The Silence of the Good People

By Dr. Nika Davis

Go out on a limb

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “the ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”

Have you ever witnessed something wrong and for whatever reason you remained silent? I think we all face this challenge as we encounter the injustices of life. Should we get involved, or should we stay out of it? Do we say something or find ways to sidestep the issue and remain idle? My challenge to you is to draw on the moral sense of righteousness that God has given to all people of goodwill. Become a person who will speak out against things that are wrong.

I am not suggesting that everyone become a protestor in the streets. Sometimes your presence on a committee or at a board meeting can be more impactful than waving a sign. Certainly, a vote of your conscience at the ballot box is a means of standing for right. The key is to avoid being the silent majority who passively allow unrighteousness to corrupt society.

Jesus taught in a parable that a man travelled from Jerusalem and was attacked by thieves on the Jericho road. The thieves beat the man and left him to die. A priest travelled that same path and saw the man suffering but passed by on the other side of the road. Then a Levite, who was also a religious man, came that way and looked upon the hurt man but then continued on his journey. Finally, a Samaritan encountered the injured man and was moved with compassion. He carried him to an inn and paid the expenses to help him recover. Jesus explained that the good Samaritan displayed true righteousness by being a neighbor. Samaritans were not known for being especially religious or even sharing the same ethnic background as the victim, yet the Samaritan shared a common cord of moral justice that moved him to remedy a bad situation.

We share a common bond of humanity that should move us to marshal our resources, knowledge, skills and faith to confront evil with good. I realize that speaking out can sometimes result in being isolated on a limb. A painful byproduct of voicing your convictions is others may mistake or misconstrue your good intentions. But remember, a tree does not bear fruit at its base in the comfort of the shade. Fruit trees do not bear their produce underground in the roots where no one can see them. At some point, you have to make known your rejection of injustice.

The most impactful people in society are not those who are neutral. Thomas Jefferson was not neutral about the Declaration of Independence; he was for it. Susan B. Anthony was not neutral on women voting; she was clearly for it. Muhammad Ali was not neutral about the Vietnam War; he was against it. How can one drive to any destination with the gear in neutral? We must choose to move forward or in reverse, for neutral is the gear of inertia. Jesus said that he would rather we be hot or cold, but because we are lukewarm, it made him vomit.

Once I was teaching a history class about slavery, and I asked the students, “Would you submit to being a slave or resist?” One student definitively said, “I would fight against it.” Then I challenged her, “But if you fight, you will be killed.” She explained, “Dr. Davis, if you do not fight, you are dead already.”

What a statement, one that has remained with me for many years. We must never become so numb that we stop fighting against oppression.

I live with the hope that good always overcomes evil. So the next time your voice is heard piercing through the deafening silence of the majority, you may be the very one to prove that what I believe is true.

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