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An Interview with Dr. Alveda King: A Message of Peace and Fear

A Message of Peace and Hope in a Time of Chaos and Fear - Dr. Alveda King Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

One only has to turn on her television set, listen to the radio, peruse social media, or even step outside her front door to be witness to the winds of change sweeping through the nation. Of course, with that wind we have also seen chaos and upheaval grip much of our nation as well. Following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, many have taken the opportunity to speak out against the inequality faced by people of color in our nation. And while this is a wonderful thing to do, others have used this platform to preach change through any means available, including violence. As Christians, what are we supposed to do? How are we supposed to react? How can we help implement change and civil discourse and yet dissuade those using violence?

A Message of Peace and Hope in a Time of Chaos and Fear - Dr. Alveda King Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

I was blessed to speak with pro-life leader and civil rights activist Dr. Alveda King, niece of the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In a candid interview, we discussed the state of our country as well as what we, as Christians, can do to help our nation move forward.  In the eyes of many, the two of us are vastly different- she is an African American from a well-known family, engaged in activism since she was born. She served in the Georgia House of Representatives and has written numerous books. She is well-known, often giving interviews for news stations and other media. She has faced challenges that I will never face. She has lived a life that I cannot imagine.

A Message of Peace and Hope in a Time of Chaos and Fear - Dr. Alveda King Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

I, on the other hand, am a white woman who was born after the civil rights movement and grew up never truly knowing what it was like not to love everyone I met. Schools were not segregated, I had friends of every color and nationality, and I was never taught to hate those who are different from me. I am married to a police officer, who was raised the same, and together we have raised our children to also love everyone they meet. I am a homemaker and homeschooling parent. I practice what I preach and volunteer in many ways to help our community thrive and uplift those who need to be uplifted. I am currently the youth minister at my parish and I would venture to say my name is not known outside of my own little world. We have faced intense hate because of my husband’s chosen profession and for our faith, but our experiences are not the same.

In most people eyes, we are more different than alike… but as Dr. King points out, speaking sister to sister, we aren’t different, we are the same and this is the message we all need to hear but that we often fail to hear.

Beginning a Conversation of Peace

Opening our conversation, I asked Dr. King about her feelings regarding George Floyd, the police, the protests, and ultimately the riots. She began, “We are having this conversation in June of 2020. This particular year there is a new election, we will be reelecting our president I believe and some others will be elected; Covid 19 has just rocked America and the world. This is not new… elections are not new, pandemics are not new; and neither is the violence we are experiencing from the death of George Floyd- a man who was killed from a knee on his neck-of course him being African American and the officer being Caucasian.” Expanding on the public’s vastly different reactions to officer involved arrests by white officers versus black officers, she continued, “So we’re down to the argument of skin color, over and over again. That has happened throughout creation since the fall of humanity. People fight about skin color, class, who’s rich, who’s poor, who’s young, who’s old, and all types of things. The answer, the cure, of course, is always- come to the Lord and seek the Lord. And treat each other, regardless of skin color and socioeconomic conditions- treat each other as humans…”

This is where we most often fail. We only see a black man or a white officer. We fail to see that God has created us each in His image and likeness. We fail to see the inherent dignity in one another. Instead, we focus on skin color, wealth, social standing, age, and a myriad of other qualifiers that don’t necessary qualify but instead divide. And we are all guilty of this regardless of our color, status, pocketbook, etc. As humans, because we are sinful, because have experienced the fall, it is difficult for us to see each other through God’s eyes.

Dr. King quoted Acts 17:26, “He made from one the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the earth, and He fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their region” several times throughout our conversation. She lamented, “I was taught by my father, Reverend A.D. King, my mother Naomi King who is still living, my granddaddy Daddy King, Mama King his wife, and my uncle Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that Acts 17:26 “of one blood” means that we have to get along. Martin Luther King Jr said we must learn to live together as brothers and sisters or perish together as fools. We’re not separate races.” She continued, “God created all people…. Our blood is red, our skin color- we can see it. We have to see it or we are colorblind.  It’s a sin to differentiate people by skin color or money or any of the human conditions that we have. The human race has been in the condition of being a fallen group of people in a fallen world. The answer to that is always Jesus Christ. So sin is sin. It is a sin to see our brothers and sisters as other races when we are all of one race- the human race. It is sin to say “my race needs to get along with your race” because there is one race. So, the issue of racism, socially engineered to divide us, is sinful.”

Unfortunately there are those who do not wish to see the world as one race. They hope to keep us separated. How are we to react then to those who wish to keep dividing us? Dr. King, like Martin Luther King Jr and her own father A.D. King, advocates peace. Communication is the key- truly listening to one another and then actively working with one another. But what about those who say that no one is listening and so violence is the only thing that will open the government’s and people’s eyes? When asked about the response of some justifying rioting and other violence she said that people are taking MLK Jr’s quote about “rioting is the language of the unheard” out of context. She states, “Martin Luther King Jr, in that same speech when he was speaking on riots and violence, went on to say that all violence is immoral and doesn’t make sense… we need to be heard, but not with violence. We have to quickly continue to say “we hear you” and now that we hear you, let us communicate in a peaceful, sensible manner. And so we have to NOT be violent and but to work together and learn to live together as brothers and sisters and not perish together as fools- because John 3:16 “for God so love the world…” God’s not colorblind, God’s colors are magnificent!”

Working for Peace

Peace is the key. But how do we teach peace? How do our religious communities take the lead? Dr. King emphatically states, “The leaders of all faiths who acknowledge that there is a God in heaven, need to come together to teach people not to be fearful and tearful and to not panic, but to have faith to pray… to pray instead of panic and to have faith instead of fear. And as leaders do that, (and every person is the leader of him or herself and if he’s not, he’s in serious bondage)- leaders of your homes, your churches, your communities, your work, our governments- all leaders should be encouraging and not stirring up fear.”

Don’t incite fear. Don’t encourage violence. Don’t panic. Instead, pray, have faith, work alongside one another to bring about true change. Encourage one another. Simple but powerful lessons for us all.

As a mother and a youth minister I was particularly interested in what we can do to help raise the next generation to avoid the mistakes of the past and to repair the damage that the past has inflicted. Dr. King spoke eloquently when she said, “Remind these young people of their purpose and their destiny- that they have a voice and their voice comes from God; they have breath that comes from God. And even though George Floyd’s voice had been taken from him, they still have their voices and can raise them for good and unity. We have to teach our young people about God- not to fear, not to panic, but to love and to communicate, to talk… use our breath that God gives us to speak truth.”

This, of course, is not just a message for the white community, but instead for all of us. If we are truly one human race then we must all reach out to one another speaking the words of truth in love… without fear, without panic, but instead with Christ guiding our words and actions.

Conquering Sin Together

As Dr. King and I ended our conversation, I asked her if she could relay one last message to the people reading, a message that she believes God wants all of us to hear, what would it be? She responded with so much love when she said, “The Lord has said in the book of Luke, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me to set the captives free”- the little babies in the womb are captives, people in jail unjustly are captive, God wants this to be a time of repentance and to understand that we are all of one human race. We need to come back to God and God will help us solve these issues together.”  With God’s help, we can be the instruments to set the captives free.

What has happened to George Floyd is unquestionably wrong and horrifying. For any person to be treated as he was can’t be justified. It has shaken us all to our core. It has been a catalyst for change (and thankfully so!).  But as Dr. King agreed, this isn’t just a police officer problem; this isn’t just a black vs white problem; this isn’t just an American problem… this is a worldwide problem. It is a problem with sin. It is a problem with the condition of our hearts. Conquer sin and we will conquer racism and every other ailment of the heart and soul. But we cannot do this without God and we cannot do this without one another.

If you would like to visit Dr. Alveda King at her website you can find it here. Additionally, she works with Priests for Life as their Executive Director of their Civil Rights for the Unborn outreach program.

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The One Thing You CAN Do To Dismantle Racism

The One Thing You CAN Do To Dismantle Racism

You’ll be surprised to learn that the one thing you can do to end racism is simple. Surprisingly simple. SHOCKINGLY simple, I would even wager.

I have some other earth-shattering news, too. Systemic racism isn’t defeated with causes or marches or protests (only) or campaigns or even hashtags and black squares, even IF those things are good in and of themselves. It will be defeated by one thing we can all do, but can’t execute perfectly.

THE ONE THING

Are you ready? The one thing that can be done to end racism starts with what YOU can do. 

Be Kind To Others.

That’s it. It’s not a flashy concept or movement or hashtag campaign. It’s a direct command from Jesus himself – John 13:34. The solution is simple, but the execution is difficult, so I’m going to pad the ONE THING with some things we can all do to better execute a shift in mindset.

WHY IT’S DIFFICULT TO EXECUTE

I could bore you with some diatribe about the following: people – collectively speaking – can’t execute this idea of kindness well at all or we would have had world peace ages ago. We’re sinful, mired by our sinful indulgences and lifestyles. Often we can’t see beyond the end of our noses and empathy is something we often struggle with.

We can’t put ourselves in others’ shoes if we won’t make the effort to get out of our own shoes.

IT’S A LOT LIKE PRAYER

People sometimes struggle with prayer life because it’s at perpetual odds with the culture and world we live in. We look to results to determine our actions. We are goals and results driven people. If we can’t at least see some results to bolster us in our pursuits, we may end up quitting. The basis for this seems reasonable. Why put effort into good practices if we have no tangible results?

It’s simple. Because doing good for its own sake should be its own reward. But like I said, we’re fallen and that clouds our ability to do what is right at every turn.

WAYS TO KEEP UP THE GOOD FIGHT

First, we need to cultivate an attitude that embraces others in healthy ways. Please note, I am not saying we should blindly accept others’ sinful actions or lifestyle choices. And I know some/many of us come from deeply damaged backgrounds and upbringings that it’s hard to see the good in others…heck, sometimes it’s hard to see the goodness in our own selves and that’s a topic that’s worth writing about all on its own.

START WITH THE FAITH

If we look to the CCC (Catechism of the Catholic Church), we can see how it expands upon our inherent dignity as children of God.

MAN’S VOCATION LIFE IN THE SPIRIT

CHAPTER ONE 

THE DIGNITY OF THE HUMAN PERSON 

1700 The dignity of the human person is rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God (article 1); it is fulfilled in his vocation to divine beatitude (article 2). It is essential to a human being freely to direct himself to this fulfillment (article 3). By his deliberate actions (article 4), the human person does, or does not, conform to the good promised by God and attested by moral conscience (article 5). Human beings make their own contribution to their interior growth; they make their whole sentient and spiritual lives into means of this growth (article 6). With the help of grace they grow in virtue (article 7), avoid sin, and if they sin they entrust themselves as did the prodigal son1 to the mercy of our Father in heaven (article 8). In this way they attain to the perfection of charity. 1 Lk 15:11-32

WAYS TO PRACTICE BEING KIND

Questions we can ask ourselves and things we can think about to see if we are practicing the ability to be kind.

  1. SELF. Start with yourself. Are you kind to yourself? It’s hard to extend kindness to others when we don’t like ourselves.
  2. FAMILY. How about our closest relationships? For many of us, this means our nuclear family: spouse and children. How do we treat our spouse? Our children? Are we modeling the virtues we want to see in the world?
  3. THINK. Before you say something to anyone, use the THINK model – is it True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary, and finally, Kind?
  4. CULTIVATE. Conversations are a great way to root out issues and change behaviors, habits, and attitudes that have overstayed their welcome. 
  5. SOCIAL MEDIA. Anger has a way of manifesting itself in some volatile ways, one of which is harboring and feeding frustrations until they bubble up into anger, and sometimes rage. Anger comes in the form of sarcasm, too. If you feel yourself making increasingly negative blanket statements against people or groups of people, step away from the keyboard. For more tips on social media, I invite you to read an article I wrote some years ago on the subject. 
  6. INFLUENCERS. If you are someone for whom you are blessed to have a platform and followers who you respect, use your voice responsibly. Take great care in the way you engage, what you write, and even what you allow to be posted to your accounts. At no time are we ever required to put up with any behavior that ridicules, mocks, or even lacks basic courtesy. There was a time when folks believed (myself included) that commenters had the right to say what they wanted under the guise of free speech. While this is true where it applies to our rights as Americans, I urge you to think of your platform as your living room. People can disagree and vigorously so, but when the arguments become ad hominem (meaning the argument itself is not attacked, but the character of the person saying it) or destructive, your platform can become an occasion of (if not an outright) sin. Set the bar high. Tell fans and lookie loos that basic Christian charity is to be extended towards one another and if someone fails to follow that simple request, you should hide the comment, delete the comment, and/or ban the follower should it come to that.

These may seem like such hokey (ok, whatever) ways to live kindness, but let me put it to you this way. Peace and love towards self and others? It’s not a hippie concept, friends. This is what Christ calls us to for ourselves and to others. No exceptions.

I TRY BUT I CAN’T BE KIND – IT’S HARD

If this is how you are feeling, listen to that voice.

Disconnect from the things that are aggravators. If you don’t know what that is, pay attention to triggers that set you off.

Try journaling instead of commenting online.

Hold your tongue. Social media has conditioned us to think we should say and share all the things. I’m telling you it’s ok to hang onto those thoughts if it’s going to cause harm or division or hurt.

LASTLY

I just want to tell you if you are someone who has had to step away from social media or taken flack from those who call you friends for not speaking up for injustices because your heart is too filled with grief, anxiety, sadness, or massive stress over the growing tensions, I want to say I hear and see you. You are NOT bad, uncaring, racist, or otherwise. Self preservation is a real thing and we all have our limits. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for your actions.

In fact, in the spirit of kindness, we should be assuming the best in others, especially friends (hello, that’s why we became friends to begin with!) and showing tenderness to each other when words defy us.

Undoing systemic racism isn’t going to happen overnight, but just like prayer we won’t always see the effects. It doesn’t mean it isn’t happening or that our efforts aren’t building a culture of respect and love for others. Think of it as building a cathedral. Cathedrals took sometimes hundreds of years to build. And most times the architect didn’t even see the completion in his lifetime. But here’s the thing, we have to do the things that build the foundation. For some of us, we are blessed to be building upon something our ancestors left us. For others, we are making the decision today to end the racism that took root in our families. You are foundational and God bless you for making the decision to change the mindset of your family.

Remember…we are the Body of Christ.