By John Whitehead
The Rutherford Institute
“Violence creates many more social problems than it solves…. If they succumb to the temptation of using violence in their struggle, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and our chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos. Violence isn’t the way.” — Martin Luther King Jr.
Marches, protests, boycotts, sit-ins: these are nonviolent tactics that work.
Looting, vandalism, the destruction of public property, intimidation tactics aimed at eliminating anything that might cause offense: these tactics of mobs and bullies may work in the short term, but they will only give rise to greater injustices in the long term.
George Floyd’s death sparked the flame of outrage over racial injustice and police brutality, but political correctness is creating a raging inferno that threatens to engulf the nation.
In Boston, racial justice activists beheaded a statue of Christopher Columbus. Protesters in Richmond, Va., used ropes to topple that city’s Columbus statue, spray-painted it, set it on fire and tossed it into a lake. Columbus’ crimes against indigenous peoples throughout the Americas are well known.
In San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, protesters tore down a statue of Francis Scott Key, who penned “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Key was also a slaveholding lawyer who tried to prosecute abolitionists vocally opposing slavery.
Activists who object to Yale University being named after its founder Elihu Yale, a slave trader, are lobbying to re-name the school.
Administrators at Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden, N.J. — named after the nation’s 28th president, who guided the nation through World War I while upholding segregation policies — are now looking for a new name.
The distributors of Aunt Jemima Pancake Syrup, Uncle Ben’s Rice and Mrs. Butterworth's Syrup have announced plans to re-brand and re-name their products in an effort to avoid perpetuating racist stereotypes.
Not to be outdone, Dreyer’s Ice Cream plans to retire the 99-year-old name for its Eskimo Pie frozen confections on a stick because “Eskimo” has been denounced as a racist nomenclature used by “colonizers to Arctic regions to refer to Inuit and Yupik people.”
Gone with the Wind, the Civil War epic that won 10 Academy Awards and has long been considered one of the greatest films of all times, was temporarily pulled from HBOMax’s streaming service in response to concerns that it depicts “ethnic and racial prejudices” that “were wrong then and are wrong today.”
What is the end sum of all these actions?
What started as a movement to denounce police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of killer cops has become a free-for-all campaign to rid the country of any monument, literal or figurative, to anyone who may have at any time in history expressed a racist thought, exhibited racist behavior, or existed within a racist society.
The police state has got us exactly where it wants us: distracted, distraught and divided.
While protesters topple statues of men with racist pasts who are long dead, unarmed Americans continue to be killed by militarized police trained to shoot first and ask questions later.
While activists use their collective might to pressure corporations to rebrand products in a more racially sensitive fashion, the American police state—aided and abetted by the Corporate State—continues to disproportionately target blacks, Hispanics and other minorities.
And while politically correct censorship is attempting to sanitize the public sphere of words and images that denigrate minorities, it is not doing anything to rid hearts and minds of racism.
What we need is more speech, more discourse, and a greater understanding of history and the evils perpetrated in the name of conquest, profit and racial supremacy. Because if we bury the mistakes of the past under a sanitized present, if we fail to at least provide context to the past, we risk allowing the government to repeat those past mistakes — rewritten for a new age — and no one will be the wiser.
Censoring speech — toppling monuments — kowtowing to political correctness — is not the answer to what ails this nation.
As long as we focus on words and ignore the systemic injustices that undergird the words, the disease will spread.
As long as we continue to allow the most controversial issues of our day to serve as battlegrounds for those who claim to believe in freedom of speech but only when it favors the views and positions they support, we will all eventually lose.
Silencing unpopular viewpoints with which the majority might disagree — whether it’s by shouting them down, censoring them, muzzling them, or criminalizing them — only empowers the controllers of the Deep State.
As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the police state could not ask for a better citizenry than one that carries out its own censorship.
So what we can do to end racial inequality, police brutality, and systemic injustice that does not involve sacrificing free speech on the altar of political correctness or adopting violent tactics?
Stop tiptoeing around, easily offended or afraid to cause offense. Stop allowing the government and its architects to micromanage your life and curtail your freedoms. Stop being a pawn in someone else’s game.
Find your own voice. Give voice to your own outrage. Speak truth to power nonviolently. And throughout it all, love your enemies and put that love into action.
That last point, to love your enemies, is the hardest of all, yet it was the principle that Jesus Christ spoke of most often.
This principle was also at the core of Martin Luther King Jr.’s efforts to combat racism and injustice. In fact, King delivered an entire sermon on what it means to love one’s enemies even when they continue to wrong you. Mind you, this was a man who, despite having faced down water cannons, police dogs and police brutality, intimidation and prejudice and assassination attempts, still insisted that “mass non-violent resistance based on the principle of love” was his best weapon.
The first step in loving one’s enemies, says King, is to discover the element of good in them.
Second, focus on defeating evil systems, rather than vanquishing individuals caught up in an evil system
Third, cut off the chain of hate and the chain of evil in the universe with love. “Men must see that force begets force, hate begets hate, toughness begets toughness. And it is all a descending spiral, ultimately ending in destruction for all and everybody.”
Fourth, use love to redeem and transform those who would do you harm.
Lastly, don’t resort to violence.
Editor’s Note: John Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law, human rights and popular culture. The Rutherford Institute has emerged as a prominent leader in the national dialogue on civil liberties and human rights and a formidable champion of the Constitution. Whitehead serves as the Institute’s president and spokesperson. John Whiteheads commentary are his view and he is open for discussion, he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.