Once a year, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s born day prompt the masses to do one (or all) of a few things: Fist pump about having an extended weekend before rolling over to sleep-in, hit up all of the MLK shopping deals at the mall, cull a cursory menu of food items that include fried chicken, collard greens, and other edibles associated with Southern Black-Americans, or reduce Martin Luther King to his “I Have A Dream Speech”, gleaning the parts that best suits some myopic agenda that often involves trying to peddle post-racial propaganda or silencing people of color whenever they’re trying to dissect racial politics. While Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream and fight for equal rights seemed cut-and-dry to most, the man was far more complex and his message(s) way more multilateral than what we’ve been taught in school and via the mainstream media, as this post on Crunk Feminist Collective points out. Since immersing myself in the social media sphere, I’ve seen various people quoting common MLK blurbs on my timelines, usually as a way to reinforce shallow argument sans any real genuine insight.
Today, I’d like to challenge folks to dig a little deeper than King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech and learn things about his life and work we don’t often hear or read about in mainstream media and school textbooks. Right before King was assassinated, he became a lot more impassioned in his advocacy for equal rights… and much of that was reflected in later speeches.
The continued fight against racism and for equality isn’t as easy as some people would like to believe it is, particularly when you consider the still tenuous state of today’s economic landscape and racial politics. As King illustrated in later speeches; it requires more depth of character, a rejection of the “colorblind” myth (because anybody truly interested in changing the world, can’t do so choosing to not recognizie someone else’s humanity, and a genuine belief in wanting everyone to succeed in this country; that includes unpacking privilege, understanding how racism works (this means eschewing the colloquial dictionary terms people usually defer to in discourses about race), and the deconstruction of White imperialism.
While Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream encouraged people to co-exist peacefully; he also noted the racial/health/economic disparities during that time, as the following quote from 1967 (the year before he was he was gunned down) indicates– “When we view the negative experiences of life, the Negro has a double share. There are twice as many unemployed. The rate of infant mortality among Negroes is double that of whites…” — a reality that many Black and brown people grapple with today.
So when quoting Martin Luther King, Jr., please do so with a better sense of understanding.
Additional (and noteworthy) Links: