Scroll through social media, and you will be sure to find a million photos of Martin Luther King Jr, dressed up, holding hands with other Black Americans in gorgeous black and white photos. Above or below, Im sure you’ve seen captions that echo the sentiment: This is how protesting is done the correct way.
When I have posted support of the rebellion, I’ve personally received plenty of challenges like, “What would MLK do?”
Both types of posts serve to imply that there are easy answers to this present moment in history.
But I want to encourage us to Trouble The Narrative. It’s time for you to move beyond simplistic, convenient narratives and wrestle with complexity and nuance.
It’s easy to believe that the 1960s had only one leader, MLK, and that he led the perfect protests and that those protests are what led to change. As much as I honor King, that is entirely ahistorical. The 60s were filled with protests like King’s but also rebellions (riots) like the ones we’ve seen over the last few years. Both forms of protest put pressure on politicians. Both forms of protest were covered by media. Both forms of protest were in a tug and pull with one another. Both forms of protest were met with violence. Both forms of protest have always existed- together, in one exhale of the Black community’s breath. To wade into this conversation is to understand that you are entering a decades old conversation- a conversation happening even then with people committed to justice arguing for, against, changing their position and starting again.
It is, quite frankly, lazy to accept child-like answers to questions like “what would King say?” Or “what would Jesus do?” Or “but isn’t violence always wrong?” Or “does the gospel have anything to do with race?” Or “but aren’t we all just human?” Or “but why can’t they just xyz?”
TROUBLE THE NARRATIVE.
Martin Luther King Jr was human- growing, learning constantly. And since MLK was assassinated we have no idea what he would think about the fact that cops are still killing Black civilians in 2020. Trouble the narrative.
Jesus held a one man riot over capitalism in the temple, but you think he’d be calm about George Floyd? Trouble the narrative.
You find violence intolerable when it’s poor Black folks, but not when it’s white folks after a football game? Not when it’s America’s wars? Not when it’s stand your ground? Not when it’s ICE or patrols at the border? Trouble the narrative.
History. Scripture. Social Revolutions. Black Struggle. None of these can be boiled down into one convenient sentence. It’s condescending, lazy, and uneducated. It’s thoughtless. And thoughtless isn’t what we need right now.
Trouble the narratives of white supremacy and anti-blackness. Or else we will keep repeating this cycle.
*and yes. I am definitely thinking trouble the narrative is going to be my next tattoo.*