I am one of the Americans fortunate enough to have been taught about Martin Luther King Jr, if not in full, then closer to full than the grand majority of other Americans. We’re all a victim to the white washing of history. It’s a simple fact of life that the people in power who write the history books (rich white dudes) write things from their perspective. Their perspective is that the actions of white Americans against non white people were never as bad as those non white people ever claim they are, or if they were bad, were justifiable because those non white people had it coming by not being white.
Read accounts of people during the time, and read the edited documents we have in our history books now. It’s always true. We even have first hand accounts from people saying how awful it is and being above and beyond the regular call of racism, and yet we talk about the civil rights movement (and all of American history) in such bullshit and quaint tones.
So the history most of you guys got of MLK jr was a history of non violent protest and peace and love through getting our asses kicked by the cops and other white folks for fun. They don’t know the reasons for the lack of violence on the part of the oppressed. Most people, to this day don’t, have any real understanding of the point to a non violent protest movement. Then y’all learned black folks got rights, then he got shot. America was no longer racist and anytime a black person brings up race you go and yell about how we’re equal and the black person needs to stop whining and get over the “it” of racism that doesn’t exist.
Fortunately for me that isn’t the way I learned it. I learned it a better way. I learned that non violent protest is the only way a group that is oppressed in the very specific way African-Americans were oppressed from before the USA was founded up until now is able to gain rights without complete assurance of regression and extermination. Make no mistake, if black people took to the streets of Virginia violently taking back land and such the cops would be (even more than they kind of already were and to some extent still are) allowed to kill niggers on site. In the same way it’s assumed now (and in a similar fashion to how we treat darker skinned arabs and especially the muslim ones) that blacks are criminal in some way and so when they are shot in their own homes by the police without due cause everyone says “well he probably did something”, outward expressions of violence would have led to a great societal shrugging of shoulders over the rapidly increasing pile of dead black bodies.
I learned that non violence didn’t mean not fighting. I learned that it meant not backing down from what you believe and using all the tools available to you. I learned that the civil rights movements of the fifties and sixties was a greatly organized PR move. Is it awful that black people had to do things in a certain way to disprove stereotypes that weren’t true? Absolutely. The hope was that after the struggle we’d go through to disprove those lies they wouldn’t continue to haunt us. I also was made to understand that at times there is simply nothing you can do to win. If the world is casting you as an angry black man and you do so much as to raise an eyebrow in question of something you’ve proven them right. So, at these times, you yell.
That’s what MLK did. He yelled at the times he was being derided as just an angry negro not being happy with the spot the whites had set aside for him. And make no mistake, he knew he was in a fight against white society. He knew the main reason whites and blacks couldn’t work together was that whites were unwilling to accept blacks as equal citizens, nor were they willing to accept that racism actively disenfranchises blacks and that in order for true equality to exist whites would need give up some of their societal privilege. He knew that white society associated blacks with bad and evil things and that is something that needed to be changed.
He also was a firm believer in economic justice. That’s what he was all about before his assassination. He was trying to upset the economic system in America. He was working for laborers. He was peacefully doing the same thing union heads were doing in the 20s and 30s. This is the legacy I grew up with. I grew up with someone who was willing to hire enforcers to stomp out people on his side to prevent them from breaking a boycott. That shit’s hard to do and hard to live with, yet those are the decisions that move a broken society like our forward.
I honestly feel remorse for all of you who grew up with sugar-coated visions of Martin Luther King Jr and the civil rights movement he was such a part of. You have a lesser understanding of just how great he actually was. You didn’t get to grow up idolizing someone who was a threat to society. You never knew how little white society wanted to do with the man and just how uncomfortable he made everyone. All you ever knew was a nice guy who guy shot for trying to make the world a little bit better while I was able to grow up with a man who was murdered for trying to destroy a society out from underneath itself.
Yeah, that was totally smug and snarky, but fuck it. The MLK I grew up with is sooooo much cooler than yours.