Showing posts with label Dr. Martin Luther King. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dr. Martin Luther King. Show all posts

Monday, January 15, 2024

MLK's Radical Revolution of Values Needed to Heal U.S.

Open and avowed white supremacists operate in the government, engaging in whites-only policies based on a false racist theory of white genocide.

This month marks the 90th birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr the iconic American civil rights and human rights leader who forced America to live up to its rhetorical ideals of freedom, democracy and equality. For his efforts, he was assassinated in 1968.

The fallen Nobel laureate and “drum major for justice” - vilified, ostracised and loathed in life, monitored and hunted by the government - was honoured posthumously with a federal holiday in the United States. Yet, as that holiday has been diluted and repositioned into a national day of service, and Dr King’s character has been neutered and rendered a passive, innocuous and idealistic dreamer who gave rousing speeches, Americans have lost sight of the man’s revolutionary philosophy.

Five decades ago, Martin Luther King warned of America’s triple evils: racism, economic exploitation and militarism. These evils continue to plague the country to this day, necessitating the radical restructuring of society the black leader so urgently promoted.

“I am convinced that if we are to get on to the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values,” King said in his “Beyond Vietnam speech. “We must rapidly begin … the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. 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.”

Racism, the original American sin born from the enslavement of Africans and the genocide of indigenous peoples, has not abated. In his 1963 “I Have A Dream” speech, King said as black people were concerned, the US had failed to honour its promises written in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. “Instead of honouring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds’. But we refuse to believe that bank of justice is bankrupt,” he said.

Today, the US has yet to address reparations to African Americans to repair the damage of enslavement and the continuing legacy of institutional racism, including both de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination.

Open and avowed white supremacists operate in the government, engaging in whites-only policies based on a false racist theory of white genocide, with an immigration policy of ethnic cleansing, separation of migrant families and imprisonment of 15,000 children - all designed to keep whites in the majority. Meanwhile, white supremacist hate groups are thriving in the streets, with a sharp increase in hate crimes and school bullying in the era of Trump.

The US is a “flawed democracy according to the Economist’s 2018 Democracy index, ranking only 25th globally in terms of political participation and culture, governmental functions, electoral process, civil liberties and pluralism. In states such as Georgia and North Carolina, white conservatives of the Republican Party employ segregation-era voter suppression tactics against people of colour and the poor, including restrictive and unjust voter ID laws, voter purges, rigged elections and votes stolen, and gerrymandered legislative districts.

Despite professing to be the self-proclaimed “land of opportunity”, the US maintains a predatory capitalist system with pathological levels of economic inequality. In a land of abundance, only a handful enjoy its wealth. With 40 million people in poverty, the US is the most unequal advanced nation, with the least social and economic mobility in the developed world. The US profits from misery through private prisons, and a for-profit healthcare system that forces people to go bankrupt and into poverty while paying for medical bills.

The wealthiest one percent owns 40 percent of the nation’s wealth, while the top 10 percent controls 77 percent of the wealth. While working Americans are drowning in nearly $1.5 trillion student loan debt they are unable to pay off. And as conservatives shake their heads and proclaim nothing can be done, the nation engages in policies of plunder of poor and working people, such as a $1.5 trillion tax cut almost entirely for the benefit of the top one percent.

Meanwhile, Trump forces a government shutdown over his vanity border wall that leaves 800,000 federal workers without pay, and he advises furloughed workers to make adjustments and, barter with their landlords and hire an attorney.

A culture of corruption precludes the US from solving its problems. Politicians are beholden to moneyed interests rather than held accountable to the public, a Harvard Business School report suggests. Laws promoting gun proliferation, environmental degradation and “loyalty oaths” to other nations reflect the largesse bestowed upon these politicians by lobbyists who seek to enact them.

Martin Luther King, aware of the connections between injustice at home and abroad, spoke out against US proclivity for war. “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,” King said. “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.”

Today, the US meddles in the affairs of other nations, waging drone wars and killing hundreds of  thousands of innocent civilians in the name of the “war on terror”, assassinating people and engaging in regime change. Decades of US intervention in Central America caused skyrocketing levels of corruption and violence that fuelled a migrant crisis.

Meanwhile, King predicted “spiritual doom for an America that continues to spend more on war than on social uplift. Today, a nation which claims it must cut social welfare spending and cannot afford free universal healthcare or college spends trillions of dollars on defence - 37 percent of world military spending and more than the next seven highest spenders combined - and yet cannot account for how the military allocates that money.

Rather than heed his message, America killed King, the messenger. Then, it watered down his message to render it more palatable and digestible to the “white moderate who is “more devoted to order than to justice”, and prefers that we wait for a “more convenient season” for freedom rather than take direct action now. If America hopes to redeem itself, it must change now. 

This article originally appeared at on January 15th, 2024.  

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Tuesday, January 17, 2023

‘The most dangerous Negro’: 3 essential reads on the FBI’s assessment of MLK’s radical views and allies

Howard Manly, The Conversation  January 13th 2023

Left out of GOP debates about “the weaponization” of the federal government is the use of the FBI to spy on civil rights leaders for most of the 20th century.

Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the targets.

As secret FBI documents became declassified, The Conversation U.S. published several articles looking at the details that emerged about King’s personal life and how he was considered in 1963 by the FBI as “the most dangerous Negro.”

1. The radicalism of MLK

As a historian of religion and civil rights, University of Colorado Colorado Springs Professor Paul Harvey writes that while King has come to be revered as a hero who led a nonviolent struggle to build a color blind society, the true radicalism of MLK’s beliefs remain underappreciated.

“The civil saint portrayed nowadays was,” Harvey writes, “by the end of his life, a social and economic radical, who argued forcefully for the necessity of economic justice in the pursuit of racial equality.”

2. The threat of being called a communist

Jason Miller, a North Carolina State University English professor, details the delicate balance that King was forced to strike between some of his radical allies and the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.

As the leading figure in the civil rights movement, Miller explains, King could not be perceived as a communist in order to maintain his national popularity.

As a result, King did not overtly invoke the name of one of the Harlem Renaissance’s leading poets, Langston Hughes, a man the FBI suspected of being a communist sympathizer.

But Miller’s research reveals the shrewdness with which King still managed to use Hughes’ poetry in his speeches and sermons, most notably in King’s “I Have a Dream” speech which echoes Hughes’ poem “I Dream a World.”

“By channeling Hughes’ voice, King was able to elevate the subversive words of a poet that the powerful thought they had silenced,” Miller writes.

3. ‘We must mark him now’

As a historian who has done substantial research regarding FBI files on the Black freedom movement, UCLA labor studies lecturer Trevor Griffey points out that from 1910 to the 1970s, the FBI treated civil rights activists as either disloyal “subversives” or “dupes” of foreign agents.

Screenshot from a 1966 FBI memo regarding the surveillance of Martin Luther King Jr. National Archives via Trevor Griffey photo

As King ascended in prominence in the late 1950s and 1960s, it was inevitable that the FBI would investigate him.

In fact, two days after King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, William Sullivan, the FBI’s director of intelligence, wrote: “We must mark him now, if we have not done so before, as the most dangerous Negro of the future in this Nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro and national security.”

Editor’s note: This story is a roundup of articles from The Conversation’s archives.The Conversation

Howard Manly, Race + Equity Editor, The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

...and the Republicans chose race

By Charles Brooks

LBJ Library photo

LBJ Library photo
A nation still divided on race celebrates the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights law.  As you read and/or listen to the various social commentary and analysis, there's a particular focus on how the 1964 civil rights law transformed the nation by dismantling American apartheid.  Consider for a moment how Jim Crow and states rights shackled black life in America where entry onto public spaces were severely restricted or just simply denied. Swimming pools, movie theaters, hotels. motels, restaurants, public transportation, libraries, hospitals and even cemeteries are just a few examples of  just how deep the racial divide was before the 1964 Civil Rrights bill was passed. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

A look back at 1964: a Series

The Sixties is well acknowledged as a period of transformative and fundamental change in America, especially as a time when race assumed a more pivotal role in American politics. There were three presidential campaigns during this turbulent period in American history that witnessed the contrasting forces of racial liberalism and racial conservatism collide against each other – in the backdrop of a national movement for civil rights for blacks. Although a strong argument can be made for the tumultuous year of 1968 as the single pivotal year during the sixties, a stronger argument can be made for 1964 as the pivotal year in American politics for several reasons.

For example during 1964, the 24th Amendment was passed opposing the poll tax, the foundation was laid down for President Lyndon B. Johnson’s vision for a Great Society with the Equal Opportunity Act to fight poverty, there was the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the formation of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, Dr. Martin Luther King being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, rebellions took place in black communities in New York, New Jersey, Chicago and Philadelphia, and three civil rights workers were killed. On the international scene, Malawi and Zambia became independent African nations while Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life in prison – starting a nearly 27 year stretch as an imprisoned revolutionary and political prisoner.