Loudoun County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) took the board member comment period of the Thursday, Jan. 19 Board of Supervisors meeting—three days after Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, and one day before protests erupted in D.C. around the inauguration of President Donald Trump—to give her thoughts on King’s legacy and nonviolence.
Randall said she is concerned history and people have sought to soften King’s image into a more comfortable, less controversial figure.
“Dr. King was not a kindly uncle who only offered comforting messages,” Randall said. “He was in fact a very passionate fighter for righteousness. If you really want to understand the full measure of Dr. King, don’t just listen to his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, but also read one of his most inspired writings, ‘A Letter From a Birmingham Jail.'”
Nonviolence, she said, was not King’s goal—it was his method. Protesting, she said, is not unpatriotic, and it is not easy.
“However, if you cannot disobey civilly, if you are not willing to be hit, spit on, dogs set upon you or even a called out of your name without wanting to strike back to hit back, or worse, than you also are not following the teachings of Dr. King,” Randall said.
She pointed out that King himself—who was assassinated in 1968 while in Memphis, Tennessee, in support of black sanitary public works employees on strike—endured death threats against himself and his family.
“If you make the decision to stand on a higher moral ground you have to accept that hate, swallow that pain, go out the next day and continue to fight for what you believe is correct without ever, ever hitting back,” Randall said.