November 28, 2014

The Struggle for Civil Rights: The Real Jihad

".... For many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today,
 have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny.
 And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom".
                                                                                                Martin Luther King Jr. 1963

The unrest in Ferguson, USA has stirred up protests across that country and in Canada too. In Toronto, however, it was reported that the white folk in the crowd were literally asked to stand at the back and to let the black protesters take up the limelight in the media. I wonder what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have to say about that tactic.

Some of the younger activists believe the ways of people like King and others from the 1960's are not relevant in this day and age. They are disappointed with the results of the old-timers' efforts. It seems like it is the same old, same old: black lives are disposable. Social change has been so incremental that it is almost imperceptible to some.

It is true that change has been slow to come. However, there have been changes since the days of the flower children. The technological advancements alone are staggering. But, what is more important is the information we have gained about the human condition. Our genetic studies, neuroscience and primatology all point to our species' evolutionary ties to the other primates. We now have a much better understanding of how our bestial origins play a major role in shaping our thoughts, actions and even our racism. 

Humans, like chimps and gorillas, are wired up to protect themselves from perceived threats. And, just like other primates, our territorial imperatives have us viewing those outside of our own clan, tribe or species with suspicion. Herein lies the deep roots of our racism.

Our animal origins, then, have had us battling all kinds of wars with each other. If it is not the whites lynching the blacks, it's the blacks lynching the gays. It is the Greeks despising the Armenians and the Chinese wanting to snuff out the Tibetans. All over the planet we humans have used one excuse after another to justify what is basically our animal inclinations. It is in this sense then, that the civil rights movement really is about the struggle to further emancipate our species from its bestial nature. 

So, Dr. King had it right all along. The destiny of the white folk in our species is intricately tied up with that of the black folk; and for that matter, with the destiny of every race on the planet.  As the activists go about doing their "holy" work, let their ways be guided by this truth.

Faithfully yours,

Sheila Banks


                                                                            Pic: Dr. King marching with white folks
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