For my Throwback Thursday opening statement today, I decided not to choose a famous court case or legal trial from the past to look at, like I did with my last throwback Thursday statement on the OJ Simpson trial. No, instead I was inspired to talk about a different throwback event in American history. One that I couldn’t help but think of in light of this week’s disturbing events in Baltimore.
Did you know – it has been 52 years since Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and gave his infamous “I have a Dream” speech? 52 years since on that day, August 28, 1963, King addressed approximately 250,000 people who had gathered on the mall in Washington, with millions more watching on television from home. I think of all that has changed since then, especially with things like science and technology. Do you remember those video watches on the TV show The Jetsons – also debuting in the 1960’s? Well now we have those in real life with the Apple watch. We have electric cars, computers, and maybe even soon… the famous Jetson flying cars.
But what HASN’T changed since then - apparently?
Well – if you watched the news this week, you saw it and it looked a lot like the civil rights riots of the 1960’s. Lines of police in riot gear, fending people off – mostly young people, children at that – who threw rocks at them. They lit businesses on fire. They torched police cars. Honestly at one point, if I didn’t know any better, I would have thought I was watching news reports coming out of the Middle East. Lighting buildings and cars on fire? ATTACKING police officers? I’m sorry but some of those kids were acting more like little domestic terrorists in training – street terrorists. What is the difference? Are the fires different if they are lit in the Middle East? Is destruction different when it’s in another country than America? How much SLACK are we willing to give these criminals and thieves, simply because many in the media are calling them protestors – as if their actions are for a noble cause so that makes it okay. President Obama even came out, and condemned – and I quote – “the criminals and thugs who tore up the city.” How is this a noble cause?
Do you really think this was really Martin Luther King’s dream? No, this was his nightmare, not his dream. I don’t believe that this is what he was envisioning that day in his “I Have a Dream” speech – not at all.
One question that I raised earlier this week – and one that had MANY of you calling me with passionate opinions – was: Why would people destroy their own neighborhoods like this? Why would they want to hurt their own community?
And how many of these young people even know who Martin Luther King Jr. even was? Do they think his name is just a name on a street sign in most American cities?
Then I started to think about the word community and how it’s used so often in the news, by politicians, and even by people who call themselves “community leaders.” Sometimes it sounds like – well the community thinks this, so that’s what we do and think. I mean, ask 10 people of any background about a topic and in a free society you’ll get 10 different opinions. And yes, maybe I’m confused – maybe I’m not just getting it. But I think of the phrase “The Latino community” and sometimes wonder – who are they talking about? Every group of people – whether racially, culturally, or geographically grouped together – is extremely diverse. Very unique. I just can’t help but wonder if sometimes the word community is used with a different intention… Like – you are one of us – you will do what’s best – for the community… So when there is a riot, there is must be a simple explanation – the community is angry.
How can we have UNITY when the word COMMunity is often used in such a divisive, politicized manner? Is “community” a word that is being used to divide us?
But in Baltimore – it WASN’T the community that was rioting. It was a select group of pepople who were taking advantage of a situation to cause trouble.
And then… in the middle of it all… like a ray of hope… in some news stories that you didn’t see so much on CNN or Fox News – we got to see the ACTUAL community. The real people of Baltimore!
The now famous mom who publicly hit and scolded her child for throwing rocks at the police, sending the message – NO, young man. That is NOT how I raised you. That is NOT acceptable.
The line of people who stood united in front of the police – to protect them from rioters.
And then – the next morning – approximately 2,000 citizens showed up, gloves on and trash bags in hand – to clean up their city. There was a tweet from a 26-year-old resident named Renee who brought her kids with her to the clean up. She said she was there to “show my kids how community works.”
YES. Now that definition of community – I can get behind. All these good-hearted people showed up simply to do the right thing. They showed up and thanklessly cleaned up the messes left behind by other people. They weren’t looking for credit, they didn’t bring a bullhorn or a soapbox or a media crew or a political agenda. They just showed up, and did the right thing. Community means doing the right thing.
If we can build THAT kind of national community – of good, decent people who want to build up, not tear down their neighborhoods… well I think that’s something Martin Luther King Jr. would be proud of.
But what do you think? What does the word community mean to you? And what do you think Martin Luther King Jr. would have had to say about the riots this week in Baltimore?