Books and Breakfast: Why We Can’t Wait

On Saturday, February 11, 2017, another Books and Breakfast took place at the Martin Luther King Community Center and the discussion was hosted by Dr. Terri Jett, Associate Professor of the Political Science department at Butler University. The book that was read for this session was Why We Can’t Wait by Martin Luther King Jr., and the specific excerpt chosen from the book was Dr. King’s famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Overall, there was a good turnout of individuals from both the Butler and Indianapolis community, and the conversation that developed was highly engaging and constructive.

The question used to kick start the discussion was regarding Martin Luther King’s argument that we need to be looking past the effects and addressing the causes when creating and participating in movements for change. Bringing contemporary movements like the Black Lives Matter or pro-Trump rallies into the conversation, the question was asked, how can King’s argument be used to look past the effect and help us work together to resolve the causes of injustices we face today. Several reasons why this effort to understand each other and work together is not happening enough were suggested: including the ideas that the majority within society fears losing their power and privilege, and that there is an overriding “us versus them” mentality. Particularly in the cases of impoverished white communities, individuals feel that their problems are being ignored and that leaders like Donald Trump have the most empowering solutions. Another constant issue separating the communities of this country is scapegoating; minorities or groups that are “other” are being blamed for problems that the dominating oppressive group actually caused. One positive note was brought up that the Trump administration has drawn more people out to learn about and fight against issues like systemic racism.

The conversation then moved into the role of the youth within a successful movement, as King placed great emphasis on empowering the youth. Attendees debated whether today’s youth are more or less passionate than past generations. Other people in the discussion thought that there is an intergenerational gap between older activist generations and younger ones about the strongest way to protest. A couple individuals from the older generation felt they had not “passed the torch along” correctly to new activists, or learned to help provide more empowering spaces where youth will feel they are safe to be completely honest about issues like race relations. Some suggested this is something that should be happening with the youth from a very young age on up.

The discussion also examined the importance of individuals like King or Malcolm X, and the reality that although they were certainly exceptional leaders, it was not they alone who ultimately earned victories. It was a movement of many individuals who each made unique contributions and sacrifices that created progress.

Recent rallies such as the one held at the Indianapolis International Airport were also mentioned, and some attendees criticized how patriotic it was. Participants proposed that maybe a more moderate form of nationalism is not necessarily the best way to combat extreme nationalism. Furthermore, individuals from the marginalized communities themselves need to be given more room to lead and determine how a rally should look. As an example of this need for better inclusion, someone made a final point about how the feminine must be given far more respect and opportunities to be actively at the table where decisions are being made. Throughout this Books and Breakfast, Dr. King’s writings proved a powerful impetus to discussing the causes of injustices faced today and how we can best organize to fight those injustices.

By: Annika London

Partners: Butler University Political Science Department, Martin Luther King Community Center

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