Commentary By Rev. Pervis Hall
Years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. raised the question “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?” Against a backdrop of the recent social unrest post the killing of George Perry Floyd; we still find ourselves living a similar experience as that of Dr. King, grappling with some of the same issues and wrestling with the same thought: Where do we go from here a half-century later?
The irony of our experience today is that we have a president that seems to be set to divide our country. Back in 2017, Donald Trump (whose administration threatens to dismantle all the progress made by those who champion civil rights for all) after taking office gifted Pope Francis a Dr. King book set, which included a copy of “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?” I wish he would have read it before gifting it because if he had, he would have learned that the social tensions that are prevalent in the protests around the country are the results of a failure to pursue justice for all. He would have learned that his “perceived riots” will continue regardless of his disapproval and/or repressive actions.
In effort to address Dr. King’s question in this cultural climate, I believe it is imperative that we recognize our worth as not only as sons and daughters of Africa. This is not to negate or invalidate our worth as children of God, but it is my opinion that to truly understand the value that God has attributed to us, we must marry it to the cultural heritage in which God purposefully caused us to be born into. And this is no easy task, for one whose historical-cultural context has been redefined by a Constitution that declared them 60% of a person in a land they helped build with 100% of free labor.
So, where do we go from here? We must first individually reclaim our value mentally, assert our dignity personally, affording us the ability to stand collectively with an irrefutable sense of worth. When we do this, we will be able to offset our own cultural homicide and rise like the fireweed that only blossoms after being severely burned.
The next challenge is to figure out how best to pool and organize our strengths to take advantage of our collective power and disrupt the status quo. Ossie Davis (when speaking about the negative synonyms associated with the word black) once suggested that the entire English language be reconstructed, so that teachers wouldn’t be forced to teach the Negro child sixty ways to despise himself, and thereby perpetuate his false sense of inferiority, and the white child 134 ways to adore himself, and thereby perpetuate his false sense of superiority. I echo the sentiments of Davis, because I believe that as we seek to move the needle of social change forward, we must begin the conversation by asking for things that almost seem insane. We must start by addressing the idea of completely restructuring the society we call America, giving all persons an equal share of the pie of prosperity.
Let me close by saying, Nicodemus (John Ch. 3) came to Jesus at night and asked Him; how can I be reborn when I am old? Nicodemus was well respected in his community with a lot of influence. But Nicodemus (well-respected as he was) understood that something was not right within himself but was too embarrassed to talk openly about his discomfort; so, he came to Jesus at night to get some insight into how to remake himself.
Well, America is a lot like Nicodemus, she knows something is not right within her. And as she looks around, she can see it getting darker and darker as social unrest and tensions begin to boil at a more rapid pace, but the question remains not only for us but for her too…. Where will America go from here? Will she seek to be remade? Or will she continue to live in her discomfort?
Where do we go from here? We’ve got to help America realize that it’s time for an Extreme MakeOver!!!
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