Isaiah 42:3 “A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench; He will bring forth justice and truth.”
What is one of if not the greatest moral accomplishment in the history of Western civilization? Dr. Shelby Steele, a Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institute who specializes in race relations, multiculturalism, and affirmative action, recently shared his view during a Hoover Institute briefing.
“What other group in history has survived what we have been through for over 400 years? Black Americans have a history of greater suffering, and overcoming that suffering, then any other group in American history. They were put through a test that no other group in America was put through, and they won. And for that, they have earned a greatness. I am talking to people that have truly achieve greatness, that have transformed the moral character of the entire Western civilization. They have taken the idea of freedom past the idea of race. Black Americans have done this. We have achieved this through a moral witness.”
This Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a celebration of the leader who through his moral witness led America to not only understand and acknowledge their sin of racism, but to do something about it.
Dr. Steele explains: “One thing that strikes me about today’s protests is that seem to be a kind of mimicry of past protests. They do not have issues they are protesting with the gravity that we had back in the 50’s and 60’s, when we were building up momentum for the Civil Rights Bill of 1964, one of the greatest pieces of legislation ever written. Because of the moral witness of Dr. King and others, America apologized for their racism by publicly acknowledging we were wrong and making a promise to never do that again.”
Dr. Steele gives a second reason for why today’s protests are so ineffective: “Today’s protests are quick to go to violence. We were not back in those days. Martin Luther King, James Farmer – they were assiduous, non-violent, peaceful leaders whose protests were about a moral witness. They wore suits and ties. They marched with dignity. If there was any hint that you were even rude to others, you were kicked out of the march. Dignity was the framework. They gave America a moral witness that was profoundly effective to everyone watching. It changed the way America thought about race relations.
The effectiveness of a moral witness during extreme suffering and persecution is one of the many evidences in life for the truth of the Christian worldview. The entire history behind the life of its founder, Jesus Christ, is to love your neighbor by never returning evil when evil is done to you. Changing the hearts and minds of your enemies is through a moral witness of love and grace while seeking truth and justice.
In our verse this week, Isaiah gives a prophetic picture of Christ in 730BC, showing His way of ushering in God’s grace and love towards sinful mankind will be with gentleness and dignity while speaking truth.
Jesus explains this clearly in His Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44).
By following Christ’s teaching in protesting racial injustice, Dr. King changed the hearts and minds of Americans. Dr. Steele explains: In the ‘60’s, their protest was a moral statement that we as Americans need to move beyond race as a means to power. The people who carried this off met that moral challenge with silent witness. I remember my own father in a park in Chicago with us, as he carried a sign calling for racial equality. A white man came up to him and punched him in the jaw. My dad looked the white man in the eye. He was mortified at punching my dad. He apologized to my dad for what he had done.”
Dr. Steele, as both a nationally recognized expert on race relations and a witness to the courage and moral strength of people like Dr. King and James Farmer, has a message for America: “I do not think today’s protestors understand. They are trying to use race as a ‘noble war’ in which they can engage, but they are not going to find it. It is a totally different day. Things have changed. We have won.
There is real opportunity and possibility in American life if you are black. It is not like when I was young. Today that racism is not noticeable. The opportunities are so prolific in American life that many young blacks are waking up to now see themselves as Americans, period. They no longer are focusing on race.The real problem to face up to is this: what do you do when you win? Black America has won.”