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Community Notes: The Silence of good people — Words of wisdom from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

By Phillip J. Knighten, Charles City Councilman

We are living in a time of great unrest in our country, with great divide among the American people on several fronts.

We have a severe pandemic bearing down on our wellbeing both physically and mentally. Evidence of racial and socioeconomic division hasn’t been more apparent since the days of the civil rights movement. And there sits Politics, perhaps at the center of it all.

Community Notes: The Silence of good people — Words of wisdom from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Phillip Knighten

In times like these we have to draw upon the wisdom of our elders to guide us in the right direction. What better person to look to than the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for that guidance?

Dr. King was the personification of unity, which is greatly needed at this time. Take a few minutes of your time today to sit down, clear your mind, and reflect on some of his greatest words of wisdom, that are relevant to the circumstances we face presently.

“There comes a time when silence is betrayal,” spoke Dr. King Jr.

I often hear people say, “I don’t want to rock the boat” or “I don’t want any conflict” when it comes to issues of a controversial nature. It mainly occurs when the issues involved don’t have a personal effect on them.

If you can stand by and watch a friend suffer or struggle without helping or speaking up, are you really, truly a friend? A lack of empathy is an immense malady in today’s times. It is probably the greatest source of divide in our society presently.

The sad thing is, it probably isn’t intentional. As a society, we have strayed far away from a set of core values. What ever happened to the Golden Rule? As the wise Dr. King once said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

This is one of Dr. King’s most poignant quotes and probably the most relevant to our current state of affairs.

The World Wide Web and various media sources are a great, but dangerous resource. The consumer of this information must have the skills to discern fact from fiction, wisdom from biased opinion, and journalistic integrity from spin & talking points.

Propaganda is, and will always be, the greatest threat to freedom and democracy.

The late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Turning a blind eye to the wrongs of humanity, just because they don’t affect you, is wrong and short-sighted. Injustice unchecked is like a wildfire. It may not presently damage you, but in the long run it will spread until you are reached.

Lastly, I believe this quote by MLK is the best explanation for bias in our society, especially when it involves persons with authority over others, such as law enforcement.

“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.” 

When I was a child and then later a young man growing up in the city, officers used to walk the neighborhoods they patrolled and interact with the community on a large scale. I remember many cops that used to play football and basketball with the kids in the community, hold conversations with people in areas they served and build relationships on a natural foundation. Effectively, they were one with the community.

I believe we have those types of law enforcement officers in our community, which is why we don’t have instances of misconduct amongst the ranks.

Whether you want to admit it or not, there is a gap in our society today. A divide as wide as the rivers and oceans that flow. Open your eyes to enlightenment. Open your ears to the possibility of harmony and unity. Open your heart to your fellow man. Finally, open your mouth and speak up.