The Hijacking of a Dream:
Reclaiming Dr. King’s Legacy
As we approach the Martin Luther King holiday, America needs to perform a re-assessment of what this memorial holiday means to all of us. On August 28, 2011, the dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial took place on the National Mall in Washington DC. Having the dedication of this memorial on the 48th anniversary of the March on Washington, was clearly a symbolic gesture — paying homage to one of the many defining moments in the great civil rights leader’s life. However, the corporate contributors of this event, along with many of the politicians that were in attendance, were and are symbolic themselves. They are symbols of everything Dr. King was, and would be opposed to, if he were alive today. These charlatans and hucksters know very well of this fact, which is exactly why they, the mainstream media in America, and an ever-shrinking segment of prejudiced Americans of all colors and races continue to desperately try to reshape the image of Dr. King. If these people have their way, Dr. King and his legacy will stand for nothing more than what I regard as a superficial image. They fervently wish to recreate him into someone they can feel more comfortable with. This is why most children, and adults, can only recite one quote in relationship to Dr. King —“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood for much more than what mainstream America has methodically reduced him to. 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 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 Pakistan, Egypt, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan, need to have their heads 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 conscience. And because of this, he was routinely targeted by the US government, by way of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and devils minions such as FBI founder J. Edgar Hoover.
The American empire’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” was that he dared to challenge the conscience 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 took such a courageous stance in solidarity with Martin Luther King, Jr.? None, that’s how many. Zero, nada, zip, or zilch, take your pick.
In 2013 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 Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Over a trillion dollars have been used on these campaigns, including Iraq, since 2001—- while people in the US are all losing their homes to foreclosures, school systems are being defunded, and 40,000 Americans die each year due to a lack health insurance. That’s more people than all who died in auto accidents last year. 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. Today in 2013, very little has changed at all. The US and its gang of European minions (NATO) are currently bombing Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia into the stone age. 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 before that. His life should give us ample reason to come to this conclusion, and only this conclusion. However, how many children in America know this? Dr. King’s image has been reshaped by some amoral adults as well as by adults who 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. These kinds of comparisons further confuse the masses, and not by accident, 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. When we study 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 won his second term, 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 which side of history he stood on with his actions. 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, exactly what my own ministry stands for. 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.’’ Today 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 the very African-Americans who helped vote him into office. 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, including the rapidly vanishing US middle class, 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 NAACP’s 100th anniversary meeting 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 — never 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 far too many African-Americans continue to pledge blind obedience him in what I see as 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 my view as a Caucasian American, it underscores the urgent need for a viable third political party in America that speaks for and addresses the needs of all Americans regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, age, gender, economic status and sexual orientation. On further thought, I could end this week’s commentary right here and still have a pretty good article, but I want to go deeper so everyone please stay with me on this, okay?
In regards to people of color, especially poor 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 of 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.” Today in 2013 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, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Libya, to name just a few. The American military industrial complex creates carnage abroad while preventing Americans from having things like a world-class single-payer health care system. In 2014 institutional racism remains a disease that destroys the lives of people of color in America by way of ruthless police brutality, enforced economic inequality and intentionally unequal school systems — to name a few. Also in 2014, runaway capitalism is imposing economic terrorism on countless people and their rapidly disintegrating communities. Dr. King’s words are surely more relevant now than ever before.
The dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial was assured to be a most superficial event replete with superficial politicians and luminaries when it was held over 2 years ago. The organizers of this event and their corporate cronies were 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. Instead, 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 and numerous others) 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, a few of these frauds will even be members of the Congressional Black Caucus, but I will decline to name names for now. 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.” He also famously said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Ending institutional racism in America, eradicating poverty and homelessness, tearing down the US prison-industrial complex by ending the drug wars, and stopping the US’s destructive wars – these are the things that really 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, starting with the clergy like myself, since Congress and the President refuse to do any such thing. We must raise our collective voices and speak out against them and stand up for justice. As the 2014 King Holiday comes upon us, this is the greatest way we can honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.