Opinion of Chris Cicchiello
When I was five years old, my dad sat me down in front of his computer and showed me a video of Martin Luther King Jr. delivering his iconic “I Have a Dream Speech.” Although I did not comprehend all that he was saying, I could feel his emotion bleeding out through his words. But what I failed to realize was that MLK was much more than a great orator.
Constantly hearing the word “nonviolence” associated with MLK caused me to think that he was a man who avoided conflict for fear it would devolve into violence. It really was not until AP U.S. History my junior year that I realized what it meant for MLK to be nonviolent. His protests and marches may have been “nonviolent,” however; they often resulted in violent exchanges. He never shed away when cops were savagely beating members of his boycotts, and he tried his hardest to get under the skin of the American government. With each new protest, he was pressuring the government to change their current system of institutionalized racism.
So, as MLK Day arrives (and with it, many commercials for M.J. Sullivan’s massive MLK Day Car Sale), I find myself asking the question, where have our leaders gone?
I do not mean to undermine the great progress that we have made as a nation; but, what I will say is that it has become difficult to point out definite leaders that have spearheaded movements. We saw the leaderless Black Lives Matter movement get hijacked by those who found the statement exclusionary, and soon offshoots like “All Lives Matter” and “Cat Lives Matter” emerged on the web. And, we saw the National Anthem kneeling movement, started GQ’s Man of the Year by Colin Kaepernick get taken from right beneath his feet as it was misconstrued to be anti-veteran when Kaepernick explicitly stated his purpose: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” When these movements were challenged, there was no one to look to for guidance which was a primary factor in why they fizzled out.
What we need is a leader that does not waver in the midst of adversity and stays true to their goals. What we need is a new MLK-like figure. Until this happens, these movements may simply fade away. Kaepernick was a start at finding a figurehead for the Black Lives Matter movement, and I believe that we can build off of his fearlessness as a nation to enact change.