In today’s day and age of 24/7 news, what happened yesterday is often forgotten as today’s events are jammed down our throats. Such is the case of the riots that occurred in Ferguson, Missouri in the latter part of 2014. In the interest of brevity, for those that may not know what caused these riots, salvation can be found via Google. :o)
There are many that feel that “burn[ing] this bitch down” in Ferguson was justified. From day one I have not felt this way. Don’t get me wrong, I understand why the riots occurred. However, that does not make them justified.
This belief was further reinforced recently by an article written in the January 2015 edition of Smithsonian Magazine. This article, entitled “From Selma to Ferguson”, was written by Ron Rosenbaum based on an interview with biographer Taylor Branch. Mr. Branch “is an American author and public speaker best known for his landmark trilogy on the civil rights era, America in the King Years” (Branch, 2005-2015). In interviewing Mr. Branch, Ron Rosenbaum “wanted to talk to Branch about King’s legacy-and especially his belief in nonviolence” (Rosenbaum, 2015).
Luckily I found an active link to the article. It can be found and read in its entirety here:
Since I was able to find the article online, I’m not going to expound upon it any further. It really is an interesting article and a very easy read. For those that are interested in reading it, my suggestion is to do so before continuing on to my next paragraph. My hope is you form their own impressions from the article without any potential bias on my part.
After reading the article, I am hard pressed to understand those that took the time to read Mr. Rosenbaum’s article yet still believe the Ferguson riots were justified. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was obviously THE figurehead of the civil rights movement. This great man vehemently believed that nonviolence was the way. How is it then we went from nonviolence is the way to “burn this bitch down”?
I feel this mentality shift has much to do with the fact that many have simply forgotten their roots. Dr. King Jr’s message of nonviolence has been lost, among other things, in today’s day and age of perceived self-entitlement and instant gratification. While many today invoke the legacy of Dr. King Jr., few seem to truly understand the patience, effort, and sacrifice his legacy entails.
To be fair, there are many issues that seriously undermines today’s “civil rights movement”. I use that term loosely because I question whether or not there even is an organized, macro-scale civil rights movement taking place in today’s day and age. The reality is there is no figurehead, like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., that is recognizable to the general populace as THE leader of a civil rights movement in today’s day and age. Don’t get me wrong, there certainly are potential figureheads that could fill this role. Two potential’s that come immediately to mind include the Rev. Jessie Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton. However, these potentials lack the willingness or motivation to actually take action and champion the cause that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr so passionately advocated…and paid the ultimate sacrifice for.
Part of me hates rehashing “old news” as there are so many challenges we as a global population face that perk my interest. However, we cannot forget past events. If we do, we can never change the issues that dog us and drag us down.
Such is the case with rehashing the Ferguson riots. Ferguson serves as a reminder that racial divides still exist in this country. These divides continue to dog us and drag us down. When we are confronted with the legacy of the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his emphasis upon nonviolence and sacrifice, it’s woefully apparent that the Ferguson riots were unjustified. Not only is it time to “rediscover” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s legacy, it is also time for someone to step up and become THE figurehead that carries Dr. King’s legacy of nonviolence forward. While one must fight for what they believe in, violence by the masses is not the answer.
Branch, T. (2005-2015). Taylor Branch. Retrieved from About Taylor Branch: http://taylorbranch.com/
Rosenbaum, R. (2015, January). From Selma to Ferguson. Smithsonian Magazine, pp. 29-31, 78-82 .