Our first post-holidays national holiday came and went as expected. Except for that part when Orange Berlusconi, having devoted exactly zero minutes of service to any cause other than self promotion, called a man who has given his life, his body, his liberty (45 times), to the struggle, “all talk.” I did not see that coming. But the rest of the weekend was predictable. Some white people I know, people who give zero fucks about racial/social justice 364 days per year, even people who go so far as to utter All Lives Matter type rhetoric in comments, posted rainbow and unicorny as hell excerpts of quotes and photos about peace and love and following the example of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
What’s my problem? To paraphrase one of my current favorite fictional figures, Andre Johnson Jr., It’s like the hook without the verse.
MLK is not the good guy to be juxtaposed against Black Lives Matter or the Movement for Black Lives or Colin Kapernick or anyone else you want to blame for currently inflaming racial tension in America. This whitewashed idea that he worked for change the right way, while the people on the front lines in the fight against racism today are doing it wrong, is just remarkably insane.
MLK railed against police brutality and undereducation and overpolicing and systematic, institutionalized income inequality. He vehemently protested rioters being condemned by people who were not outraged by the roots and causes of the riots. He was accused of inciting violence. He was criminalized. In response to the Dream Speech, the head of the blue FBI lives called him “the most dangerous Negro of the future in this Nation from the standpoint of . . . national security.” And he was widely condemned by people who claimed not to be racist – they just didn’t approve of his disruptive tactics and the urgency of now.
And don’t even with the how far we’ve come and how much has changed. Yes, the civil rights movement in MLK’s day helped to ban the formerly acceptable practice of straight up torturing and killing Black men, women, and children at will. White people were persuaded to stop randomly and spontaneously beating, mutilating, burning and hanging Black people from trees. Emmet Till was lynched in nineteen fifty fucking five. He would only be 75 today if he were alive. So, yeah, we frown on wild packs of angry white men randomly murdering children now. Congratulations to us on that amazing progress.
We are all collectively shocked and shamed now by the black and white photos of lunch counter protesters with milkshakes dumped on their heads. Look how much progress we’ve made. We want credit for allowing people into restaurants? Seriously, how far we’ve come from WHAT? How low is our bar? How absurd a standard of measurement? Congratulations white America on the improvement of “race relations”. Oh yeah, wait, you didn’t do shit. Congratulations on giving in to demands when they got too in your face to ignore anymore.
Rosa Parks, Freedom Riders, Selma, all the greatest hits iconic protesters and civil disobedience we honor and admire and respect and praise now. You know what they were saying? Black Lives Matter. Would you have been upset that a theoretical ambulance wouldn’t have been able to get across the Edmund Petus bridge? Would you have been saying that the protestors would have a lot more support and sympathy if they didn’t cause economic harm to the public transportation system in Montgomery?
You got a problem with Colin Kapernick? You got a problem with MLK. You know what he was locked up for when he wrote the letter from Birmingham jail? Kneeling down in a space where protesting was not allowed. Responding to “supporters” who agreed with his goals but not his tactics, he wrote “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront an issue.”
You know what else he said? “There is nothing wrong with a traffic law which says you have to stop for a red light. But… when a man is bleeding to death, the ambulance goes through those red lights at top speed.. . . There is a fire raging now for the Negroes and the poor of this society. . .” And he called for “massive civil disobedience. . . at least as forceful as an ambulance with its siren on full.”
You know how Govenor Ronald Regan described his assasination? As a “great tragedy that began when we began compromising with law and order, and people started choosing which laws they’d break.”
Yeah, he asked for it.
You know what “law and order” looked like in MLK’s day? It looked like those black and white movie clips we watch now in disbelief and discomfort and emotionally distance ourselves from by thinking those were the olden days. It looked like those Black bodies we now collectively accept as brave and valiant getting knocked off thier feet by water cannons and attacked by German shepards. Order without justice still looks like tanks and tear gas.
We have a law and order president now who does not beleive in systematic racism, and cannot utter one word about criminal justice reform, except to say that there is [implied “Black on Black” as if that’s a thing] “carnage” in Black America’s streets. And he will restore order.
Black men have a 33% (or 25% depending on who you beleive, but either way, WTF) chance of going to a (for profit) prison, as opposed to a white man’s 6% chance. There are more Black men in prison than in college. 10% longer sentence than a white man convicted for the same crime. They are 12% of drug users and 59% of people in state prison for a drug offense. Black boys get suspended and expelled at 3 times the rate of white kids. They get shot for holding toy guns in Walmart and at the rec center, and for nothing. Schools are as segregated as 1968. White sounding resume names get called for interviews 33% more than Black sounding names on the SAME RESUME. Black children are 4 times more likely to be poor than white children.
So yeah, we’ve made progress from the above-referenced randomly murderous with impunity days. No, excuse me, the people who push and resist and advocate, and fight fight fight for progress have made progress. We, as a nation, have allowed this progress to happen with embarrassing and shameful delay and indifference.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would be an 88 year old man with a ton of work left to do. So I’m glad you choose love over hate because hate is too big a burden. Again, congrats on that amazing work. Thanks for sharing. I’m glad you like the dream of little white children holding hands with little Black children.
Now wake the fuck up and get ready for the nightmare of a law and order administration that erroneously thinks that civil disobedience = a war on police. Who promises to bring order without justice. You want that dream? Educate yourself on what the Movement for Black Lives really means and stands for. Share that dream.