What would Martin Luther King say?

Reflections on the freedom struggle in 2021

By Brenda Hammond
Special to the Reader

What if Martin Luther King was here today — and asked to appear on one of the day-long news channels to comment on the events of Jan. 6?

I suspect he might comment on the reaction of police to the mob that stormed the Capitol Building, and compare it to the way law enforcement has countered Black Lives Matter protests in cities all over our nation.

He might make mention of the number of symbols of hate and white supremacy visible on the clothing of the Capitol protesters. He might compare their armed, angry presence and violent threats with the prayerful and peaceful marches he helped to lead during the Civil Rights Movement. 

As the radio broadcasts news about the search for so many of the Jan. 6 protesters who have been absorbed back into the populace, he might well recall the hundreds of students who were arrested in 1960 for peacefully occupying seats at lunch counters in “five and dime stores.” He might mention the freedom riders, who faced violent opposition for challenging racially segregated seating on buses. One bus was bombed and burned in Alabama. A white mob beat the riders when they arrived in Birmingham, then the same freedom riders were arrested in Mississippi and spent two months in the penitentiary.

What would Martin Luther King say about news footage that showed a policeman taking a “selfie” with one of the Capitol protesters? Or when it showed congressmen and women putting up barricades and arming themselves with pens and broken furniture as the mob tried to beat down their doors. Where were the fire hoses and the dogs that were brought out in the ’60s when little Black children tried to enter their schools?

Martin Luther King sat in the Birmingham jail for his part in organizing peaceful protests. What would he say about a president of the United States sitting in the White House after he emboldened the protestors on Jan. 6 and incited their attack on this nation’s Capitol?

I wonder — would he still be able to say, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed.” Or, “It is time for all people of conscience to call upon America to return to her true home of brotherhood and peaceful pursuits.”

He said those words in 1963. What would he say about where we are now?

We also wonder what you are thinking about the events of Jan. 6. We, as the BCHRTF feel the need to commit ourselves to reflecting on the racism that exists both around us, and within us — and continuing down the road opened up by Martin Luther King, John Lewis and other courageous “freedom fighters” until the dream of equity, inclusion and mutual respect can become a reality in this great nation.

We will be providing some resources on our website to further that reflection. If you’re interested, visit bchrtf.org.

Brenda Hammond is president of the Bonner County Human Rights Task Force.

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