Dr. King led a major struggle to eliminate racial discrimination and segregation in the South. He quickly recognized that the best strategy was to use non violent forms of protest. He realized that violence on the part of anyone associated with him would lead to violent counterattacks, leading to injury and death of his followers. He had to teach his followers to not respond violently to violent provocations. Some of the benefits....
- Non violence put his followers on moral high ground and made the brutality of racists very apparent.
- His followers were proud they could contain their violence and not hate their enemies.
- Dr. King was a Christian minister and his turn-the-other-cheek philosophy represented some of the best principles for creating harmony among all people.
- Youth today can learn that non violent protest and active participation in the democratic process are the best ways to bring about change.
- Dr. King understood better than most people that violence begets violence. We need to remember that!
And so...how can we honor this legacy in our daily lives?
Avoid fights. Everyone gets angry, but violence in any form is unacceptable. We can help children avoid violence by acknowledging their anger even as we set boundaries for them. We need to help them identify constructive ways of dealing with strong emotions....like, "I understand you are very mad, but you may not hit others."
- Eliminate violence in our families. Establish cooperative ways of interacting, and set the example for managing differences and resolving conflict within the home. Counting to ten, taking a deep, cleansing breath, or in our house...singing how you feel if you feel your anger escalating usually diffuses a tense situation. (and the singing? It usually dissolves into laughter!) After we calm down a bit, we can listen to a different point of view with respect, even if we don't agree. As we truly discuss - and and work together to search for solutions to conflict, we teach basic skills for conflict resolution.
- Support violence prevention and conflict resolution programs in the school system. Find out what programs are available through your school or religious organization. If none exist, contact an organization (ie, Educators for Social Responsibility) that create curriculum materials promoting peaceful resolution to problems.
Each time we renew our commitment to peaceful conflict resolution, we honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. Be part of the peaceful solution!