The Rev. Dr. King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, released 60 years ago this past Sunday, is a plea for the white establishment — ministers, business leaders — to speak up and push back on the more vocal, and physically violent, anti-Black actors.
Dr. King named a universal truth: in every single movement, a passive plurality or even majority will get [T]rumped by a more energized minority. (Check out the upcoming biography of Dr. King by journalist Jon Eig for a riveting exploration of all of this.)
If the majority in our nation were as politically involved as the minority, we’d have different policies on guns, abortion, end-of-life care, and illegal drug reform — the progressive position on each enjoys majority support, but the more passionate minority controls the politics.
For example, where is the white church on the expulsion of Black Tennessee lawmakers nonviolently protesting shootings at a religious Christian school? Where are the white business leaders — FedEx, HCA, AutoZone — in Tennessee saying the killing of our workforce through gun violence is a public health menace, do something? Where are the establishment leaders pushing back on conservative state legislators who insist that prioritizing the regulation of what children can read, or whether anti-HIV drugs are available, or whether a woman can wear pants during a Christmas pageant, are actually the things that will move Tennessee forward?
The Letter from Birmingham Jail remains
a roadmap for how we get through sticky, nasty, public brawls. Point
your fingers sometimes, not at the screaming mob, but at the country
club leaders, who are content to let the mobs do the dirty work.