Hope Needs Action
By Adrianne Todman, NAHRO CEO
I completed the original version of this column last Saturday afternoon. But by Sunday morning, I knew I needed to fill this space differently. And so I have.
This past week, and certainly this past weekend, have exposed – again – the frustration so many people have about the slow and unequal pace of justice. Across the country, protestors, local and national leaders, CEOs of major American banks, celebrities, and next-door neighbors are expressing disgust and anger with what happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis, and what has happened to other black men and women across the nation.
Whether you joined a protest or watched them on the news, many wonder, “Why?” “Why is this happening, and why does it continue to happen?”
To help us understand, I have chosen to share below some words from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”:
“In any nonviolent campaign, there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self-purification; and direct action…
“You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.”
“I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.
“Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation.”
I am hopeful that tomorrow will be better. I hope that our differences make for a stronger future, and is not what keeps us apart, angry and scared. But hope alone is empty. Hope needs action. Action infused with tolerance, respect, and love. Action embodied in so much of your work, and the work we have yet to do.