Usually, when people want the country to sing kumbaya, ignore trespasses and injustice, and not hold racist White folks accountable, they pull a random quote from Martin Luther King Jr. and weaponize his words for their convenience, much like oppressors have been doing when pulling Bible quotes pretty much since the birth of this country.
Martin Luther King Jr. organized peaceful protests, but people have misconstrued passive resistance to mean that we should not and must not resort to violence to attain a necessary goal, and while doing so, credit Martin Luther King Jr with single-handedly pushing Lyndon B. Johnson to sign the Civil Rights act of 1964.
…which completely discounts the work of others who have not been recognized with a National Holiday on their birthdays, such as Malcolm X, The Black Panthers and others.
Peaceful protest was effective, but the fear of destruction of the Republic also was an influence that added urgency to the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the hope that doing so would be enough to lull the people back to complacency.
There were many ideas that contributed to the urgency toward progress in this country; the idea that Black people could arm and defend themselves from police, the fact that the families of the lynched would hold open casket funerals to show what the angry mobs did to a child, falsely accused of whistling at a White woman, or the fact that a Black woman refused to go to the back of the bus before Rosa Parks did, but wasn’t the “right sort of Black woman” and her less than perfect background would be weaponized as justification not to allow her to be seen as an equal human being.
All of this tends to get overlooked and overshadowed by “I Have a Dream,” and the cherry picking of a legacy.
Progress was made because organized strikes threatened the acquisition of wealth in this country, and Civil Rights was the salve they hoped would put the matter back to rest.
Many of our leaders who died were targeted for death or exile when Civil Rights as law proved only to be the beginning. I say this because so many people killed, either publicly or privately lynched, or threatened, or financially ruined or blackmailed, does not happen in this country without either the complicity or the permission of people in seats of power.
We look at Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday as a holiday and as the commemoration of a leader for change in this country, who happened to be Black, but wanted change for all of us.
Still, there is the persistent perception that Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday is a “Black” holiday, and many companies feel free not to acknowledge the day and have their employees work as if it were any other day.
This is disrespectful and a continuing vestige of the soft-racism that runs in this country, even in places not deemed to be seen as “racist.”
People conveniently forget when blaming racism on Democrats, that elements within our society could not countenance being no better than Black people, which caused Dixiecrats, southern Democrats, to abandon their party and become Republicans, all because of racism.
Elements of our society could not deal with the next idea on Martin Luther King’s agenda, which is the poison underlying racism which provides it with its power – poverty.
Racism has always been used as a tool by the wealthy to keep the White people in poverty fighting with the Black people in poverty, using the poor Whites as enforcers and slave-catchers, the root of policing structures in this country, against the poor Blacks, and while the poor of all races were oppressed and distracted, extracting labor, stealing wealth and generally continuing to steal the whole cake while their victims fought amongst themselves for the crumbs.
Martin Luther King’s next mission was to march with unions – specifically Black men who worked in sanitation, a job people tend to look down upon, but without their valuable service, we would quickly be waist deep in trash, rats, and disease. They were striking because they were being paid less than a person could survive on to do a necessary job.
“I AM A MAN” was the precursor to “Black Lives Matter” in this country. It was painted on signs and carried by protesters fighting to receive a living wage equal to White men for the same work.
This was the final straw, and it resulted in the death of Martin Luther King Jr, shot on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, and within a few years, Malcolm X was killed, the Black Panthers were jailed, and voices went into exile in Paris, as their lives were threatened for simply wanting to be no better than White people, and to have the right to be paid a living wage for work.
After JFK and RFK were killed, White leaders became afraid to stand up. After Black leaders were killed or jailed or institutionalized, or exiled, Black leaders became afraid to speak, and while the Voting Rights act and the Civil Rights Act became law, the laws were slowly undermined and dismantled over time by power structures within this country that wish to not be any better than Black people, and who know what happens in this country when enough people forget to be racist for a moment, start to see themselves in us, and begin to see the real problem – poverty and the extraction of labor and wealth by the wealthy and powerful.
The new Jim Crow was a construction designed to load Black bodies into an unjust “Justice System,” and to use the loophole in the 13th Amendment in the Constitution designed to salve the anger of aggrieved Whites who saw the freed enslaved as a government mandated loss of property, to create a machine to extract free labor from Black bodies via corporate owned and run prison system.
Three Strikes rules and higher penalties for essentially the same drug only differentiated by an economic barrier targeted Black bodies for prison in communities intentionally left under-served, and then lured into the drug trade with videos and movies glamorizing “Thug Life.”
Bodies dehumanized by labeling them as “super-predators” were thrown into cells, since racism and bigotry is not the exclusive provenance of the GOP and its minions. Both faces of the coin build the machine.
All through this era, Black people were jailed at higher rates than poor Whites, and killed by police with impunity and without consequence at higher rates than poor Whites and while we screamed and cried and protested, our voices were not heard until the dark day when a smirking officer placed his over 200 pound body on the handcuffed person beneath him, and smirked as the light died in George Floyd’s eyes and he called out for his mother as his brain slowly died from lack of air.
In 2020, the work people began to do together to have a voice came to fruition.
People of all colors marched for years to say no to racism, to say yes to trying to work together, this time to get us out of an economic crater and then out of a pandemic.
…and a small section of the wealthy and powerful saw this as a threat to their power.
They used a credibility gap to sow doubt in the Democratic process, to propagate conspiracy theory, and to whip up those who, even though every deck in this country is stacked in their favor, have not been able to attain the wealth they’ve felt they were owed.
They funded masked men with long hammers and firestarters in their backpacks to set things on fire during protests.
They paid for skids of bricks to be conveniently left handy for the aggrieved and recently pepper sprayed to react with violence and put though windows of stores they do not own, and to burn buildings they did not build.
These temptations were largely unsuccessful as 93-95% of all protests were peaceful.
The 5% of protests that weren’t were filmed from all angles and put on a loud loop on a drum beat on right wing media to scare the White people in their suburban enclaves, terrified that the riots they were led to believe were happening everywhere would eventually burn their beloved homes and businesses, not realizing that in many cases, it was their radicalized sons and daughters, fed lies through social media and via the coms on their video games, gone wild-ing in the big cities, convinced that they were helping BLM, who set most of the fires and did most of the looting.
BLM witnessed this happening repeatedly and counseled the misguided.
BLM let the folks know that burning would not be helpful – that Black people lived in these communities and needed these stores. We needed our places to live. We would be blamed for burning while the White kids would return to their homes, thinking they did something good, but in reality their “wild-ing” may have taken out the only supermarket in a food desert, and may have done the work of demolition of established communities, making the way for real estate developers to renew, displace and gentrify neighborhoods they had targeted for years but had been unable to crack.
The Poor and distressed middle classes were rarely allowed time from distraction to see the truth – the deck is stacked specifically so that wealthiest of wealthy people can retain their wealth and power, and the system requires restructuring.
The White poor and the distressed mostly White middle classes believed the lies. They believed that they were “patriots” charged with saving their country, but in fact, they were no better than the Confederate army, lied into a conflict that was fought specifically to keep kidnapped Africans who had been enslaved for centuries enslaved, and in doing so, to keep the means of generation of wealth in the hands of the rich White few.
The insurrectionists, armed, invaded the Capitol on the day the Electoral College votes were to be read, the day the Vice President refused a direct request from the President to overstep his authority, to disenfranchise electors, and to hand power over to a wanna-be authoritarian, desperate to avoid the long line of the aggrieved and victimized, ready to hold him to account once the legal shield he believed his Presidency provided, was prized away from his stubby orange foundation and blood-stained finger.
He has lived a life around the idea of “what can I get away with?” – the direct opposite of the “Noble Obligation” that was once a pillar of American life – once you attained success, it was your obligation to pay your taxes, to use your wealth to improve the lot of others, to build museums and schools and churches out of your benevolence, and out of duty.
He lived opposite to that. Wealth to him, is a tool used to acquire pleasure and power, to avoid accountability for crimes that less wealthy people would be jailed, to lure women and who would not otherwise be attracted to him, to allegedly partake in illegal activity such as the rape of children, and to discard them once he grew bored or tired of them, to misdirect blame when things went wrong, to use the system to sue his enemies and his creditors into submission and to game the system to avoid paying taxes and to hoard wealth.
When his wealth was allegedly threatened by sanctions against his primary source of income, money kept in a small Russian bank, passed through Deutchebank by his private bankers, and used to purchase overpriced properties in order to launder ill-gotten gains from stolen oil, sex-trafficking, drug sales, and other proceeds from organized crime, he decided to run for President, in hopes that at a minimum, he would gain enough power to lobby to have the sanctions lifted, but unexpectedly, he won.
The Insurrection E vent on January 6, 2021 was to silence the voice of 81 million Americans who worked together during a pandemic to remove a liar, conman, and racist from office.
The liar called people within the Senate as they fled from armed insurrectionists, trying to convince them to support him. His supporters within the House and Senate refused to wear masks while in lock-down, infecting their colleagues, live-tweeted the location of key Representatives, allowing the people who had walked the building the day before on a “tour” which looked a lot like reconnaissance, to know that some of them were close to their goal of capturing, and potentially lynching people they saw as enemies to their cause.
The Insurrectionists had zip-ties and a hastily-constructed gallows on the plaza outside the Capitol Dome. They had weapons. They planted bombs. They stole secured laptops and ripped panic buttons out of the offices of targeted government officials.
Some of the insurrectionists defecated into their hands and smeared shit on the walls of Congress.
Let us only consider forgiveness after those who have trespassed have apologized, and only after they have atoned and done the work to repair what they tried to break.
Let them accept that the work they must do is for them, not for us, and that, quite frankly, our forgiveness is not the expected reward, nor is it owed. This is the minimum they need to do, to attempt to make whole what was broken.
There are some trespasses that are unforgivable and will have forever broken a trust that cannot be repaired, and for some of us, they will have to accept this and we’ll have to agree to walk our separate paths, united only by country.
No longer can we trust them to be united in purpose, and that they must find their own way from the moment they crossed the threshold into the Capitol and were prepared to hand our democracy over to a man who wants everything and values nothing.
They posed for Instagram pictures while parading a Confederate Flag through the halls, a flag that had not even made it into the building during the worst of the Civil War.
So, as we remember a leader on his birthday, and prepare to swear in a new President in hopes of taking the first steps out of the crater caused by an incompetent man who should never have been placed in the seat of power in this country, let us remember the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. but more importantly, let no-one twist his words into an excuse not to hold people accountable for crimes against democracy and against our fellow citizens.
…and let us remember King’s final action – to fly to lead a protest of sanitation workers, and to provide them with a voice and a path out of poverty – an action so terrifying to the powers that be in this country, they very well may have had him executed for daring to ask that people should be paid a living wage and provided dignity for their work.