Remembering Dr. King, My Way (1 Viewer)

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Dr. King would be 91 years old today. It is a funny thing we do when someone's life is cut short, for whatever reason. We wonder. As most of you know, my older, biological sister died very young and a major part of the continuing grieving process is to constantly wonder, what would their life be like today? What kind of person would they be? How would they be living? How would they have lived up to this point? How would their life have changed things? Would anything have changed? The wondering, at times, is the hardest part. For me, as a black American, it seems, it feels, that a large part of Dr. King's life has become cliche, almost meme-like. We refer to the common things. I have a dream. The march on Selma. The popular quotes. The hopeful side of the man. Certainly excellent things to celebrate. Yet, by 1968, it seems Dr. King had become more apathetic, more militant, but more determined because he started to realize that civil rights didn't translate to highly improved living conditions for African Americans. Something more was needed. African Americans, and poor persons in general, needed economic assistance, a financial base and foundation, to fully realize and profit from the benefits of having rights civilly. An "economic bill of rights" was his proposal. Sadly, his poignant realization was that White America had less of an appetite to see African Americans aided economically which made their civil rights, in his view, somewhat hollow. I've linked to this interview before (on the old site), but, for me, it is a powerful representation of where Dr. King was at mentally shortly before his assassination. One part, to me, is a powerful statement:


In answer to the question, "What is it about the negro I mean every other group that came as an immigrant somehow? Not easily, but somehow got around it. Is it just the fact that Negroes are Black?" he said this:

"That's a part of it. That grows out of something else. You can't thingify anything without depersonalizing that something. If you use something as a means to an end at that moment you make it a thing and you depersonalize it. The fact is that the negro was a slave in this country for 244 years. That act, that was a willful thing that was done. The negro was brought here in chains and treated in very inhuman fashion. And this led to the thingification of the negro. So he was not looked upon as a person. He was not looked upon as a human being with the same status and worth as other human beings. And the other thing is, human beings cannot continue to do wrong withouth eventually rationalizing that wrong. So slavery was justified; morally, biologically, theoretically, scientifically, everything else.

White America must see, that no other ethnic group has been a slave on American soil. That is one thing that other immigrant groups haven’t had to face.

The other thing is that the color, became a stigma. American society made the Negroes color a stigma. America freed the slaves in 1863, through the Emancipation Proclamation of Abraham Lincoln, but gave the slaves no land, and nothing in reality. And as a matter of fact, to get started on.

At the same time, America was giving away, millions of acres of land in the west and the Midwest. Which meant that there was a willingness to give the white peasants from Europe an economic base, and yet it refused to give its black peasants from Africa, who came here involuntarily in chains and had worked free for two hundred and forty-four years, any kind of economic base.

And so emancipation for the Negro was really freedom to hunger. It was freedom to the winds and rains of Heaven. It was freedom without food to eat or land to cultivate and therefore was freedom and famine at the same time.

And when white Americans tell the Negro to “lift himself by his own bootstraps”, they don’t oh, they don’t look over the legacy of slavery and segregation. I believe we ought to do all we can and seek to lift ourselves by our own boot straps, but it’s a cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.

And many Negroes by the thousands and millions have been left bootless as a result of all of these years of Oppression and as a result of a society that deliberately made his color a stigma and something worthless and degrading."

"
A society that deliberately made his color a stigma and something worthless and degrading." Wow. That wound has yet to heal. For me, the essence, the spirit of the Black Lives Matter movement was always in defiance of...that. Not just fighting that notion, but, really a reminder to white America of its damage done to "blackness." The stain of being black and the burden carried by all of us who are stigmatized for it, despite class or wealth. To right that wrong, what some call America's Original Sin, Dr. King, with help from others, initiated the Poor People's Campaign. An effort, a demand, for economic justice for poor people in this country, particularly African Americans. His economic bill of rights asked the US Government for a $30 billion dollar package anti-poverty package. It sought gains for low-income housing, full employment and sustained income for the poor, of every race.

When you hear talk of reparations today, we have largely made it a stereotypical, buffoonish meme of what's intended and wanted. Black persons in line to get checks or wheelbarrows full of money. The Chappelle Show skit. It feeds the stigma of black people being lazy and wanting a handout. And, yet, that $30 billion dollars today, adjusted for inflation, would correlate to roughly $222 billion now. One wonders if we thought of reparations in those terms, an aid package, a starter kit, "assistance" if the defiance to the thought would loosen and more ideas, better ideas, could be cultivated and explored. It is just one of the many things I wonder about had Dr. King lived. What would he think of American society today? How would his presence help it?

Celebrate Dr. King with me today. How you choose to do so is your prerogative and I, certainly, am not shaming, lecturing or insisting that be done in a particularly way. Having the experience of losing someone, just remembering, in any capacity, does a great honor to that one's legacy and family. So, celebrating his popular moments, his popular speeches, the optimism, the faithful parts is certainly honorable. But, for me, as a black man, an African American, an American, I want to remember him this way. Defiant, determined...somewhat angry his dream was yet unfulfilled. That is the part of the man that speaks to me. That is relevant for me. My grandfather used to tell me, "Son, with any journey, the man who succeeds isn't the man looking back, reveling, at everything he has accomplished. It is the man looking forward, focused, at everything he has to complete." Thanks Pops. Thanks Dr. King. For everything you did to help us get this far but, moreso, for instilling the strength in me, the courage, to keep working, to keep fighting, for the so many things we have yet to attain. That's me remembering Dr. King, my way.
 

Beach Friends

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I celebrated by listening to Coleman Hughes most recent podcast, an interview with John McWhorter. Coleman is extremely interesting to follow, especially given the fact that he is so young - still in his early 20's I believe. What I really enjoy is, despite his breath of knowledge, I get the sense that I am watching him as he genuinely struggles with important issues (which should be the case given his youth) and he is not at all afraid to change his position on an issue.

Once you get past a somewhat awkward discussion of the first time these two men met, which was in a bathroom, I think it's a very thoughtful discussion which coincidentally does touch on MLK.

 

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