“Only a dry as dust religion will expound on the ethereal glories of heaven while denying the social misery that cause man an earthly hell.”-Martin Luther King Jr.
Well it’s that time again. Time for us to break out the old black and white film clips of the 1963 March on Washington. Time for hollow platitudes from greedy, self-serving and secretly racist politicians. Time to bask in the hollow multicultural enlightened racism of the left. This is the time when warmongers will ask us to remember a man of peace. We will not be asked to remember his political philosophies. We won’t be asked to remember his opposition to American empire. We won’t be asked to remember his opposition to wars that benefit the few at the expense of the many. We will be asked to remember only that he was nonviolent. While this misinterpretation will be chief among white people, it is mind-boggling to see it among black people.
In Black america, the ignorance about Martin Luther King Jr is truly astounding. There seems to be two sides that emerge from this confusion. The liberal black intellectuals that are hopelessly locked in the futility of trying to use King to prick the conscience of overt racists in power, or the fraudulently colorblind conservative that seeks to exploit King’s nonviolent philosophy to quell any discussion of structural inequality and social dissent. It is here that King’s message is most distorted. The incredible truth is that while they seek to invoke King to quiet dissent, they curse him as the harbinger of integration. They accuse him of destroying the black community with integration while they enjoyed an otherwise economically booming golden era under Jim Crow.
When we look at the statements about Dr. King we will discover that 80% of the things said about him are untrue. The other 20% is spoken out of context. Thus, I will state the record in an attempt to clear up the misinformation around the greatest theologian that America has ever produced. The Brown v. Board of Education case was decided in 1954. The Brown case was responsible for allegedly desegregating the Public School System. In 1954, King was appointed the Minister of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, AL. He had not yet began to engage in any civil rights demonstrations. On December 1, 1955, King was chosen to lead The Montgomery Bus Boycott. He was a member of the Montgomery Improvement Association. He was chosen by the elders of the church who had ousted his predecessor: Dr. Vernon Johns. Johns was dismissed because he was a “radical activist minister.”
The shocking truth is that the paragon of integration (King) did not ask for integration when he negotiated with the Montgomery City Council for resolution of the boycott. According to the book Daybreak of Freedom, and more importantly, his FBI record, King and his committee asked for a more “humane form of segregation.” This meant black bus drivers (which should have been no problem under segregation) for black routes, courtesy for black bus riders, and consistent routes in black neighborhoods. The City Council responded by blatantly ignoring and attempting to subvert the Montgomery Improvement Association. Thus, King and his committee urged the black community to withdraw from the buses immediately until such time as the City changed it’s policies. They formed car pools to help domestic workers; used church buses to shuttle community members back and forth around the City. City police responded by issuing bogus traffic citations to any drivers involved in helping the boycott. While the organizers could pay the fines, the increased citations placed the drivers’ insurance policies in jeopardy.
Faced with the intense repression of city police and a strategy of encirclement by the powers that be, King’s committee chose to do an end run around segregation by suing the State of Alabama to strike down segregation altogether; they were successful. The lesson from the suit was not a wholesale flight of economic resources from the black community, it was an issue of equal protection under the law. While many black conservatives point toward an independent black economy under segregation, they fail to mention that under segregation any black prosperity was temporary because of a lack of political, feudal and military power. Many of course, will point to Tulsa as a thriving example. What is missing is that after the riot, Black Tulsanites were prevented from reaching their prior heights of prosperity by city ordinances that forbid the construction of buildings that were not “fire-proof.” Or in other cases, they were rendered totally destitute when their insurance policies refused to pay for the damages from the riots. Later, the government enacted urban renewal eminent domain ordinances that flat out destroyed the community. As a result, the dreams and hopes of the most prosperous black community in history literally, went up in smoke.
While there is no doubt that integration played a part in the economic downturn of the community, the question that must be asked is whether King’s tactic of integration to achieve equal protection under the law mandated blacks to take their money and spend it outside of their communities? If segregation imposed black support for black businesses, did integration force blacks to spend their money elsewhere? If we are honest, we will admit that economic integration was not the error of one man advocating for social justice and economic parity. It was curious negroes intrigued by a world from which they were excluded that spelled the downfall of black communities across the country. So, Dr. King should not be scapegoated for our desire to learn what it’s like to be white.
Even in that regard, later in his life, Dr King asked the question: “are we integrating into a burning house?” This statement illustrates that we cannot pigeon hole King into the role of poster boy for racial integration. King understood what many refuse to accept: there is a fundamental flaw in American society. A flaw that allowed poor whites a life indistinguishable from that of poor blacks with only their skin color as a consolation prize for suffering a life of unbearable poverty. It was a kind of racial 3 card monte that kept whites guessing as to the real reasons why could never afford decent health care, earn a living wage, or send their children to college. He (King) thought it was politically perverse to allow whites to brutalize and murder negroes with impunity in America, while forcing them into an integrated army to kill others in the jungles of Southeast Asia. But when he gathered people of all races for the march that the government believed would instigate real revolution, they blew a hole in his neck using his own people to place him in the kill zone.
Shockingly, even though he was in the grave, we still didn’t stop killing him. We murdered his message with our ignorance. We murdered his memory with our trivial misinterpretations. We murdered his sacrifice with our insipid imaginations of what he really stood for. We deride him as the white man’s tool when he was really an American nightmare. In the so called conscious community he has been branded as an agent or sell out because of a tactic he used to change the reality of a world where the galactically stupid who insult his memory, would not be subjected to random brutality. Though the world is far from what he imagined, it is not what it was. King tried to give us a vision of what the world could be and not leave us stranded in the way that it was. Although labeled as a dreamer, he was the ultimate pragmatist. And while most called him a coward from the safety of a microphone, he was a man who accepted the resoluteness of death for over a decade. He was the epitome of a warrior. He was a true rebel. This is his real legacy. This is the true King.
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