Day 3: Monday, June 15 (by Jonathan Bert)

June 16th, 2015

We have met some amazing people; Juanita Abernathy yesterday, Rutha Harris this morning, and Reverend Robert and Jeannie Graetz this evening.

Instead of focusing on the activities of the day, I feel more inclined to write about what stands out to me the most about the entire civil rights movement.

Non-violence was a major part of the movement. MLK strongly advocated for non-violent direct action, as did other prominent leaders. I am convinced that the campaign for civil rights would not have been successful without this core belief. The white oppressors did not know how to respond to these peaceful protesters. In fact, a popular police tactic was to try to incite violence from the African Americans so that they had a legal reason to physically retaliate. However, the protesters were aware of this and they had been trained and conditioned to withstand verbal and physical abuse without resorting to violence.

Dr. King stood up against the war in Vietnam and denounced the violence taking place. His famous quote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” was in reference to that conflict. It is clear that his message of pacifism was not simply a strategic move in order to make progress on the picket lines, but rather it was a deep-seated commitment pouring out of his Christian beliefs and his understanding of biblical truth.

It seems to me that this key aspect of the movement often gets diminished or even lost in the history books. The response that we often see to injustice today is destruction and violence. There have been numbers of examples of this in the past year. There are peaceful demonstrations and orderly marches, but these are overshadowed by a small percentage of people who have let anger and hate seep into their own hearts due to the many injustices that have been piled upon them.

An important lesson from studying the civil rights movement is the value and effectiveness of non-violence. Pacifism is not passive. Direct action is a powerful force. Loving your enemy is an intense weapon that no physical force can overwhelm. Ultimately during the struggle, we can look back and say that love prevailed over hate, good over evil. And it was not accomplished with bullets or with blood. It was accomplished with courage and perseverance, with self-sacrifice and forgiveness. I hope that somehow we can come back to that.

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