Our Trip to the Land of Gandhi
If you’ve been following the pilot cohort of Move to End Violence, you know that we will soon be headed to India for our third convening. Our hope is to find inspiration, a deeper connection to the global issue of gender-based violence, and a better understanding of Gandhian principles and values – and how they continue to be manifest in social justice work today.
We will be writing more about that soon. But, for now, as we head into this holiday weekend, I wanted to reflect on our expedition to India through the lens of the trip that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – whose birthday we celebrate on Monday – took in February 1959. After several invitations and a few canceled trips, Dr. King set out with his wife Coretta and friend Dr. Lawrence Reddick to visit India, including Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, and Mumbai. Thanks to the Stanford Kind Papers Project, I easily found and have ever since been poring over Dr. King’s article, “My Trip to the Land of Gandhi,” published in the July 1959 issue of Ebony magazine. He describes how he and his two travel companions “made up a sort of 3-headed team with six eyes and six ears for looking and listening.” Just like him, Move to End Violence will be there as learners – but with 30 eyes and 30 ears.
The whole article is rich, and is definitely worth the read, but there was one passage that stood out to me. It reads:
It was a marvelous thing to see the amazing results of a non-violent campaign. The aftermath of hatred and bitterness that usually follows a violent campaign was found nowhere in India…The way of acquiescence leads to moral and spiritual suicide. The way of violence leads to bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers. But, the way of non-violence leads to redemption and the creation of the beloved community.
Dr. King of course was talking about non-violence as a tactic in the struggles for social and racial equality in India, the United States, and around the globe. We can also, however, read this as a goal: non-violence is the condition of a world that does not hinge on the exploitation and degradation of others, who are so frequently girls and women. To stand by and do nothing, to allow violence against girls and women to continue is the way of acquiescence. Perpetrators of violence against girls and women would continue to create bitterness and brutality. But a world without violence – this would move us towards the creation of a Beloved Community.
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