Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Was Frustrated with the White Moderate and Now I Get It

To say I now understand a little bit more why Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was frustrated with the white moderate is an understatement. 

Watching the events that transpired at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, 2021 simply because the president lost his reelection bid and then proceeded to lie to his cult followers about what actually happened, and then watching the conversations some white moderates were having both astounded and disgusted me. 

So many people sitting in their white bodies surrounded and protected by privilege calling for unity before even condemning white supremacy, before addressing the attack on our democracy, and before demanding accountability for their malicious and downright juvenile behavior. 

There is no real unity where the privileged majority call for peace but are not willing to take any actions towards bringing that peace to fruition. In the words of Dr. King, “I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers,. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, I cannot agree with your methods of direction”; who paternalistically believes he [or she] can set the timetable for another man’s [or woman’s] freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection”. (Excerpt from “Letter from the Birmingham Jail”). I, too, am disappointed with the white moderate.

With all of this being said, I am not the type of person that finds it necessary to deal in extremes. Oftentimes, the answer can be found somewhere in the middle. But it cannot be so all the time, not when it comes to matters of civil rights. It is one thing to throw a tantrum that took human lives (i.e. U.S. Capitol insurrection) and another thing to protest injustices that are taking human lives (i.e. police brutality, healthcare discrepancies) . Sometimes both sides do not have “very fine people”. Sometimes evil is just evil and it needs to be dealt with by facing issues with honesty and accountability.

For the past three or so years, I have been reading Dr. King’s letter to commemorate the day that has been dedicated to him. When I was dating my now husband, he joined me in reading and discussing this letter. Now, it has become something of tradition for us. Every time I read it, I find and gain new insight and I’m able to apply it to present day events and it propels me to continue in the work of addressing injustices where I am. I invite you to read his full letter here or listen to it on audio here, yes, even if you have read it in the past, and reflect on how it applies to what is happening in the world today. Then, learn a little more about Black history beyond the letter and Dr. King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech.

How to Forgive a Racist

The other day I Googled, “How to forgive a racist person”. It didn’t come up with anything particularly helpful except for some articles about the history of white people expecting Black people to quickly and wholeheartedly forgive them, even when it meant the Black person’s loved one was killed as a result of their racism.

A few weeks ago after I shared on my Facebook page about the gaslighting and racism I experienced at the hands of a former mission president, I proceeded to get a message from another white male who served in the same mission who told me that, “he hoped I could find it in my heart to be kind”. He sent that message after seeing my post about the experience. Nowhere did he mention that he confronted the former mission president about his racist behavior.

God invited all of us to forgive and I do my best to do just that. God also asked us to repent. Forgiveness is not the only way forward, repentance is also a way forward and we have been asked to do both. When people are never confronted about their terrible behavior, they perceive it as acceptable and continue to participate in said behavior.

If you’re reading this, I pray that you will invite your loved ones to stop with the racism long before you ever approach the person at the receiving end about their need to forgive and make racists comfortable. And how exactly do you forgive a racist? That’s between you and God, not when people are rushing you to because they need to feel better about their deplorable behavior.

You’re the Real Racist and Other Lies

Being an outspoken Black woman brings a lot of interesting people out of the wood works and being an outspoken Black LDS woman brings a lot of angry people of my same faith into the open. The last few weeks have been interesting to say the least. Personally, I don’t understand how anyone can see the heightened racial tensions and expect people to keep quiet about it. Sure, staying quiet means probably less stress and less hate being directed at you, but staying quiet hasn’t served me well either, because it typically means letting disrespectful and hateful things fly. I know that I expect people who call me friend to be the same people to speak up in the circles they inhabit when something racist is said, otherwise they probably shouldn’t call me friend. It is a lie that staying quiet about social issues keeps the peace, the only people who think it is keeping the peace are those that don’t feel that they are impacted by whatever issue it may be.

Being a woman of faith means that “well meaning” people will use scriptures to gaslight you and tell you that they basically don’t care about what’s happening to those that look like you, essentially hiding their racism behind the word of God. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that in those same scriptures we’ve been commanded not to use the Lord’s name in vain, and to use His words to defend racist behavior is to do just that. Every life matters to the Lord, but He is also the same one that left the 99 to search for the one, and when the one is being targeted that is the one He is going after for a bit. It is a lie to use God’s words to malign people and their lived experiences.

I understand how hurtful it is to be called out for something that you thought was not a problem. Being an outspoken Nigerian-American brings a lot of opportunities for Black Americans to call you out when you misstep, and while it does initially hurt, it is a learning opportunity filled with a moment to reflect. So, while it is hurtful to be called out on your racist behavior, use it as an opportunity to do and be better so that people of color can exist and thrive safely in every space and system. It is a lie to tell someone they are the real racist just because you don’t like that they asked you to do and be better.

Law Enforcement Officers Lives Do Matter

I agree that the lives of our Law Enforcement Officers matter. They are humans with real families and worries, after all.

However, Law Enforcement Officers do need to be held accountable and do need to stop killing Black people frilly-nilly. The movement is about many things, one of them being the systems that are put in place in this country to purposely keep certain groups on a playing field that is not leveled nor equitable and shining a light on them. Also, to stop killing Black people.

A lot of people will say, “Look at this successful Black person, what hardships have they faced?” or another person with a lot of wealth may say, “White supremacy and racism doesn’t exist, look how well off I am and I am a Black person, no one helped me get here just work hard and you can be like me!”

Recognizing racist systems does not mean that no one of any other color has not faced hardships, it means that the system has worked and continues to work in the favor of the majority race in America and when that race thinks that they hold more power simply because it has always worked in their favor, then it becomes dangerous for the existence of minorities. Second point is that oftentimes even successful Black people had a mentor or someone somewhere that took a chance on them, without that chance the likelihood of them being where they are is very low.

I reflect on my own life and I can see it. Although I have experienced my own hardships, I can see the privileges I have been granted because someone with more privilege believed in me and took a chance on me. Does this mean I didn’t/don’t work hard, nope; it just means I didn’t do it all completely alone. When I get where I am aiming to be it doesn’t suddenly grant me the right to look down on other people that look like me and say that I am somehow better than them or that the injustices they face are not real. No, it is an opportunity for me to help them network and then it is up to them where they go from there, because I have been granted that privilege. Everyone has privilege, it’s what you do with it that matters.

So, some of my questions are: why does it take protesting and rioting to get any semblance of justice? Why is it that when Black people are murdered while unarmed their past is brought up as if that is to somehow justify them being killed? Why do Black mothers die at such disproportionate rates in the hands of our healthcare systems? Why are the 2nd Amendment people quiet when a Black man did use a gun to protect his home against intruders and was arrested for doing so while they murdered his sleeping wife?

Please educate yourself by reading the plethora of educational materials that people have researched and worked hard to make available, doing so will decrease the likelihood of you unintentionally or intentionally derailing what the conversation and movement is truly about. There is a lot we didn’t learn in school, unfortunately, because our education system is also built on systems that are intent on framing history to make it “easier” to digest. But the truth is that history is rarely easy to digest.