registering blacks to vote near Meridian, Mississippi, were killed by a Ku Klux Klan lynch mob and their bodies were found on Aug. 4, 1964. Now, Aug. 12, 2017, Heather Heyer was killed, with many others injured, as a car plowed through an anti-protest rally in response to a white supremacy rally protesting for removal of a confederate statue. Is this not history repeating itself?
Dr. King was our conscience. He provided the moral leadership that many hunger for today. We must all embody his qualities and principles. We must all be accountable and fulfill our moral duty to extinguish hatred and violence with love and peace. As Sen. Paul Ryan said this week, “there is no room for moral ambiguity.” It is time for us to challenge individuals spewing hateful rhetoric, not with violence, but with love and patience.
Gaynelle D. Wethers is president of The Interfaith Alliance of Rochester.