When you try to silence someone, why do you do it? So you can be heard and shut them up? Because you know you’re better? It’s called oppression in the larger social context.
Social issues like racism, oppression, poverty, sexism, and poor health care result from social injustices. Social justice alleviates many of the negative impacts of these and other injustices.
Some would and should, I hope, ask how to engage in and effect social justice. While challenging and difficult in practice, the answer is simple. Ensure those “certain unalienable rights” for all, and I mean all, without favoritism, without prejudice, and without the negative influences of Ego.
Those who have suffered oppression in the past should have first consideration. Women, Indigenous People, African Americans, people with disabilities, ethnic minorities, and others have been discriminated and legislated against, along with Nature and the environment. Oppression and denial of rights at the plea of the economy, wealth, jobs, or any inconvenience should never happen.
The following is the first actual chapter from my second book, Superhero You! and Society. Yes, it’s long, but I want to give it in complete chapters.
(All following Dr. King quotes are from http://okra.stanford.edu/transcription/document_images/undecided/630416-019.pdf.)
Chapter 1 — The Issues at Hand
Voice is an interesting aspect of life. When those with power, control, and wealth silence those unlike them, oppression occurs, voice is lost, and freedom for all is a meaningless, empty, pathetic phrase.
Voice can be expressed from the energy of two sources with which we come equipped. One is ego and the other is heart. Ego betrays our highest Self, the Self which I call heart, but ego does not do so on purpose; it’s simply how we are made, what we come equipped with, and how ego functions. Ego forces conformity and then, ironically, isolates us from sharing heart with one another. We need the operating system of ego to begin with, but at some point we awaken and choose heart to be our primary operating system, the dominant energy that will drive and influence our thoughts, emotions, actions, and reactions. This is a daily, almost moment to moment, choice.
Somewhere deep within each human being, we know we have a “birthright of freedom” (King 12). This knowledge emanates from heart, from the identification with and reality of our innate divinity. Eternal heart within us cannot be bound and gagged without revolt, neither by our own ego nor that of others.
When our heart discovers mortal, ego-energized limits and oppressions have been erected to corral all of our divine nobility and our unlimited possibilities, heart whispers, “Justice.” To remain silent is to silence Spirit within. This is not possible for long without soul-draining, humanity-degrading consequences manifesting in both personal life and society.
Furthermore, any who personally deny injustices out of ego-fear or comfort or a desire to maintain the status quo are lying to themselves; they silence their own inner voice and highest self. They oppress themselves and, thereby, reinforce and add energy to those who design the enslavement and oppression to begin with. Society should expect that some will rise up to shed light on the darkness of oppression, and that illumination may take myriad forms.
The form employed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of nonviolent protest and civil disobedience. He details that in his 1963 “Letter from the Birmingham City Jail,” where he was being held for parading without a permit, which he addresses in the letter. The reality was he and those following him marched in nonviolent protest in order to continue exposing the bigotry, hatred, inequality, and continuing societal, legal, and spiritual enslavement of African Americans.
Dr. King and the others shining light into the darkness marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and this earned him his stay in jail. Those civil authorities, who showed themselves as egotistic fools, had no idea of the energy that they unleashed when they made this move of using a perfectly fine law for its unintended and illegal purpose. This leads me to ask what bridge am I willing to cross, and how will I respond to the consequences?
If I or my fellow mortal souls suffer oppression, especially close at hand, “to sit still would be a sin” (Shankman Hairspray). Some may march. Some display signs, sit-in at lunch counters, or make their presence and cause known in a multiplicity of ways. For me, this book is part of my response.
Photo by Michelle Bonkosky on UnsplashIn my past, I have been guilty of evaluating the actions of others based on my thought frameworks. Paradigms of reasoning are different for most minority subcultures. It is not an easy idea for someone from the predominant, ruling majority — the rule-makers, lawmakers, standard setters — to think outside of that privileged, often sickening little box. What do I mean? Neither I nor any other white male has the right to judge the way others respond to oppression, yet I think some ways are better than others, such as heart ways of love, light, and compassion.
As recently as 2017, this was starkly seen in St. Louis, Missouri, where I live. Peaceful protests were being conducted in response to the murder of a young African American man, Anthony Lamar Smith, by a police officer who was acquitted of the murder. The merits of the case aren’t in my scope here, but the demands and dictates that protestors must march within certain boundaries or be arrested echoes the exact spirit of the times in which I spent my teen years, the era of Dr. King. The rule makers determine the scope and nature of protests, which invalidates the point of the protest.
Whites, and I heard acquaintances and many others make this case, said there is a right way and a wrong way to protest. They wanted to define the right way based on protecting, on a mostly subconscious level, their power position. They believe that oppressed people should think like them and respond like them. Such reasoning nullifies the protest, silences the voices crying for freedom, and kills opportunity for true justice — just as was done in Birmingham: “Do this right, Dr. King, and get a parade permit so we can tell you exactly where you can go. It’s for the common good, the public safety, after all.”
I hear such undertones and know that is the exact intent: to silence and negate the voices calling for equality, liberty, and justice for ALL people. The paradigm is something like this: “We have the right way, the best way, for us, of course. But don’t worry, we will take care of you. We feed the slaves, don’t we? And you Indians, didn’t we give you great places to live and provide subsidies for you?” Yes, and kept as many as possible voiceless, oppressed, and embittered.
We need to come to a table of fellowship and hear and understand the different ways of thinking about freedom, about law enforcement, about justice, about life. These are the exact sorts of issues that Dr. King addresses in his “Letter from the Birmingham City Jail” (King).
Black History and White Me! The Heart of Dr. Martin Luther King
The words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., contain his essence and energy, energy which allows me to feel that kindred fellowship of the heart.
Let me make this clear now, and I will not mention it again. I am a white male, definitely a privileged category of human being in the United States of America. I do not deserve such privilege — privilege that comes through no merit and is imbued at the expense, harm, or denigration of other cultures or subcultures — nor do I believe anyone deserves such. To this end, I will address Dr. King’s work and sit down at “the table of brotherhood” he refers to in his great “I Have a Dream” speech.
Photo by Micheile Henderson @micheile010 // Visual Stories [nl] on UnsplashI will add that right now I can only encourage you to read Dr. King’s letter. If you do, then you will have a fuller sense of the purpose of Dr. King and deeper insight into the energy that motivated him. I would recommend you read the letter from the following website, because it is a photocopy of the actual one. There’s something about seeing it the way he typed it. I love it: http://okra.stanford.edu/transcription/document_images/undecided/630416-019.pdf . This letter is as relevant today as in 1963, not to mention that it holds the same transformative possibilities.
In the heading, Dr. King addresses seven white clergymen. I looked up short biographical entries about each of them, but I’m not presenting a history lesson here. What I will say is at one point in my life, my name could have been lumped with theirs. For a couple years, I did serve in a more formal pastoral capacity, and informally for many more. Even then, I cared about justice and inequality, but it was in a narrow, conservative, and constrictive way, a way that benefitted me. I didn’t do this purposefully but rather on a subconscious level that stank of self-righteousness. However, I know this has been part of my evolution in awakening. I am too old to be naive enough to believe I have arrived. Never will. Neither will anyone else.
Having said this, I wonder how many people realize their definition of justice, law, and appropriate civil and social behavior have been dictated to them by the holders of power and assumers of superiority. I have not always considered who sets the definitions.
The clergymen addressed by Dr. King had written a letter published publicly. Why did these seven men write an open letter that urged whites and African Americans in their congregations and the public at large to disassociate themselves from King as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and his efforts in nonviolent, public demonstrations? They had reasons that sounded rational, but they were only rationales of ego: “We appeal to both our white and Negro citizenry to observe the principles of law and order and common sense” (http://www.massresistance.org/docs/gen/09a/mlk_day/statement.html) . Doesn’t that sound solid, right, wise, and the best course of action for all involved? It was pure ego.
Why is that ego? Because their definition of “law and order” was based on rules intended to keep others enslaved, imprisoned, and inconsequential so that the protests, the demonstrations, would not develop into reform or revolution, which may threaten or shake their undisturbed, unmolested positions of superiority. “Our way is the best way. It makes sense when you look at it from our point of view. We don’t want those not like us to have the same privileges and advantages.” Such possible words, even on a subconscious level, represent the underlying ego tones of superiority and desire to isolate and elevate themselves.
In later years, a number of these seven clergymen did, indeed, take bolder stands against racial prejudice and injustice. In fact, Bishop C.C.J. Carpenter would not give his approval to start a new school unless it was integrated, and that was nine years before Birmingham. Why, then, would he sign such a letter as he did in 1963? He still wanted to define, along with the others, their power base and to ensure it would remain intact; they wanted to control by being the benevolent rulers of justice.
They, and many, many people today, do not understand that at a subconscious, ego level they believe that if they dictate the terms of law, order, and justice, then they could judge if others’ behaviors were acceptable or not. This would guarantee their privilege. Their “common sense” was only sense for the white power base, never for minorities, in general.
In any case, Dr. King addresses them as “My dear Fellow Clergymen.” He radiates respect and sincerity in showing he considers them as one with himself. Then, as he launches into the body of his letter, he acknowledges he is under constant criticism every day. Why was that so, and why is that so today for those seeking civil and social justice? People criticize when they feel threatened, and when that’s the case, rational-sounding assaults — think about the arguments a large faction is currently spouting about immigrants — can alleviate their fears by tearing others down.
Dr. King recognizes the fears of these clergymen and attempts to set their fears at ease by using the words from their own letter to analyze the situation in Birmingham; he does so with logic and love. His laser-sharp focus in the face of fear and pressure from those who should have been sympathetic keeps him from distraction or caving in to ego demands.
In fact, he takes the time to show them that he isn’t only going to present his arguments, but he is considering their emotional state: “But since I feel that you are men of genuine goodwill and your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I would like to answer your statement in patient and reasonable terms” (King 1). His loving patience reveals his Heart-energy and drives him on in exposing darkness by shedding light; he shows he values them enough to do so.
Certainly, this principle would be effective in today’s climate in America where questions of equality, justice, and civil rights continue to demonstrate that the underlying ego-drive continues, and the only safeguard to the rights of people to live in heart-truth resides in heart-driven legislation, administration, and justice in all branches of the government. This comes first, before jobs, economy, or any other foolish priorities over the freedom and justice due all.
Awakening to heart and choosing heart as the primary operating system would help to engender and ensure justice, equality, and freedom for all and truly promote the common good. Spiritual awakening — I do not mean religious conversion — opens our eyes to see and protect those natural rights of all humanity, not just United States citizens. Nothing less will do for the future of us all.
Dr. King tells these men from a logic position that he was in Birmingham “…because we were invited here…because I have basic organizational ties here” (King 1, 2). He begins here with the connections of all of us that can neither be denied rationally nor spiritually. Do we see such truth about our relationships to one another and all others? No hope for progress exists without that basic knowledge: Know self and know how that self relates to others.
Questions to consider:
How many times have you asked yourself or simply thought about the following questions?
Who am I, really?
What is my truth?
How do my actions reveal what I really feel and believe?
What would I do with my life if I could do anything?
What is my passion?
Why am I here?
How can I discover answers to any of these questions?
If you have considered any of these questions, I hope that my experiences and writing will give you some guidance. Please read my blog and comment and share your thoughts. I would love to hear from you!