Bankole: MLK’s courage rare in Detroit, nation

Bankole Thompson
The Detroit News

Too many people are silent about where we are as a nation, pretending as if we live in normal times.

Too many people are unwilling to upset the status quo and be a conscientious voice on the intractable issues shaping the lives of millions.

Too many people have looked the other way because they have traded their integrity for opportunities or perceived high places of honor or for some recognition.

Too many people are simply afraid to say or do anything because they don’t want to deal with the risks of dealing with political bullies and dishonest politicians, who won’t stop at anything to achieve their personal ends.

But if the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today, he would have issued a blistering indictment of our deafening silence, and challenged us to speak out because as he said in his last speech in Memphis, Tennessee: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

King would bemoan our silence and wonder why. Because during his civil rights mission, he himself dealt with treacherous politicians.

He would see our silence as an absolute betrayal because he wasted no time calling out leaders in government and in civic life, who wielded influence over the lives of the many he was fighting for.

He would urge us to stop straddling the fence and make a choice and call out the hypocrisy of those whose vocation is to speak from both sides of their mouths.

He challenged America to live the true meaning in the Declaration of Independence and to treat all of its people with the same measure of respect and dignity.

If King’s legacy meant anything, it is that we have no excuse but to continue the unfinished business of seeking genuine equality for all.

It means that there should be no compromise on the question of injustice. There should be no middle ground between right and wrong.

There shouldn’t be a false equivalence between good and evil. We are either against oppression or not.

Unfortunately, the kind of courage King demonstrated is rare these days, but most needed in these trying times.

When the office of the president of the United States no longer appears to have any moral standing over issues of justice and equity, the call for a moral reckoning shouldn’t flow only from the ranks of Democrats.

Republicans should also be outraged because whether you are a descendant of the pilgrims, or those who passed through Ellis Island, or those who were captured and brought here as slaves, everyone is tied in the same garment of destiny.

And while Detroit leads the nation in poverty and many here are Exhibit A of the economic inequalities that are so pervasive, the task of calling for positive action shouldn’t be confined to only a few maligned voices.

Urging the mayor and city council to be alive to their responsibilities and ensure inclusiveness in the revitalization of the city is an obligation for everyone interested in the well-being of Detroit.

Also considering the influence many Detroit clergy have in the city, they shouldn’t be let off the hook here.

Their voices on issues like poverty should not just be ceremonial or symbolic, but a daily demonstration of total commitment to the future of Detroit.

Bragging about political access and acting like an insider without holding elected officials accountable will do nothing to change lives in Detroit.

In fact, King, urged pastors to step up in his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech on the eve of his assassination.

“It’s all right to talk about long white robes over yonder, in all of its symbolism. But ultimately people want some suits and dresses and shoes to wear down here! It’s all right to talk about streets flowing with milk and honey, but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here, and his children who can’t eat three square meals a day,” King said.

It is time to speak up. Your silence is holding Detroit and the nation back.

Twitter: @BankoleDetNews

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