During the Civil Rights Movement black were exemplars of moral courage. With both extraordinary determination and equally extraordinary self-command, blacks of the South engaged in non-violent marches and sit-ins against racial discrimination.
It would have been very easy for those blacks to come up with excuses for not participating in the Civil Rights demonstrations. And it would have been perfectly understandable if violence on their part had characterized the marches. Of course, in either case, there would have been little, if any, admiration and appreciation for blacks. Indeed, such behavior would have been in keeping with the racist view of blacks as an unruly and uncouth people. Most fortunately, black majestically gained the respect of whites who never imagined themselves respecting blacks. No other living creature on the face of the earth is capable of exhibiting genuine self-command except human beings. And a most profound truth is that the Civil Rights Movements mightily underwrote the humanity of black people.
A most poignant reality is that there has never been another instance of courage on the part of blacks as a people that comes even remotely close to the courage that was displayed during the Civil Rights Movement.
As, of course, everyone knows: Martin Luther King, Jr. was the leader of blacks during the Civil Rights Movement. And to this day, I am in awe of his insight with respect to how blacks must present themselves during the Civil Rights Movement. He brilliantly grasped that even members of the KKK would be primarily kept at bay if blacks engaged in non-violent protests.
Looking back and reflecting upon the Civil Rights Movement, it was clearly aimed at touching the very fabric of moral decency. For it was next to impossible not to see the majesty, dignity, and courage of blacks who engaged in such marches. In the language of the great philosopher and economist Adam Smith (1723-1790: The extraordinary self-command of blacks was so manifestly evident. And only human beings are capable of such breathtaking self-command.
So there is a very straightforward sense in which the very behavior of blacks during the Civil Rights Movement mightily underwrote the humanity of blacks. For racist whites would never have supposed that blacks were capable of such masterful self-command. Even those who routinely referred to blacks as “niggers” had to concede that blacks displayed during Civil Rights marches a strength of character that can only be attributed to human beings.
I am the beneficiary of the Civil Rights Movement. And that is why I place so very much importance to self-command. For the exercise of self-command is a most profound affirmation of an agent’s humanity. My own view is that owing to the Civil Rights Movement, being superb with regard to having self-command ought to have become one of the most defining and marvelous features of blacks.
Ironically, the recent rioting in Baltimore serves to very much support the view that I am advancing. For the truth be told is that blacks did an enormous amount of damage to their very own community. But what a difference, the blacks of Baltimore would have made if they had marched with grace and majesty. They would have commanded the respect of countless many people—and not just white liberals who trip over themselves either approving or excusing whatever blacks do. Indeed, just as it is clear that one does not take a person seriously if one disapproves of whatever she does, no matter how excellent her behavior might be, it is equally the case that one does not take a person seriously if one approves of whatever the person might do, no matter how inappropriate and unsuitable the person’s behavior might be.
To conclude on a personal note: I am where I am in life because I am the beneficiary of truly marvelous constructive criticism. The reason why my white professors corrected me is not that they took me to be an intellectually inferior black person. Rather, they did so because very much believed in me. And it is preciously because it was manifestly clear that they believed in me that I came to be the unmistakable author of my own life.
There is a profound difference between obsequious respect, as I shall say, and morally admirable respect. Morally admirable respect is what the participants of the Civil Rights marches majestically gained. Are blacks gaining morally admirable respect nowadays when they protest and destroy parts of their very own community? I will let you, the reader, decide what the answer to that question might be.
© 2015 Laurence Thomas