|Martin Luther King, Jr at the March on Washington (Photo Credit: AP)|
The Hijacking of a Dream: Why We Need to Reclaim Dr. King’s Legacy
By Solomon Comissiong
... Martin Luther King, Jr. stood for much more than what mainstream America has methodically reduced him to in the minds of tens of millions of Americans. In fact, if he were alive today many of the corporate war mongering politicians, including President Obama, would be vilifying Dr. King as if he were some crazed angry black man. This is why we will never hear the likes of Barack Obama quote Dr. King when he referred to the US government as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today”. Dr. King said those powerful and honest words on April 4, 1967 at Riverside Church in New York City (exactly a year before he was assassinated). Over four decades later—the US government is still the greatest purveyor of violence on earth. You can bet that the following quote with not be read at the dedication of the King memorial:
“As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they ask — and rightly so — what about Vietnam? They ask if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.”
After listening to/reading Dr. King’s Beyond Vietnam — A Time to Break Silence speech, anyone still thinking that he would be in approval of what this current administration is doing in places like Libya and Afghanistan, should have their head thoroughly examined. Dr. King was much more than simply a man who was anti-war; he was a man who stood for peace and social justice. He was truly a man of principles and convictions, which is why he was unafraid of speaking truth to so-called power. Remaining silent, as so many gutless politicians and celebrities do today, was not an option within Dr. King’s conscious. And because of this, he was routinely targeted by the US government, by way of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and devils like J. Edgar Hover.
The US government’s military industrial complex has been a prominent issue dating back decades. The military industrial complex is a vastly profitable behemoth that must be fed a steady diet of wars in order to maintain its existence. Those who threaten the existence of this killing machine become expendable. Dr. King’s outspokenness against, not only the Vietnam War, but also the military industrial complex—secured his status as a target. Dr. King’s crime—he dared to challenge the conscious of a nation entangled within the web of an imperialist war throughout Southeast Asia. Among other things he said, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” Which one of the political frauds, or entertainers, in attendance at the dedication to Dr. King’s memorial will take such a courageous stance in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.? Don’t hold your breath waiting.
In 2011 the US government has methodically found a way to direct itself into multiple military campaigns of aggression, including dropping missiles indiscriminately upon Libya and arbitrarily using drones to bomb villages in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Over a trillion dollars have been used on these campaigns, including Iraq, since 2001—- all the while people in the US are losing their homes to foreclosures, school systems are being defunded, and 40,000 Americans die each year due to a lack health insurance. If Dr. King’s statement is true then America’s spirit must be on life support—needing an end to its defense spending as part of a multi-tiered remedy for rehabilitation.
Dr. King knew very well about the US government’s record of going into countries, whose governments refused to be obsequious to their addiction to other nation’s resources, and then destabilizing them by waging war, by assassination of leaders, or both. Dr. King knew that the US played a role in the removal and murder of people like Congo’s Patrice Lumumba in 1961. In 2011, very little has changed at all. The US and its gang of European minions (NATO) are currently bombing Libya and its people, into oblivion. This is, in fact, the kind of immoral act of war that Martin Luther King, Jr. would be completely opposed to, along with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. His life should give us ample reason to come to this conclusion, and only this conclusion. However, how many children in America know this, especially children of color? Dr. King’s image has been reshaped by some amoral adults as well as by adults who, themselves, have been purposely mis-educated. When we see ridiculous t-shirts with the face of Dr. King juxtaposed next to that of President Obama we should see this as a blatant assault on the civil rights leader’s work, as well as on his character. Comparing Dr. King to the warmongering Barack Obama is completely unwarranted. These kinds of comparisons further confuse the masses, especially those who have purposely been given little to no historical point of reference in regard to Dr. King and his complete body of work.
The night before Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated he was giving a speech in support of striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. He understood the need for unions and supported their struggle. He passionately supported the economically disenfranchised as evidenced with his organizational work around the Poor People’s Campaign. Studying his work on these issues it should be clearly evident that this man would be completely opposed to the current vicious attacks on labor unions and the poor. The fork tongued Barack Obama campaigned in support of labor unions, saying whatever he needed to, in order to curry favor from them—as a means of gobbling up their valuable votes. However now that he is in office, he has deliberately distanced himself far away from their struggle, all the while bending over backwards for their nemesis—Wall Street and the gangs of mega-corporations that lurk there. Are we really that foolish to believe that Dr. King would have been in favor of Barack Obama’s multi-trillion dollar bailout for the same banksters that are largely responsible for the current economic crisis plaguing the US, and the world?
Dr. King made it quite obvious, with his actions, which side of history he stood on. He made it even clearer that he stood with the masses of oppressed and poor people riddled throughout the unequal social fabric sewn throughout America. Serving as the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Dr. King supported SCLC initiated programs like Operation Breadbasket which was aimed at economically empowering black communities. In 1967 Dr. King said, ‘‘Many retail businesses and consumer-goods industries deplete the ghetto by selling to Negroes without returning to the community any of the profits through fair hiring practices.’’ In 2011 numerous members of the Congressional Black Caucus, as well as President Barack Obama, appear to have no problem selling out the interests of black communities to the benefit of vulture-like corporations. Whether it is the privatization of public schools, gentrification, or the growing economic disparity between whites and blacks; politicians like Barack Obama could care less about their policies overall negative impact on African-Americans. It remains perplexing as to why so many black people remain in support of Barack Obama—the absence of historical perspective and critical analysis can have this effect on people. Obama’s actions, regarding Black America, are antithetical to those of the late great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Obama has become rather skilled at blaming black people for their plight, whenever he decides to acknowledge their existence at all. He even had the audacity to do this at the NCAACP’s 100th anniversary when he said, “We’ve got to say to our children, yes, if you’re African American, the odds of growing up amid crime and gangs are higher. Yes, if you live in a poor neighborhood, you will face challenges that somebody in a wealthy suburb does not have to face. But that’s not a reason to get bad grades — that’s not a reason to cut class — that’s not a reason to give up on your education and drop out of school. No one has written your destiny for you. Your destiny is in your hands — you cannot forget that. That’s what we have to teach all of our children. No excuses. No excuses. You get that education; all those hardships will just make you stronger, better able to compete. Yes we can.”
Obama would never have gone into a poor white community and told the parents of a vastly underfunded school system and marginalized community that they should, in essence, accept those conditions without protesting or fighting to hold the government accountable. However, Obama knows he can slap around the black community in that manner because, for some reason, far too many African-Americans continue to support him in a most pathetic manner. Unfortunately, Obama, like many other Democrats, will continue to disrespect the black community until they completely divorce themselves from that party and form/support a truly independent party that actually advocates for their collective interests.
In regards to black people, especially poor black people; Dr. King had a knack for placing their living conditions within the context of institutional racism and its impact on their communities. In 1968, just months before his assassination, Dr. King said, “It is incontestable and deplorable that Negroes have committed crimes; but they are derivative crimes. They are born of the greater crimes of the white society.” The great civil rights leader said those words within a speech he gave to his staff at a SCLC meeting in Frogmore, South Carolina as he was preparing them for the Poor People’s Campaign. His commitment to black people, and poor people in general, was the polar opposite to a man like Barack Obama who seems to thrive at marginalizing those demographics while catering to his corporate and military bosses.
In the same Beyond Vietnam speech, Dr. King gave a prescient warning when he said, “When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” In 2011 much of the world is suffering from the impact of America’s insatiable hunger for global domination. The US’s runaway military industrial complex continues to take lives away from innocent civilians in places like Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Libya. The American military industrial complex creates carnage abroad, all the while preventing Americans from having things like a single-payer healthcare system. In 2011 institutional racism is a disease that destroys the lives of black and brown people in America, by way of police brutality, economic inequality and unequal school systems—to name a few. And in 2011 runaway capitalism is imposing economic terrorism on countless people and their rapidly disintegrating communities. Dr. King’s words may be more relevant now, than ever before.
The dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is almost assured to be a most superficial event replete with superficial politicians and luminaries. The organizers of this event, and their corporate cronies, are already licking their capitalist chops—promoting and selling everything from expensive hotel rooms, sponsorship opportunities, to high priced exhibitor space. In essence, they will be “honoring” Dr. King by not embracing his legacy of social justice, but by financially capitalizing on his name. There will be no speeches of ending America’s imperialist wars, like Dr. King did. Anyone with that message trying to get on stage will be swiftly removed by security. There will be no speeches about destroying institutional racism in America—most likely the lie of America being a post racist country will be bandied about. Don’t expect any talk about waging a war on poverty—after all some of the sponsors of this event are in fact large multinational corporations (such as Wal-Mart) that benefit from destroying local businesses while dissuading their workers from unionizing. However, what you are sure to see is cameras on disingenuous politicians crying crocodile tears, as if they give a damn about Dr. King’s legacy. Many of these political actors will be men and women who have, at one time or another, voted to finance one or more of America’s current military campaigns. Unfortunately, some of these frauds will even be members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Far too many members of the CBC have become quite comfortable with taking the easy way out and remaining silent about things that matter. The same goes for countless black entertainers riddled throughout Hollywood. They have lost their spine and made the conscious decision to protect their political interests and/or their potential sponsorship from white corporations that could not give a damn about social justice or the well-being of the communities from which many of these black politicians and entertainers come from.
Dr. King once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Ending Institutional racism in America, eradicating poverty, and stopping the US’s destructive wars, are all things that matter. They matter so much that life and death hinge upon each injustice. It is obvious that we cannot expect Democrats or Republicans to vociferously break their collective silence about the cauldron of social injustices that have been brewing in America for quite some time—that job must be ours. We must raise our collective voices and speak out against them and stand up for justice. This is the greatest way we can honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Solomon Comissiong is an educator, community activist, author, public speaker and the host of the Your World News media collective.
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Question for Readers:
How are Martin Luther King, Jr. values and ideas being represented by the U.S. government?