Archive for January, 2015

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Every year that our nation observes Martin Luther King, Jr., I take a few moments to look back at history and how it has affected both my life and the society in which I live. I look at all the changes brought on by society, small groups of people and individuals, and even to this day MLK still stands out as one of the most courageous and accomplished social movement figures in history. In the 21st Century as the millennial generation attempts to take the helm in continuing social change (and there is still much to be done), social movement groups have sprung up around the world, embracing social media, technology, and sometimes violent tactics. However, it is my opinion that the millennial generation is not living up to its potential in changing society.  They have become too compromised by fear and conformity to the norm to do some of the things that their ancestors did in the Civil Rights Movement. While it seems that the millennial generation has hit a standstill when it comes to social change, millennials of all groups can still learn from some of MLK’s tactics and principles to positively affect change in society. Even with the shortcuts of smartphones and social media, these concepts that MLK embraced have the power to make modern methods even more powerful.

Risk is Necessary

MLK took risks, sometimes dangerous ones, in order to communicate and teach the world about equality and the civil rights movement. He spoke things that he believed firmly in, even if a majority of people did not agree with him. His words provoked insults and even death threats from people around the country, while gaining the support from other people who believed in his struggle. He stood bravely in the face of hostility, risking his life time and time again.  As a result of his courage, he was jailed 20 times and had his house bombed. Yet, at the same time he earned recognition from world leaders and created awareness for equality. These kinds of risks are rarely taken by millennials in modern social movements due to the fear that the will be unemployable, socially rejected or chastised across the internet. But above all, it is fear itself that is preventing millennials from breaking ground in society. If the current generation never takes risks, they won’t know what they won’t know.

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Think outside the box

Throughout the civil rights movement, MLK led a number of demonstrations using tactics that very few others before him had ever tried or dared to do. The bus boycotts in Montgomery, the sit-ins at whites only restaurants, breaking laws that were unconstitutional – all of these tactics were actively utilized by MLK and his network of civil rights supporters to get people’s attention and to fundamentally demonstrate the injustice and unconstitutionality of the segregated society so many people experienced in the South. These same tactics can be employed on a global scale by the millennial generation. With the tools of Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and other social media networks, millennials can broadcast their demonstrations and gain attention and support worldwide.

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Nonviolence wins over violence

Too often in this day and age, young people resort to violence as a just reaction to injustice in this world. The demonstrations by Occupy and other modern civil rights groups have often turned violent tactics that not only make themselves look ignorant but also destroy existing communities. MLK did not do this – his tactics and strategies embraced nonviolence as a fundamental quality to truly create change. Some of his most effective non-violent methods were his public speeches.  Methods of civil disobedience serve to benefit social movement groups in a number of ways. Besides gaining initial attention, they demonstrate the group as intelligent and respectable, as well as keep the group protected under law. Millennials can embrace this same concept by exercising patience and channeling anger or rage into something constructive. Rather than set fire to cars and buildings, attempt to hold a social forum or march alongside police and authority figures who support your cause. The fruits of these methods could result in partnership on multiple fronts.

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Use your enemy’s words against him

MLK faced opposition without a doubt. He was the target of some of the most hateful speech ever spoken by mankind. However, MLK didn’t let such words stop him in his path to equality. Rather, he knew how to use the words of his enemies as tools to strengthen the civil rights movement and bring discredit upon the opposition. He exercised this very well in bringing down Bull Connor, the Commissioner of Public Safety in Birmingham, Alabama. Connor stood firmly against the civil rights movement, aggressively supporting segregation and vowing to destroy any civil disobedience in Alabama. Instead of attacking Connor, MLK used such speech to publicize the hostility that people in the South faced in the name of public office. He exploited not only Connor’s words but the actions of police for the nation to see, including John F. Kennedy. The result was a call for nationwide support to end segregation in Alabama and the South, as well as the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Millennials can surely do the same in modern times. Just think of all the public figures that speak openly against any social issues. Millennials have YouTube accounts; they can broadcast words and actions across the electromagnetic spectrum for the world to see.

All faith is fundamentally the same

MLK was deeply religious and he kept his faith as a major influence in his struggle for civil rights. Although he was a Christian, he read the teaching of Ghandi and leaders of other religions to understand their stories of struggle towards making the world a better place. He even traveled to India to witness Ghandi’s civil rights work firsthand. Through his studies, MLK learned that not did these religions teach nonviolence as a means of change, but also that the general idea of faith and believing in the human race is key to bringing about equality. In the 21st Century, society has taken to an idea that religion should be completely separated from all public aspects of life. Religion has been rejected by millennials in general, either due to political correctness or the idea that major churches are corrupt. However, what millennials must remember is that faith exists beyond religion. Faith encompasses the emotions and feelings of people that logic and rationality cannot explain. Faith is something that must be reached within people on a higher level than facts and numbers. Faith and spirituality, when channeled the right way, have the power to move mountains. If millennials can grasp how faith still guides so many people, they can embrace it the same way that MLK once did.

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