Short Take: MLK’s Seal of Approval On Violence

The Daily Kos is still around, much to the pleasure of conservatives, for whom it provides a perfect foil.

And, finally, I naïvely believed that liberals will finally take the threat of people who deny my humanity and call for my death seriously.

Instead, I’ve noticed a growing (and, frankly, confusing) pushback on Antifa from progressives. Suddenly, people who were supposedly on my side are denouncing a group of folks who organize against the people who will boldly march the streets shouting racist and anti-Semitic phrases. Individuals like Cornel West have explicitly said that Antifa activists have saved their lives, yet I see (white) liberals spending more time squabbling about alleged Antifa violence than pondering about what they’re doing to fight fascism and dismantle white supremacy.

There is one dilemma facing progressive calls for action. They can’t grasp that their jargonistic hysteria isn’t the least bit convincing to anyone but them. They argue the point they care passionately about as if to persuade no one who isn’t already desperately on their team, and can’t understand why everyone doesn’t see the world their way. It is, indeed, naive, not to mention unpersuasive, and yet they keep banging their head against the same wall over and over, expecting a different result. You know what that’s the definition of, right?

But the effort to rationalize violence to achieve their ends has taken a new turn in this New York Times op-ed by a group of clergy trying to trade off the legacy of Martin Luther King.

Michael McBride is a pastor and the director of PICO National Network’s “Live Free” campaign. Traci Blackmon is the United Church of Christ’s executive minister of justice and witness.
Frank Reid is the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s bishop of ecumenical affairs and social action. Barbara Williams Skinner is a co-convener of the National African American Clergy Network.

Seems legit. And what’s their argument?

Our complaint here is not about the right-wing media outlets that we know will continue to delegitimize anti-racist protest in any form — whether it’s peacefully sitting during the national anthem, marching in the streets, staging boycotts or simply making the apparently radical claim that “black lives matter.” Rather, our concern at this moment is with our moderate brothers and sisters who voice support for the cause of racial justice but simultaneously cling to paralyzingly unrealistic standards when it comes to what protest should look like.

What are these “unrealistic standards” we demand of protest?

As Christian clergy members, we place a high value on nonviolence….But we know there has never been a time in American history in which movements for justice have been devoid of violent outbreaks.

They then run through occasions back in the ’60s where violence happened, because MLK’s non-violence wasn’t always so non-violent, much in the line of “what would MLK do?”

The civil rights movement was messy, disorderly, confrontational and yes, sometimes violent. Those standing on the sidelines of the current racial-justice movement, waiting for a pristine or flawless exercise of righteous protest, will have a long wait.

The call to violence, not because they adore violence, but because there will never be a “pristine or flawless” protest. So violence is the flawed but necessary thing to do. It’s what MLK would have done.

19 thoughts on “Short Take: MLK’s Seal of Approval On Violence

  1. DaveL

    They don’t seem to understand. It isn’t that Antifa occasionally has rogue members who go off the reservation and engage in violence in isolated incidents. It’s that the movement, from its intellectual leaders to its foot soldiers, openly endorses violence as a means to their ends. In other words it’s a feature, not a bug.

  2. Billy Bob

    Now you’ve written the unthinkable. You detest the Times’ editorial pages, but continue to read them. What gives? You keep banging your head against the Times’ *All The News* (and Views) wall, which is the definition of what?
    P.S., We don’t read the Times anymore, but hear about it on the news, if you catch our drift? If they have anything important to say, HuffPo or the Hive will pick it up, in which case, we get it “second hand”. Ha. In any case, newspapers are too expensive these dayz. If it’s for free, it’s for me! Don’t get any ideas there, SJ?

  3. B. McLeod

    Christian Pastors for Bashing Heads – I think I’ve heard of them. They rely on that passage where Jesus says that he brings not peace, but a sword, and will set even family members against one another until a man’s foes shall become those of his own household.

  4. Erik H.

    Wow, look at that big triangle. I thought I would be strongly opposed to white supremacy whether covert or overt. But I am not, I suppose: Celebrating Columbus Day is white supremacy–not so surprising these days, I suppose–but the most unusual white supremacist identifying trait is “Assuming That Good Intentions Are Enough,” a/k/a “if you’re not fighting with us, you’re a target.”

    These folks are so quaint. They imagine that the violence will be limited to fighting a bunch of KKK members. But there are only a few thousand of those folks–not enough to fight, really–so the antifa need a target-rich environment for activism to be fun. Why not all of those “colorblindness” people? They deserve a beat-down, right? Right?

  5. Jake

    Every fortress falls, it is not the end. This war…Whether you call it the blue vs. gray, left vs. right, renters vs. owners, labor vs. capitalism…This war has been going on for thousands of years. Y’all can clutch your pearls over the fact that a few heads get bloodied in the latest street skirmish. I’m taking the realist’s view. There will be blood.

  6. no need

    So to quote King in his entirety, this quote has been used by everyone from beritbart and guns dot com to everyone else, the thing they all glom on to is that Gandhi defended self defense, this is an argument a compromise that King did not agree with and that I do not agree with for very different reasons.

    He believed that it was possible for a mass of humanity to resist and prevail against a violent state without resorting to violence, Gandhi starved himself to death, you SHG expect everyone to be this paragon of nonviolence when they themselves are under attack, do you expect people to simply say nothing to people we fought a huge war with because why? , not the first amendment that for certain since that constrains the state not people, you want to negate peoples right to defend themselves against people that are actively organizing to murder or enslave them ? I think you need to think again about what you are doing.

    “It is axiomatic in social life that frustrations leads to two kinds of reactions. One is the development of a wholesome social organization to resist with effective, firm measures any efforts to impede progress. The other is a confused, anger-motivated drive to strike back violently, to retaliate for wrongful suffering.
    The current calls for violence have their roots in this latter tendency. Here one must be clear that there are three different views on the subject of violence. One is the approach of pure nonviolence, which cannot readily or easily attract large masses, for it requires extraordinary discipline and courage. The second is violence exercised in self-defense, which all societies, from the most primitive to the most cultured and civilized, accept as moral and legal. The principle of self-defense, even involving weapons and bloodshed, has never been condemned, even by Gandhi, who sanctioned it for those unable to master pure nonviolence. The third is the advocacy of violence as a tool of advancement, organized as in warfare, deliberately and consciously. There are incalculable perils in this approach. The greatest danger is that it will fail to attract Negroes to a real collective struggle. There are meaningful alternatives to violence. In the history of the movement for racial advancement, many creative forms have been developed—the mass boycott, sitdown protests and strikes, sit-ins, refusal to pay fines and bail for unjust arrests, mass marches, mass meetings, prayer pilgrimages, etc. There is more power in socially organized masses on the march than there is in guns in the hands of a few desperate men. Our enemies would prefer to deal with a small armed group rather than with a huge, unarmed but resolute mass of people. However, it is necessary that the mass-action method be persistent and unyielding. All history teaches us that like a turbulent ocean beating great cliffs into fragments of rock, the determined movement of people incessantly demanding their rights always disintegrates the old order. Our powerful weapons are the voices, the feet, and the bodies of dedicated, united people, moving without rest toward a just goal. Greater tyrants than Southern segregationists have been subdued and defeated by this form of struggle. It would be tragic if we spurn it because we have failed to perceive its dynamic strength and power.
    I am reluctant to inject a personal defense against charges that I am inconsistent in my struggle against war and too weak-kneed to protest nuclear war. Merely to set the record straight, may I state that repeatedly, in public addresses and in my writings, I have unequivocally declared my hatred for this most colossal of all evils and I have condemned any organizer of war, regardless of his rank or nationality”

    1. Billy Bob

      We note in passing that the Host has failed to return-comment on any of the submissions today. We find this unusual and noteworthy. What seems to be the problem? Some illness, some accident? Our guess is: It’s Labor Day Weekend, marking the end of Summer. The family has enjoined the Man of the House to back away from the Control Room, to cease and desist for at least the weekend. It’s only a guess. However, we miss the repartee (French for something or other, you know!)

      As for No Need, we had a hard time deciphering your comment, but trust your sincereity, and thank you for your input: Interesting. We have some quotations to add as well, but are waiting for the proper moment. SJ is tough when it comes to TL;dr!

    2. DaveL

      you SHG expect everyone to be this paragon of nonviolence when they themselves are under attack

      No, not when they are themselves under attack. They get to defend themselves on exactly the same terms as everybody else. Note that those terms do not include preemptive violence under some abstract theory of future attack.

      Your lack on intellectual honesty is noted. You wasted an awful lot of words on a false premise.

    3. Pedantic Grammar Police

      Great quote but the preamble was incoherent. Are you trying to say that violence is OK if the ends are just? If so, just quote Machiavelli next time.

  7. Matthew S Wideman

    The best part of the article is the “white privilege pyramid”. “Cultural appropriation” and “boot strap theory” are named as acceptable forms of racism.

    The pyramid goes from yeah…okay to bat shit crazy post-modernism in one inch. The read was funny and vague, but the comments from the readers of Daily Kos are out in left field.

    1. el purrp

      Maybe someone hacked their pyramid, because the juiciest targets of complaints like “Assuming that Good Intentions are Enough,” “Self-appointed White Ally,” and “White Savior Complex” are on their own team.

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