I was thinking about this recently – people seem to know about three or four MLK quotes that are soothing and non-offensive to white sensibilities. “I have a dream”; “hate cannot drive out hate”; “we must live together as brothers”; “nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit”. Certainly true, but also commodified and non-threatening. Yesterday I saw someone trying to explain inequality – “Suppose you have two families which both originally have equal income and one family spends all their money on foreign holidays etc whereas the other saves their money to put their son to an elite private school…” Apparently a lot of Trump’s support can also be traced to white people being tired of political correctness and being called racist or sexist – and this is perfectly understandable.
In any case, I thought it would be worth highlighting some MLK quotes that require white people to y’know, do something about racism in society.
In 1863 the Negro was told that he was free as a result of the Emancipation Proclamation being signed by Abraham Lincoln. But he was not given any land to make that freedom meaningful. It was something like keeping a person in prison for a number of years and suddenly discovering that that person is not guilty of the crime for which he was convicted. And you just go up to him and say, “Now you are free,” but you don’t give him any bus fare to get to town. You don’t give him any money to get some clothes to put on his back or to get on his feet again in life.
Every court of jurisprudence would rise up against this, and yet this is the very thing that our nation did to the black man. It simply said, “You’re free,” and it left him there penniless, illiterate, not knowing what to do. And the irony of it all is that at the same time the nation failed to do anything for the black man, though an act of Congress was giving away millions of acres of land in the West and the Midwest. Which meant that it was willing to undergird its white peasants from Europe with an economic floor.
But not only did it give the land, it built land-grant colleges to teach them how to farm. Not only that, it provided county agents to further their expertise in farming; not only that, as the years unfolded it provided low interest rates so that they could mechanize their farms. And to this day thousands of these very persons are receiving millions of dollars in federal subsidies every years not to farm. And these are so often the very people who tell Negroes that they must lift themselves by their own bootstraps. It’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is a cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.
MLK Jr, Malcolm X, JFK; they were all poised to pave the path for real change in our society… and then they were all summarily executed, and that’s why the Black community hasn’t had a real leader or champion activist ever since.
(Sorry; while Obama represented us very well just as a Black man in the difficult position of being POTUS, he’s not exactly what we would call a ‘devoted militant’ for our cause.)
I guess one of the problems of being in that position is that you have to avoid any hint of being pro-your minority. At the same time people pat themselves on the back now that the glass ceiling has been broken.
If Malcolm X hadn’t been taken out I can only wonder the kind of amazing things that could have come out of a partnership with MLK. While Malcolm X had thrown plenty of shade on King in the past, around the time X was assassinated, he had become far more moderate and had started a friendship with King.
And with that, here’s two awesome people hanging out:
I just met two Black Panther Party members this Sunday, talking about inter-generational activism. I can’t really speak for them, but they kind of echoed what you said, feeling like the leadership of that generation was systemically dismantled, as well as the history being systematically erased as we see here with MLK, and now we need to bring it back.