Here's something I wrote almost four years ago to the day for the Martin Luther King holiday. Seeing as how the election of a black President did not in fact end race as an issue (as right-wing commentators predicted) I see little need to update it. Instead I will quote myself liberally:

Martin Luther King, like "the Holocaust" or "the Founding Fathers", has become a perfunctory public relations tool. White America has the annoying tendency to bring him up as a form of tokenism, a la "And to show you how I'm down with the colored folk, I will now talk about how great I think MLK was." He's a backdrop for cheesy advertising, motivational speeches, and sidebars in textbooks. We bring him up a lot on our patronizing photo-op Trips into Harlem ("I support Dr. King…..and mandatory minimum sentencing!"). He's lauded for his "peaceful" and dignified approach (unlike that nasty Malcom X, who doesn't make white people feel quite so good about themselves). We remember and talk about, in essence, everything except what he actually stood for.
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We go as far as to innocuously call the holiday "Human Rights Day" just to completely de-contextualize and water down any potential discussion of the racial elephant in the room.

Let's not talk about how there are now more black men in prison than college – and that the black prison population has risen from 150,000 (in 1980) to 800,000 (today). A 350% increase in 25 years seems reasonable. Like many white Americans, I was raised to believe that there are more black people in the justice system because more black people commit crimes. I guess no one thought it strange that they apparently started committing all of these crimes in 1980. Maybe they had a national meeting and decided to go on a spree. We can't talk about that, because that would entail talking about how the entire "War on Drugs" is little more than a thinly-disguised War on the People We Don't Want In Our Neighborhoods. Of the black men born between 1978 and 1982, 16% are either dead or in prison. Think about that for a second.

Let's not talk about black/white income inequality, or the torrent of race-baiting we see from the media, talk radio, and elected officials, or the white hysteria about "reverse racism" and "racial quotas." Instead let's just warmly applaud a 45-second news story about that likeable man who had some sort of dream, a dream that, whatever it was, apparently worked out OK.

We live in a country in which intelligent people still raise their kids to roll up the windows in "black neighborhoods," to believe that everyone on welfare is black (and they're on it because they're too lazy to work), to think that the ignorant black people are going to unfairly take the law school spots that are rightly Ours, and to think that one can believe all of these things and somehow Not be a Racist. We live in a country where we don't debate racial issues, we debate Free Republic propaganda about how MLK, if alive today, would be rubbing elbows with Trent Lott in the GOP caucus. Can't blame the right wing for trying to claim him, since he and his message have been reduced entirely to Dalai Lama-esque mascot status.

Hard to believe that was four years ago, and hard to imagine how many years from now we will still be having this same conversation.

21 thoughts on “KING FOR A DAY”

  • And that's why it's ok to say this current administration is "the most corrupt administration"*ever* — not that Chimpy's former company seemed to get a large number of contracts in Iraq, but that's okay — particularly as that mulat… dark fella ain't really from here.

  • Middle Seaman says:

    True. MLK was a fighter not only for civil rights and equal rights. He also fought for the poor in a big way. That is hardly ever mentioned. He also was anti-war and not only isn't it an issue associated with him, but we have devoted ourselves to war against everyone.

    I'll take this opportunity to mention that MLK and Harvey Milk fought hard for their communities, but both wanted to join the exploited workers in fight for better pay and better work conditions. They both were murdered.

    We basically cover our eyes.

  • Maybe they've been going on for years, but I just noticed some "MLK Day Sales" here in NYC. So King has joined the ranks of Lincoln and Washington and Saint Patrick as a distant symbol of bedlinens and radial tires.

    The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward commerce.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    The only reason MLK is acceptable to Conservatives, is that he's dead.

    Alive, he'd be just another UPPITY FUCKING N*GGER, like that KenyanCommunistSocialistFascistMuslimAtheistHeathen Usurper, Obama.

    Nixon decided the race-card Southern Strategy was a winner.

    And Reagan took it, ran with it, and added the Jesus-freaks to it. He and Bush I also ran coke into the ghetto's to launder money in the Iran-Contra scandal – which, btw, made Watergate look like a day at the beach.

    Bush I, won in 1988, in large part, because of the racist Willie Horton ads.
    Once in office, he then silenced his partner in ghetto coke-running, Noriega, and pardoned all of his and addle-brained Reagan's cohorts and cronies in Iran-Contra.

    In the years between 1988 and 2000, overt racist ads like those fell into disfavor, so Bush II and Rove were a bit more covert about semi-overt racism, misogyny, and xenophobia. And being Gay became the new "black.

    Little Boots and his administration were SOOOOOO FUCKING BAD, that people voted in a black guy with the name Barack Hussein Obama as President.

    And what was covert from 1992 until 2008, now became overt again.
    Being an overt racist fell into disfavor at the end of the 20th Century, so now they had to dog-whistle their racism.

    I guess that's progress.

    Today, how long would the list be of Conservatives who sent "private" e-mails, to their "friends and family," as "a joke," depicting Obama and his wife with bones in their noses, or every and any other hackneyed racial stereotype?
    Or said something out loud on radio or TV, or wrote a column in the newspaper, that was blatantly racist?

    That would be one motherfucking long list.
    It would also be a list where few of the people suffered any serious ramifications.

    It's the 21st Century, and they can't lynch Obama with a rope anymore.
    So, I guess, words and images will have to suffice.

    But Conservatives still long for that rope. And a nice sharp knife to cut the dick and balls off that uppity motherfucking n*gger, and shove them down his throat, before they string him up to hang, like a strange dark fruit, from a stout tree branch.

    Do not doubt that for a single second.

    But also realize, as the demographics in this country change, that they are also hanging themselves.

  • According to our whitewashed history, Dr. King only made one speech in his lifetime, the touchy- feely one about little black children and little white children living together in harmony.
    Of course the rest of his speeches, the ones about economic equality for all and the injustice of the Vietnam War, scared the shit out of rich white folks so they were sent down the national Memory Hole.

  • @comrade x

    Inevitably on MLK day whilst I'm at work (day off for a black man? Hell no!) I'll hear the I Have a Dream Speech. There's no question it's a great speech and was delivered at a critical time and event but it's also one of the most peaceful and fluffiest of his speeches. I prefer to reread "I've been to the mountaintop" which is a call to action for revolution through economic independence (Malcolm X / black nationalism anyone?). If I was there I'd hand someone a taco, grab the gin and start marching. Excerpt below:

    Now the other thing we'll have to do is this: Always anchor our external direct action with the power of economic withdrawal. Now, we are poor people. Individually, we are poor when you compare us with white society in America. We are poor. Never stop and forget that collectively — that means all of us together — collectively we are richer than all the nations in the world, with the exception of nine. Did you ever think about that? After you leave the United States, Soviet Russia, Great Britain, West Germany, France, and I could name the others, the American Negro collectively is richer than most nations of the world. We have an annual income of more than thirty billion dollars a year, which is more than all of the exports of the United States, and more than the national budget of Canada. Did you know that? That's power right there, if we know how to pool it.

    Martin Luther King from "I've Been to the Mountaintop" delivered 3 April 1968, Mason Temple (Church of God in Christ Headquarters), Memphis, Tennessee

  • @JzB: Yup!! What is wrong w these ppl?!?
    I almost want to share the link, but I'm afraid the traffic will encourage them.

  • @JzB

    It's actually refreshing when one of them comes out and says what they're really thinking instead of hiding behind code-words.

    Let's us know what we're dealing with.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    Thanks, JazzBumpa,
    Give that good old boy some credit!

    He ain't dog-whistling.

    He's blowing a fucking racist air-raid siren!

    I especially liked where he cited rich Southern families inter-marrying like European royalty- that them there was a real fucking knee-slapper!!!

    Sounds like something of a family tradition in his KKKlan.

    I bet that good old boy's family-tree ain't got but one branch!

  • Bitter Scribe says:

    I've often wished that every conservative who chirps that "…but by the content of his character" line as proof that MLK wanted us to ignore race could be beaten until the contents of his stomach emerge.

  • Why, JzB, why? Now I have to go wash my eyeballs with a brill-o pad. Unclean! I wish I wasn't such a sucker for "follow this link to be outraged!" bait…

  • @JzB – I read that link with my mouth open. The whole thing. I caught my reflection in a window. The term "stunned mullet" sums up my expression perfectly.

  • @JzB – thank you so much for that wonderful link! Having my blood boiled is the perfect antidote for my furnace being out! Of course, that website combined with watching the republican debate will give me nightmares for a week, but boy – am I warm!

  • Day late but:
    Justice Thomas is the epitome of what MLK strove for: Getting a job just because of equal opportunity & he does a pretty good job of the lazy stereotype too…

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