For the sake of my sanity, please leave Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. out of your mouths when it comes to the gaslighting of being civil. Just stop it.
It’s bad enough that his most pious quotes are bastardized once a year by those who hated him during his time and still hold his legacy in contempt every other day outside of a Monday in January but honestly, we all have Google. We have the images of MLK being gunned down in broad daylight, four black girls bombed in church, Jim Crow, segregation, riots, hoses and dogs being unleashed on bodies and the death of so many who fought for their rights. This era in American history was anything but “civil” and a sing a long that ended because they all sat around singing Kumbayah with those who oppressed them and upheld white supremacy.
King and so many were not celebrated during the throes of this struggle. They were called agitators, thrown in jail and under constant police surveillance. King was even told to kill himself by the F.B.I. and was hated at the time of his death. King was the original “Black Lives Matter” protester and the contempt of minoirites fighting for justice has not changed much by some who want us underfoot. Oh my how we’ve come in revisionist history to make it seem as though he was always on a Hallmark card as “I Have A Dream” is fetishized.
I’ll let our fallen icon speak for himself.
MLK also spoke of the white moderate who places order above justice.
I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice […]
Across the dial, there has been a renewed effort to push the sanitized version of Dr. King; as though he were a teddy bear who politely asked for equality.
There is such a hypocrisy in the moralizing of pundits who long for 1950’s America and that’s without even touching that the U.S. has the greatest military force in the world to wage war. The issue that now presents itself is that not all of us are privileged to enjoy America’s comfort and advantages. Blacks and those Brown skinned, Muslims, other minorities, LGBTQ, women and the poor are struggling to have their dreams realized. 8-year-old Black girls are having the cops called on them for having their entrepreneurial spirit to sell lemonade.
I don’t quite recall the moralizing for decency en masse when Barack Obama was president. He was often greeted with racial epitaphs and his likeness hung in effigy. Joe Wilson shouted “You lie” during a presidential address but civility was not the Bingo word choice. Maybe some lip service was dispensed. The Obama era feels about a 100 years ago at this point.
In the here and now, it is such an act of bad faith to demand obedience and a smile while the world burns around all of us. You have to be protected from those flames to insist bigotry, children being kept in cages and to have policies enforced that impact the quality of living are mere differences of opinions. We’re not breaking bread if you want me dead. I’m calling you out.
I can deal with folks who are real even if they disagree with me. To be quite honest, I’m suspicious of anyone who agrees with me 100% of the time when even my own mother doesn’t. I’m humbled to have a spectrum of friends who don’t share my ideological views or love of Beyoncé. The Facebook arguments that we have are lively, full of gifs and maybe a few hours of going back and forth. At the end of the day, there’s no whistling past the graveyard and wishing they’re dead to me. It helps that neither of the folks I engage with find my mere existence to be a threat to theirs.
Fish rots from the head down. President Donald Trump, supporters and allies in the GOP routinely express hostility. From chants of “Lock Her Up”, the rejection of their own value system to endorsing edicts that penalize the innocent. They want the rule of law to deny services to gays, sanction preventive care not being provided to women based on religious doctrine and stop Muslims from entering the country. It is demoralizing having your humanity debased constantly, even moreso when you’re just minding your own business.
When your cheek isn’t bruised, it’s very easy to tell those who feel the unrelenting wrath to turn theirs.
Be Nice for what?
After the election, the pundit class insisted that “Fuck Your Feelings” and telling it like it is were the reasons why Trump won. Bad hombre, Mexicans being called racists, countries of African descent referred to as shitholes and pussy grabbing were a repudiation of the PC culture. I’m not advocating for violence but shaming works. Protest works. Inconveniencing and making others uncomfortable in restaurants were part of the blueprint of Dr. King’s civil disobedience and the standard of his moral witness. Yet, too many politicians were more upset with Rep. Maxine Waters for her calls to shame Trump officials. Trust and believe, Auntie knows what it’s like to be denied service.
It would be a nice change of pace if many in the media and some of my fellow Americans didn’t feign pearl clutching when going high is no longer the energy. When have any of these vulgarities been apologized for? I need Paul Ryan and others to demand the courtesy of others in his party for using the inflammatory language he now needs fainting salt for.
All of this is ugly. Children suffering is ugly. Grown adults being reduced to helplessness also falls under that category. There is a visceral fear that is being felt in the bones and knots in our stomach. We’re not all going to keep cool heads and declaring that we have to be punching bags in the name of MLK is not the wave I’m on. If you’re not angry by all that is taking place, I have to question why.
It is not radical to be against discrimination of any kind and to seek change. Some of us would still be in chains without the courage to act upon conviction. We will not mind our manners to appease those who hurt and have never felt oppressed a day in their lives. That is a blessing you take for granted and then open your mouths to curse those that have. Despite the humanization that has taken place to make marginalized people “the other”, we are in fact human. We’re not robots who do not feel what is taking place or psychopaths who get off the destruction.
Immigrants seeking asylum are being held in detention centers and Trump is threatening their due process. Voting rights are under attack. Athletes are being blackballed and referred to as “son of a bitches” for daring to speak truth to power. Those who argue in favor of gun reform are now subject to death threats while Flint, Michigan still is without clean water and Puerto Rico remains in crisis. The arc of history does not simply bend because you ask it to.
Only romanticizing revolution, protests and MLK’s journey is grandstanding when you will never be the collateral damage.