*If I’ve learned anything during the campaign and subsequent election of Donald Trump, it’s that you cannot assume you know how people feel about the man and his presidency simply based on how they look, who they are, where they live or what they do for a living.
Still, I’ll admit my surprise at the view of Donnie McClurkin. During a recent nationally syndicated radio program, the gospel singing star (“Stand,” “We Fall Down”) and pastor of Perfecting Faith Church in Freeport, New York, said he doesn’t believe people should be out in the streets protesting Trump. Instead, he said, we should be praying for him. I didn’t hear the interview. I read his statements on EURweb.
“The protests do nothing but rile [people] up,” he is quoted as saying. “It causes people’s anger to rise up and it gives us a false sense of involvement.”
I read that and wondered who McClurkin was referring to as getting “riled.” A segment of America believes people of color shouldn’t even be in this country. Protests aren’t the source of their anger. They’re “riled” that we should want the most basic human rights. They’ve been riled for a long, long time.
When the riled get old and die, another generation takes up the riling in their place. This tradition of them being riled has been passed down through centuries from their ancestors, who stole this country from people who were already here.
If McClurkin is referring to “us” being the ones getting all “riled” up by protesting, then he’s got the order of our actions wrong. We don’t get angry in the streets; it is our anger and frustration that drives us out of our homes and into the streets.
Most of the people currently engaged in protests are doing so for the first time in their lives. They have anything but a “false sense of involvement”; they are fully engaged mentally, emotionally and physically. They are committed to having their voices heard.
They are people of all colors, nationalities, religions and gender and they are protesting Trump’s misguided rhetoric and actions countrywide and globally. They are not seeking thrills or adventure; they—-we–protest because this is what it’s come to. Again.
According to McClurkin, our true power is in the vote. “We need to know what our vote really means and how to utilize it. But I don’t want us to get caught up in this protest.” He goes on to say, “the true sense of involvement is at the voting booth.”
READ RELATED STORY: DONNIE MCCLURKIN TO CHRISTIANS: STOP PROTESTING TRUMP AND PRAY FOR HIM
I agree with McClurkin regarding the importance of the ballot. Those of us who exercised our right to vote in this past election—-when huge numbers of us didn’t–know what it truly means to do so. We honor and treasure that right. However, in considering McClurkin’s words about the power of the vote, I wondered if he knew how that right actually came about.
That happened through protest.
It was the three historic Selma to Montgomery marches of 1965–from Selma, Alabama to the state capital of Montgomery–that put the national spotlight on the unlawful obstruction of the Black American’s constitutional right to vote.
The march, led by, among others, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was peaceful–until police took billy clubs, vicious police dogs and water hoses to protesters. Television cameras beamed the horrific images into the homes of shocked white Americans, many of whom hadn’t given the Civil Rights Movement a second thought until viewing those unforgettable scenes.
The protests—-and public outrage at the violence perpetrated on the participants—-nudged President Lyndon B. Johnson into stepping up his efforts to usher in The Voting Rights Act of 1965. Signed on August 6, 1965, the Act was a landmark piece of federal legislation that prohibits racial discrimination in voting. The bill was a major achievement of the Civil Rights Movement and testament to the might of protest.
McClurkin, who insisted he didn’t vote for Trump because of his “lack of policy, misogynistic ideals, [and] racism,” said Christians should deal with Trump not through protests, but prayer.
“Now is our time to pray for him. This is the job of the church,” he said. “Let the world protest, but the job of the church now is to go into prayer and pray that, number one, he succeeds, because if he fails, we have to deal with the consequences as a nation.”
Again, I agree with McClurkin. Trump needs our prayers. However, if even the pastor didn’t vote for Trump because of his bad plan for America, then we don’t need to pray that Trump “succeeds.” Instead, we need to pray that the man gets mental help, because clearly, he is sick.
In any case, we can do BOTH, Donnie: we can pray for Trump AND protest his wrongheaded ideas. Dr. King began marches by leading the people in prayer. He prayed for the safety of the marchers; he prayed that their opponents would see the error of their ways. And then they marched.
McClurkin’s words regarding Trump angered many of those who heard or read them. I was angry too, until I read them again, thought about it and in McClurkin’s pronouncements detected something familiar to me: fear. Perhaps he fears the confrontation and conflict that has to happen inside our opposition to the Trump administration.
I can dig it. After CNN’s announcement that Trump had won, my first reaction was shock, which immediately gave way to the stark dread that as a nation we were about to go backward in time. Fear that this man—-who, as president of the United States, is charged with making things better for us all–has a lead foot on the pedal of social, cultural and ecological reversal. I felt helpless to do anything about it.
But my fear has fermented to anger, and that emotion has since distilled into a powerful, anxious resolve. When I was young, I used to read about the desperate, heart-stopping heroics of slaves like Nat Turner and Harriet Tubman and wonder just how in the world they found the courage to risk their lives doing what they did to free other slaves.
I’d watch footage of ‘60s protests and marches and ask myself if I’d have had the gumption to risk arrest, brutality or worse at the hands of police and racist mobs.
Today, I don’t pretend to truly know the consternation nor determination of those who came before me, but I know my own. I’m ready to do what I have to do. Most comforting is knowing that in my raw and impassioned ambition, I am not alone.
Nor will you be, McClurkin. We can use a cat like you—-your leadership and influence upon others–on the front lines. Truth be known, in more than one hour of need I have turned to your song “We Fall Down (But We Get Up!)” as a source of repose and inspiration.
Come. We can pray, march and sing, all together, all at once.
Steven Ivory, veteran journalist, essayist and author, writes about popular culture for magazines, newspapers, radio, TV and the Internet. Respond to him via [email protected]