Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Now Invisible Legacy of Martin Luther King

As we once again celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King, we will inevitably be subjected to the standard narrative about nonviolent racial harmony and treated to the now-iconic “I Have A Dream” speech. While these messages are inspiring and important, it is unfortunate that Americans are denied information about King’s wider biographical narrative and the activities, concerns, and public addresses made by King throughout his entire lifetime.

Instead we are treated to the sanitized, or maybe more accurately “white-washed”, version of his legacy that is now acceptable to the mainstream elite and media.

Students may be surprised to learn that after the “I Have a Dream Speech” the response was not all sweetness and light. Rather, many within the US government viewed King as a dangerous threat.

It is well known that the Director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, was obsessed with derailing King’s civil rights agenda with one of Hoover’s closest aide’s writing: “We must mark him now, if we have not done so before, as the most dangerous Negro of the future in this Nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro, and national security.”

It is also important to recognize King’s broader critique of American society that extends beyond the carefully crafted and stylized narrative of civil rights, tolerance, and diversity. This includes the following from speeches during the last years of his short life:

“We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values…when machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

“You can’t talk about ending slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You’re really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with the captains of industry….Now this means that we are treading in difficult waters, because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong…with capitalism…there must be a better distribution of wealth and maybe America must move toward a Democratic Socialism.”

Few if any Americans are aware of this side of King’s message. Is it just an oversight, or is it part of a deliberate misrepresentation of King’s legacy? You decide.

1 comment:

  1. "The winners win history." My 11th grade history teacher told the class that and it's stuck with me. The simplicity and accuracy in the idea is astonishing. Those in the positions of power/privilege do get to decide how things are interpreted/understood and Dr. King's legacy is changed by what those in power to do so chose to remember.