January 12, 2016

Remembering Dr. King 2016: The Silence of Our Friends

Once again we find ourselves on the verge of the recognition of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., being a good time to reflect on the impact Dr. King had on shaping our society. Few people in the history of our country have had such an impact, particularly with the peaceful methods he used.

Dr. King focused on a message of treating all people the same, with the same rights, privileges and responsibilities. He implemented this message through staying true to peaceful methods and standing strong in the face of adversity. Yes, Dr. King faced many hardships through being beaten, had dogs turned on him, water hoses, having his home bombed and finally falling to an assassin’s bullet.  With all the trials Dr King faced, he summoned up his greatest disappointment with one of his most famous quotes In the end, we will picremember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

The silence of our friends; a very thought provoking statement. During the Civil Rights movement, there were many people nationwide that were against the prejudice and hatred showed minorities. However, they stood by silently as these dastardly acts occurred all around them. Through their indifference they were guilty through the compliancy.

So why would a person not stand for justice? There are many reasons. Some are afraid to take a stand against the majority of the people around them. They fear being ostracized by the people around them. Social status, business contacts and standing at church are all reasons people are afraid to exercise their voice on the side of right when it comes to prejudice. Our country was founded on the idea of personal freedoms, even though it took two hundred years for those ideas to become real. There are many deaths and countless heart aches documented in the struggle for equal protection under the law.

These days it seems the good people have once again fallen under the cloak of silence. Many issues have arisen over the past couple years where the rights of certain groups have been challenged. There are those in the media who have convinced a segment of society that certain groups of people are their enemies and they should turn their anger and hatred toward those groups. An eerie silence reverberates from too many “good people” where these issues are concerned. If you have to be afraid to speak up in defense of those being discriminated against in fear of alienating your friends – maybe it is time to reevaluate your friends. When the rights of one person are being denied- no one is truly free. An injury to one is truly an injury to all.

We must realize the struggle for basic human rights and freedoms extend to all people. These protections are extended to the human race- not a particular race. We stand by while others are discriminated against far too often and don’t speak up. Why can’t we defend the rights of those whose race is different, whose gender is different, whose nationality is different, whose expression of faith is different, whose sexual orientation is different or any whose personal make up could be different than our own?

Yes we are citizens of a city, a state and a nation, but we are also citizens of the world. We allow the power brokers of our generation to divide us along these lines of classification to further their own agendas and ideas. They use fear to divide us as working class Americans and convince one group that another is the problem. It is this division that allows a system to continue that insures all profits are funneled to the top of the food chain while those of us who actually make the system work continue to grovel for the crumbs from the table. Trade deals have hurt workers here and abroad and led to many of the immigration issues we have. But instead of blaming the power brokers we blame the families that are caught in the trap of globalization.

The time has come for us to stop falling for the same old line from the power brokers. We must realize that just because someone is different from us that doesn’t mean they are our enemy. To take that further, we have to stop turning a blind eye to discrimination and prejudice just because we may not be the victim of it. Our silence convicts us through the sin of omission.

In his 1967 Christmas sermon on peace, Dr. King stated “Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective . . . No individual can live alone; no nation can live alone.”This is very true and is just as true today as it was almost 40 years ago- maybe more so.

This year, it is my prayer that we all strive to continue the work of a great man by heeding his words of wisdom. It is time we as a people, as a nation, and as a union- end the silence and speak up for those who in the cross hair of mean spirited media moguls, mean spirited politicians and those who support them. If we don’t, the day will come when there is no one left to speak for us.

In Solidarity,

John Davis
UAW Region 8 Webmaster and UW LUCA Advisory Council Chair

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Ron Hendrix