Embracing the Selma Movement in a Socially Unconscious Society

Made by HistoryWe have come to the end of Black History Month, however, I have one more topic to discuss…

There are few movies that leave an indelible mark on my mind and heart upon exiting the theater, however “Selma” and “12 Years a Slave” did just that.  The mark they left have driven me to consider whether or not the consciousness that we aim to achieve through social media is actually leaving us in a greater state of unconsciousness and self absorption.

I draw such conclusion as I recount Martin Luther King Jr.’s moving speech and audacious challenge to those marching with him in Selma, AL to have a willingness to die for equal rights.  Martin stated, “Deep down in our non-violent creed is the conviction that there are some things so precious, some things so eternally true, that they’re worth dying for.  And if a man happens to be 36-years-old, as I happen to be, some great truth stands before the door of his life- some great opportunity to stand up for that which is right.   …A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right.  A man dies when he refuses to stand up for injustice.  A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.”

I juxtapose Martin Luther King’s position with a recent account of a peer who decided to attend a forum to mobilize the justice movement in our city as a response to the Ferguson, MO situation.  As the forum started and the facilitator asked attendees how they should mobilize in our city, an individual stated, “I don’t know what we will do, but I know that I am not laying in the streets…”  You may recall that there were some individuals who laid in the streets as a form of non-violent protest to the loss of Michael Brown’s life and the larger systemic issue of police profiling of African American men.  I assure you that this person did not refuse to lay in the street because it was cold in Cincinnati at the time, but the statement spoke to the culture of our society which has a deep disdain for inconvenience.

Let me tell you what’s convenient for us…Facebook and Twitter posts.  It is quite convenient to post still images of us at a single point in time doing something noble or honorable (as we see it) and sharing that image with the world to garner “likes.”  It seems to me that the only thing Facebook and Twitter are making us conscious of is how “great we think we are.”  These mediums are making us unconscious to the reality that anything worth living for is also worth dying for.  They are making us unconscious to what is happening in our nation as it relates to the bankruptcy of our educational system.  They are lulling us to sleep and singing a deceptively sweet lullaby that tells us that the world needs to know what we are eating, where we are vacationing, and what we are wearing (especially if we’ve personally deemed it “swagged out” or “on fleek”).

If social media existed during Solomon Northrup or Martin Luther King, Jr’s. day, I imagine it would be used as a platform for justice not a pedestal for pride-fullness.  To be clear, I am not against Facebook or social media; in fact, I use them all the time.  But, as I watched these movies, I was convicted because I realized that I too was drifting into the abyss of apathy and not using my voice (whether through social media or vocally) to advocate and communicate the causes that God has placed in my heart.  I was becoming socially unconscious.  You, know, just conscious enough to know what’s happening, but NOT conscious enough to DO anything about it.  Not conscious enough to risk anything, but just conscious enough to post everything.

I understand that the way in which we become socially conscious will be uniquely different for all of us.  Solomon Northrup stated while he was still a slave, “I don’t want to survive. I want to live.”  Even on the journey to freedom he intentionally set his heart upon the end goal as he exclaimed, “I will not fall into despair! I will keep myself hardy until freedom is opportune!”  I believe we have much to learn from these two ordinary men and others who resisted the dangers of apathy and willingly sacrificed their lives for freedom, both literally and figuratively.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was on to something when he stated that we are not makers of history, but rather made by history.  When the next generation looks back and sees how we have historically used social media, may it garner a desire in them to let their voices be heard and not just their faces seen.  For it is in what we make of social media today that will shape tomorrow.

This is post is not a call for you to quite your job and march in the streets. This post is a call for you to position your heart to sacrifice your life, career, or comfort for the cause(s) that keep you consciously awake at night.  Significant change is often produced via the path of least resistance.  Selma cost many within our nation something.  There is an individual cost to living socially conscious when it takes place apart from social media.  

“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”  Ephesians 5:14 (ESV)

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