Don’t disrespect MLK on his birthday this year.
There are too many myths and allegories and lies and unhealthy TMZ-esque fantasies in circulation about the type of leader Martin Luther King Jr. was for the civil rights movement; narratives that describe him as the dangerously forgiving, ultra-tolerant, community service-inspiring, Great Orator of Colorblindness, that tip-toed around White fragility in his church shoes, pleading kindly for his humanity back.
This is a fabrication that needs to be gripped by the throat and Rock Bottomed into an endless pit, preferably the french fry graveyard between the driver’s seat and middle console of a ’94 Volkswagen. It is weaponized by ugly-souled people that demonize protestors and rip up sharpied, cardboard signs that read “I Am a Human”; people that crop MLK’s legacy into youtube videos of his “I Have A Dream Speech”; people that send passive aggressive emails to university chancellors claiming that “safe spaces” oppress their free speech; people that vote against their own healthcare and employment status and self-preservation and complete damn existence; people that believe that MLK was a respectable, law-abiding citizen, that everyone adored and let kiss their newborns that still look like soggy potatoes; people that say “MLK wouldn’t protest that way”; people that say “Black lives won’t matter until they end Black on Black crime.”
These lies are most commonly preached to school children on or around MLK’s birthday, which is the most disrespectful of disrespectful ways you can choose to celebrate someone’s birthday/federal holiday: Lie about who they are to transform them into a version that makes us all feel more comfortable.
MLK was an honorable renegade, and we need to stop preaching that he was the agreeable token.
So how do we reject all this and put some respek on MLK’s name this year?
Acknowledge MLK as a resistor and disruptor.
Martin Luther King Jr. was non-violent, but he wasn’t passive. He aggressively ORGANIZED ORGANIZED ORGANIZED. He convinced people to walk miles in the summer heat in their church clothes; people that were not luke-warm in their decision to face state-authorized violence head-on; a crew of ride-or-dies, that were willing to literally ride-or-DIE. The first marchers on Edmund Pettus Bridge left with broken bones and bloodied heads and gnawed limbs, generating national attention and leading to a second march of over 20,000. The Montgomery Bus Boycott dropkicked Consumerism in the back of the neck, shutting down the flow of cash money, and setting up a blind date between local economies and local recessions. He was arrested 30 times while leading a movement for over ten years. Tell children that MLK was a radical, because he was, and they should be proud of that.
Acknowledge MLK as a danger to White Supremacy.
The American government understood that MLK was a danger to Whiteness; a profound traitor to law and order and things staying exactly how they are because that’s just the way it is. MLK played chess while everyone else played thumb wars. He was a masterful organizer and agitator.
Martin Luther King Jr. was Public Enemy number one, and the federal government needed to know his game plan in order make an attempt to keep the status quo. The FBI does not investigate people they do not believe are threats, and they tapped MLK’s phones like we were already post-9/11. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s tagline is “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”; they have it tattooed on their lower back. Former FBI Director Edgar Hoover once referred to Martin Luther King as the “most notorious liar in the country” because he voiced his distrust of the FBI’s ability to protect civil rights activists from violence. The government labeled MLK as a “communist” which was a strategy that enabled groups like the House Un-American Activities Committee to attack people fighting for civil rights. An MLK quote inspired “Feds is Watching.”
And all of this because he understood how to drive a movement focused on disenfranchised people getting their due share (all of it) of freedom and human rights, and that anyone in the way could get these hands.