Racism, Poverty, & Militarism
With the prominence and preponderance of economic oppression, air strikes, nationalism, and partisanship, Dr. King’s admonition in “Beyond Vietnam: Time to break silence” ring prophetic.
I spent all day yesterday reflecting on the 49th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. King and what I would actually say or share about it. Aside from the standard issue “#NeverForget” posts, I came up with nothing. Though his life and work are even more relevant today than ever before, I said nothing.
My reluctant silence changed today after listening to Tavis Smiley on the Intercepted Podcast. Smiley was right to invoke Cornel West and his notion of the “Santa Clausification” of Dr. King, as MLK’s legacy is freshly whitewashed on the third Monday of January each year.
It dawned on me that there’s “good” reason American’s celebrate MLK’s birth day and not his death day.
49 years after Dr. King’s assassination and 50 years after his “Beyond Vietnam” speech, Americans should memorialize Dr. King as a transformational, counter-cultural prophet.
True, he was one of many leaders of the movement, including so many unsung female heroes. The thing that made him iconic was his skill and commitment to rhetoric that subverted the very nature of patriotism to a country entrapped by its own mythological ideals of innocence and moral high standing.
Trivializing his life and work while ignoring the very insidious circumstances from which the movement was birthed, is not merely disrespectful.
50 years later, we should remember Dr. King’s warning in his “Beyond Vietnam” speech. He warned us that Racism, Poverty, and Militarism would be the undoing of our vaunted Republic.
In the age of Trump and Trumpism, should we really be helping the Democrats reach the “unheard and unseen” working/middle class white voter or should we all be reaching for the gear shifter and reverse course from the tyranny of democratized oppression once and for all?
On April 4, 1967, King issued a “Shot heard ‘round the world.” A shot that immediately brought into question all we consider exceptional and American. Sadly, that shot was returned.
- By about 80% of all Americans.
- By Lyndon Johnson ultimately giving Dr. King what I’d like to call “the White House curve.”
- By the NAACP who turned on him with the naive claims that the Vietnam War and Civil Rights were separate issues, with domestic injustice needing to be prioritized over foreign oppression.
- By the Washington Post who rebuked him by proclaiming that he had ‘‘diminished his usefulness to his cause, to his country, and to his people;”and the New York Times which claimed that by diverting “the energy of the civil rights movement to the Vietnam issue is both wasteful and self-defeating.”
- By his own people, their political power, their presses, and their pocketbooks.
- Lastly, by the bullet that chased him for exactly one year and landed in his head on the balcony of Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.
50 years after “Beyond Vietnam,” it’s no wonder that Colin Kaepernick is the political punching bag for all who pledge allegiance to the flag and the “Republic for which it stands.”
Sadly, things haven’t changed much since Frederick Douglass’s speech on July 5, 1852. Things haven’t changed much since King’s Beyond Vietnam speech on April 4, 1967. Things haven’t changed much since Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address on January 20, 2009. Kaepernick’s silent protest is the indelible image that reminds America of its unrepentant iniquity which should bring each of us down to a knee.
Don’t be facetious.
Of course, a cursory look at history shows that some level of progress has been made.
In the words of J.M. Opal’s article in TIME entitled “America Should Never Be ‘Great Again’ “, I’m acknowledging the fact “that much of our democracy has grown despite the rules and myths of the Founders and the frontier, not because of them.”
50 years after “Beyond Vietnam,” unabashedly, I say that we should never Make America Great ‘Again.’ But as Professor Opal admonishes, we should adopt a new vision which embraces “a more honest account of our troubled past to help us face our troubling future.”
That’s why. Why I chose today.
Originally published at joshuaemccoy.tumblr.com.