By Herb Boyd —
There is the imminent convergence of two very interesting dates: On Jan. 15th the nation celebrates the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and five days later Donald Trump is inaugurated as America’s 45th president.
Given the proximity of these developments, one wonders how Dr. King would feel about Trump’s ascendance and what reservations he would have about the new administration and its impact of Black Americans in particular.
If the concerns from some sectors of the community are warranted, then Trump’s arrival has every aspect of racism, discrimination, and incipient fascism. Dr. King sacrificed his life to eradicate racism and discrimination, and though he never addressed fascism directly there on several occasion he intimated his resistance to any of its manifestations.
In 1961, during an address to the annual meeting of Members of the Fellowship of the Concerned, of the Southern Regional Council, Dr. King began by recalling the courage and civil disobedience of early Christians in defying the draconian laws of the Roman Empire. “They were willing to face all kinds of suffering in order to stand for what they knew was right even though they knew it was against the laws of the Roman Empire,” he said.
“We could come up to our own day and we see it in many instances,” he continued. “We must never forget that everything that Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal.’ It was illegal to aid and comfort a Jew…But I believe that if I had the same attitude then as I have now I would publicly aid and comfort my Jewish brothers in Germany if Hitler were alive today calling this an illegal process.”
This same message resonated in many of Dr. King’s sermons, including one he delivered two years later from the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church, his home church in Atlanta. On this occasion his theme was the dangers of softmindedness. “Dictators, capitalizing on softmindedness, have led men to acts of barbarity and terror that are unthinkable in civilized society,” he preached. “Adolf Hitler realized that softmindedness was so prevalent among his followers that he said, ‘I use emotion for the many and reserve reason for the few.’
“In Mein Kampf,” Dr. King said Hitler asserted, “’By means of shrewd lies, unremittingly repeated, it is possible to make people believe that heaven is hell—and hell, heaven….The greater the lie, the more readily it will be believed.’”
Softmindedness, Dr. King explained, is that tendency to embrace propaganda, superstitions, to accept a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Moreover, he added, softmindedness is “one of the basic causes of race prejudice.” Toughmindedness, Dr. King inferred, is one solution to softmindedness. This disposition, he said, is wedded with nonviolent resistance and combines with “tenderheartedness and avoids the complacency and do-nothingness of the softminded and the violence and bitterness of the hardhearted.”
“My belief,” Dr. King concluded, “is that this method must guide our action in the present crisis in race relations. Through nonviolent resistance we shall be able to oppose the unjust system and at the same time love the perpetrators of the system. We must work passionately and unrelentingly for full stature as citizens, but may it never be said, my friends, that to gain it we used the inferior methods of falsehood, malice, hate, and violence.”
In the coming days, if not weeks and months, we shall see the extent to which Dr. King’s admonitions become a reality. There are those assembling now in the nation’s capital and around the world who are not at all softminded and prepared to express some tough love to the incoming Trump regime.