Jay Atkins on Three Differences Between the 1960s Civil Rights Movement and the Black Lives Matter Movement

There was a moment in time about two weeks ago when we could have come together; when we could have united in common purpose and begun healing old wounds. When the video of George Floyd’s murder went public, we were a nation united in righteous anger at the stunning abuse of police power. The depraved and arbitrary killing of an American citizen by a power-drunk rogue cop acting under the color of law brought about instant and uniform condemnation. But before people of good will could seize the moment, it was stolen away. It was stolen away by a group of entitled, self-interested anarchists who see chaos as opportunity, and whose currency is mob violence.

As if that’s not bad enough, as they go about their orgy of destruction these hooligan anarchists are trying to claim the twin mantles of social justice and civil rights. It’s disgusting. Not only is it criminal and counterproductive, but it does violence to the legacy of the true titans of social justice who came before. The roving bands of hate-fueled destroyers rampaging through American cities are ripping out the very soul of their own movement. They are dismantling the legacy of their righteous brothers and sisters who, 50 years ago, put their lives on the line for a truly noble cause and changed the course of American history. Though the BLM and Antifa mobsters claim the mantle of Dr. King and the civil rights movement, the differences between them could not be starker. Everything else aside, there are three big differences between the civil rights movement of the 1960s and today’s activists: facts, moral authority and goals.

1. Facts – In 1960s America there was a common set of facts everyone agreed on. At issue was not the facts themselves but whether they were good or bad. Institutional racism back then was a concrete thing. It was enshrined in law. In the Jim Crow south segregation was real. Blacks and whites went to different schools, shopped in different places and lived in different neighborhoods. And those separate living and working conditions, although deemed “equal” under the law, were anything but, and everybody knew it. Unlike today where we see a similar result but can argue over the cause, there was no question of causation back then. Blacks and whites were separate because state laws, sanctioned by the United States Supreme Court, made them separate. The law, in a real and authoritative way declared that black people were less than white people. The argument back then wasn’t over whether systematic racism existed, it absolutely did. The question was whether that racism was morally acceptable.  The answer of course was, and remains, no.

Today’s argument over racism is not nearly so clear cut. The law, both federal and state, has been fixed. Jim Crow laws were repealed or annulled by the courts, federal anti-discrimination statutes were enacted, and racist Supreme Court precedents were overturned. In a legal sense all Americans, whatever color they may be, are finally equal before the law. To the extent there are still differences in living and working conditions between races, causation is a major question. If the law says everyone is equal, what causes the disparity? That question of fact makes today’s arguments about racism a different kind than we saw in the ’60s. Today’s conversation contemplates such ineffable concepts as white privilege, intersectionalism, micro-aggressions and latent racism. Those concepts are so inherently accusatory and divisive that people of good will can’t even agree on whether they are real. That inability to define the underlying problem has been seized upon by modern “activists” as manifest proof of racism and justification for destructive mob violence. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, and it is absurd. Who can take seriously an argument that posits a person is guilty of racism by virtue of existing even if they have never engaged in racist language or practice? Under such an analysis it comes as little surprise that race relations are deteriorating even as the nation, prior to COVID-19 at least, is experiencing a period of unprecedented economic growth and prosperity across all ethnic groups.

2. Moral authority – The second, and perhaps biggest difference between the 1960s civil rights movement and today’s BLM and Antifa activists is the moral authority from which they operate. Dr. King was a devout and serious Christian. His activism found its roots not in identity politics but in scripture. Dr. King took the Bible seriously, and he saw the inherent contradiction between God’s moral code and the state-sanctioned discrimination codified in law. He believed in the idea that all men are created equal and that we are all image-bearers of almighty God. More importantly he knew that he could appeal to the shared morality of a body politick that mostly agreed with him.  The America of the 1960s was still a place that adhered to a predominantly Christian social and moral ethic. That’s not to say that everyone was a practicing Christian, but the overwhelming social mores of the day were rooted in biblical Christianity.

Dr. King knew that racism was contrary to biblical teaching, and he knew that he could make that argument to a country that would listen. It is true that some churches and sects in the Jim Crow south cherry-picked and perverted the holy scripture to justify continued subjection of black people. But it is equally true that an honest reading of scripture is incompatible with race-based segregation, Dr. King knew that. He also knew that inherent to Christianity were the tools to confront and end the abhorrent practice carried out, too often, in its name. Dr. King called on Christians to live up to biblical ideals because he knew scripture was on his side. He was effective because  50 years ago most people still believed that God was the source of moral authority and when faced with the contradictions pointed out by King, they knew he was right.  That’s why his movement was so overwhelmingly effective at changing not only laws, but hearts. That entire framework is absent in today’s BLM/Antifa movement.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Jay Atkins