Our first post-holidays national holiday came and went as expected. Except for that part when the President, 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 against the condemnation of rioters 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.
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.”
When Dr. King was assassinated, Governor Ronald Regan called it a “great tragedy that began when we began compromising with law and order, and people started choosing which laws they’d break.”
Basically, 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 their 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 believe 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.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would be an 88 year old man today with a ton of work left to do. So I’m glad you choose love over hate because hate is too big a burden. 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.