The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was founded by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for the purposes of promoting social change. Dr. King was well known for his focus on non-violence, but that non-violence, Dr. King explained, was a tactic of social change, rather than his natural reaction to injustice.
In his speech on receiving the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. King made an important statement which is almost never quoted. His words deserve to be reproduced in full:
It must be emphasized that nonviolent resistance is not a method for cowards; it does resist. If one uses these methods because he is afraid or merely because he lacks the instruments of violence, he is not truly nonviolent. This is why Gandhi often said that if cowardice is the only alternative to violence, it is better to fight. He made this statement conscious of the fact that there is always another alternative: no individual or group need submit to any wrong, nor need they use violence to right the wrong; there is the way of nonviolent resistance.
This is ultimately the way of the strong man. It is not a method of stagnant passivity. The phrase “passive resistance”; often gives the false impression that this is a sort of “do-nothing method” in which the resister quietly and passively accepts evil. But nothing is further from the truth. For while the nonviolent resister is passive in the sense that he is not physically aggressive toward his opponent, his mind and emotions are always active, constantly seeking to persuade his opponent that he is wrong. The method is passive physically, but strongly active spiritually. It is not passive non-resistance to evil; it is active nonviolent resistance to evil.
That strategy of non-violent resistance was from a very different time. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that Rev. Samuel Mosteller, the head of the Georgia chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, called on African-American families to arm themselves in response to recent lethal police shootings of unarmed African American men.
Rev. Mosteller called on African-American families “exercise their Second Amendment rights,” in a statement made last Tuesday.
“You stand there, [police] shoot. You run, they shoot. We’re going to have to take a different tack,” Mosteller said, noting the difference between today and the Civil Rights Era, when passive resistance seemed to stop even many killer cops from pulling the trigger.
But now, the longtime president of the Georgia SCLC, told reporters that “nobody is protecting the black community.”
As a result, he urged people to return to the approach of self-defense that Dr. King took during the early years of his social activism, when he armed himself, not to aggress, but to defend himself and his family.
William Worthy, a journalist well known for his coverage of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, once reported that during a visit to King’s home, he noticed so many weapons in the house that he described the residence as “an arsenal.” He even accidentally sat down on a loaded firearm tucked into an armchair.
King eventually backed off this approach after applying for a concealed carry permit for the state of Alabama. Back then, these permits were issued at the discretion of the local Sheriff. When he was denied a permit, he realized that self-defense was not even an option afforded to him. This changed the direction of his activism at that time.
But today things are quite different. The Supreme Court of the United States has twice upheld that the Second Amendment is an individual right that applies equally to African Americans as well as all others.
Today, King would have received that concealed carry permit and he would have in fact carried a weapon when he went out. That is exactly what Rev. Mosteller is now advocating as well.
Mosteller has also recently announced a plan to organize recalls of sheriffs in any county where unarmed African-Americans are shot by law enforcement officers.
What do you think about the change of pace in Rev. Mosteller’s activism?
(Article by M. David and S. Wooten; image via Jonathan Phillips)