“When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism.”
What many forget is that American Jews were on the forefront of the Civil Rights moment.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel was not only a good friend of Dr. King, he was an ally. He was on the front lines with Dr. King, fighting for the rights of African-Americans.
In 1964, three young men were murdered because they believed that all Americans, regardless of race, were equal. James Chaney was the son of a African-American family from Mississippi. Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were raised Jewish in the New York City area. They came together and were murdered together because of what they believed and what they were fighting for.
When I think about Martin Luther King Jr., I think of a man of courage, honor and conviction. He knew that the journey and others were about embark upon was dangerous. But he also knew that it was right. I take that as a lesson not just in my personal life, but in every aspect of my life. What is right is not always easy. But in that lack of ease comes the knowledge that though the journey is difficult, it is the only way forward.
*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show.
There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.
In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.
There has always been the debate on whether it is better to see the world in black and white or color. On Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Odafin “Fin” Tutuola (played by actor and musician Ice-T), sees his world and his job as black and white. That view came from his early upbringing on the streets of New York City. As a young boy, he watched as the city rioted after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and saw his mother killed by one of his father’s business rivals.
As a cop first in narcotics and then in special victims, Fin sees the world as black and white. If the accused is guilty, then he or she deserves whatever punishment they receive. This point of view often led him to clash with his colleagues, who saw the shades of grey in the cases they were assigned. Outside of work, Fin sought to keep his private life and his job separate. But he eventually opened up to his partners, who became as close as family.
To sum it up: Sometimes a character is defined by his or her point of view. Fin sees his world and his job as black and white. Which is fine, because that works for the character. But there is also more to him than just a cut and dry perspective on the law. He has a big heart for those who he cares about and is willing to do what it takes to get the job done.
There are two ways to deal with injustice in the world. One way is to sit back, throw your hands in the air and do nothing because you feel powerless. The other way is to be bold enough, in spite of the fear and trepidation, to stand up for what is right and for those who are unable to fight for themselves.
In his time, he lived in a divided America. In our time, we still live in a divided America. There is still a notion in this country (and the world by extension) that one’s skin color, family background or sexuality is a defining factor how we judge another person instead of judging someone as an individual. It’s 2019, it’s time that saw each other as individuals instead of judging them by labels that are beyond our control.
Dr. King was a speaker like no other. Over fifty years after his death, his words continue to inspire us. In facing the demons of hate, he stated the following:
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
It takes more time, emotion and energy to hate than to love. It’s 2019, it’s time to hold out our hands with love to our neighbors. I can’t think of a better way to honor Dr. King’s memory.
Last Thursday, two men entered a Starbucks location in Philadelphia. They were waiting for a third man to discuss a business deal. They sit down at a couple of benches and kill time by looking a their phones. They are bothering no one.
The next thing they know, they are arrested for trespassing.
This story makes me sick to my stomach. These men were not making trouble. They were merely waiting for the person who they were going to discuss the business deal with. While one could argue that they did not buy anything, I find that argument ridiculous. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve stopped in Starbucks without buying anything. I’ve also used the bathroom without buying anything. I was not harassed nor was I arrested.
I don’t blame the police, they were merely doing their job. Even though, one could argue that the arresting officers could have been not so quick to put the handcuffs on the men and do a little more digging. I blame the manager who called the police.
I’d like to hope that in 2018, we live in a post racial world. We judge others, especially minorities, as Martin Luther King Jr. said “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”. But hope often springs eternal, so unfortunately does racism.
50 years ago today, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated as he stood on a hotel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee.
He was not the first person to lead the Civil Rights movement, but he was one of the most iconic and most vocal in the fight for equality.
While he was an imperfect human being, he was a perfect leader. He spoke to everyone who saw the injustice being done to the African-American community and were willing to take a public stand against that injustice.
His “I have a dream speech” is as resonant in 2018 as it was in 1963.
Decades later, we remember and respect Dr. King for everything that he did and still does for those who feel disenfranchised. His physical body maybe gone, but his words and his legacy continue to live on.
May his memory continue to be a blessing and may we one day live up to the ideals that he fought and died for.
Decades after his death, he remains an icon for civil rights not just in the United States, but across the world.
Considering all that has happened in our country since his assassination nearly fifty years ago, I feel like I have ask what he would think of America in 2018?
I think he would be immensely proud that Barack Obama sat in the Oval Office for eight years. I also think he would be thrilled to see the leaps and bounds made by Americans of color since 1968. I also think he would be angered and still marching when the murders of Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner made headlines across the country.
While we still have a long way to go in terms of true equality, we would not be as far along as we are without Martin Luther King Jr.
Wherever you are, sir, RIP and thank you. Your courage helped to create the America we see today.
The movie, Selma, released last year, is the story of Dr. King’s campaign to secure voting rights for the African-American residents of Alabama.
Dr. King (David Oyelowo) had his allies, but he also had his adversaries. Then President Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkins0n), preferred to avoid the issue. Governor George Wallace (Tim Roth) was dead set against integration and had no qualms about using any means (violent and non-violent) possible to prevent it.
I found this movie to be very powerful. As the legendary Dr. King, David Oyelowo is magnetic. His on screen struggle is a reminder of just how far we have come, but also how far we have to go. As President Johnson, Tom Wilkinson is caught between a rock and a hard place. He knows that integration and the Civil Rights movement cannot be ignored, but he also knows that that his country is going through a turbulent time. As Governor Wallace, Tim Roth is another stark reminder of the fact that it was only a few decades ago that African-Americans had to fight for the simple right to vote.