I’m not gonna lie: the Montgomery melee hit me a certain kind of way.
Seeing a solitary Black man defending himself against one and then a small horde of white men made me angry. He had simply been trying to do his job in an environment when others clearly didn’t want him to do that or would not allow him to do that.
Then, there was pride. Pride in seeing him holding his own for a bit. Pride in seeing other Black people coming to this Black man’s defense. Pride in “Scuba Gooding Jr.,” the young Black man swimming to shore to lend what assistance he could.
Couldn’t we do with more solidarity? Couldn’t we say, more often, “Reach out, I’ll be there?” I know that sounds trite. I know it’s a Four Tops song. I know I’m among a quickly dwindling population of old heads who think the Four Tops are still cool. And God knows I don’t want to condone violence. Far, far too much of that already.
But in the midst of those feelings, in the midst of laughing at the inspiring, funny, sad, frightening memes, a friend noticed something else about what happened in Montgomery. She described it as “old-timey.”
I immediately understood.
It was exactly that. A throwback to a time when we didn’t settle our problems with an AK. You didn’t roll up on some school kids and commit mass murder. You put your dukes up. You got your ass whipped - or you whipped some ass.
Again, I am NOT advocating violence. But I AM advocating a turn away from the accessories that would have turned a most unfortunate melee into a potential mass murder scene.
If even one person there had a firearm, no one could have made a meme over what happened in Montgomery. We’d be awaiting funeral coverage.
If someone had an automatic weapon, one that could fire multiple bullets with a single pull of the trigger, we’d have witnessed an opening phase of what white supremacists have long dreamed of: a race war.
This is not a war that would or could ever be fair. Black people are far out-numbered in this country.
MLK didn’t advocate non-violence simply because violence is morally wrong; he advocated non-violence because he could count.
What we need to do - when we stop wondering who’s been arrested and how they’ll be punished if convicted and just how pissed off Scuba was when he jumped into that water - is ponder how it is that a simple request from one Black man morphed into a racial melee.
What we also need to do is consider atleast in this case ... that our differences might have resulted in hurt feelings in more ways than one, but it didn’t devolve into mass carnage. And that’s a good thing.
Wayne Washington is a journalist based in Florida