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As we approach MLK day, I would like to kindly remind right-wing white Conservatives that Martin Luther King Jr. was not their do-good negro houseboy. Every single solitary f-cking year, we have to remind those people not to bastardize MLK’s image in order to fund their racist ideologies that are a direct affront to what he stood for.
Far too often, MLK’s ideals are dissected and redelivered as some placid approach to the same racism they refuse to acknowledge as if his death was the cure. At the end of the day, did MLK believe in the content of one’s character over the color of their skin? Sure, but that message wasn’t for the oppressed it was for the oppressor. Using MLK as an advocate for colorblind social justice is about as insidious as taking the Black Lives Matter slogan and turning it into All Lives Matter. I imagine my entire body matters to me, but if I keep knocking my arm into a wall and it is bruised and battered, maybe a gentle reminder that my arm is just as important as the rest of my body would be more effective, by at least acknowledging the direct harm done to the arm in question.
The All Lives Matter “movement” (saw not one parade) was a way to hush Black people’s pleas for better treatment in a place we didn’t ask to be, and every third Monday in January, Conservative whites use MLK day to blaspheme the very ideologies that made him famous and infamous. On this holiday, I kindly implore white people not to center themselves and listen to the Black voices they seem so intent on silencing any other day of the year.
Just this week, Sarah F-ckabee Sanders was sworn into office as the governor of Arkansas, as her father once was, because bigotry and nepotism have never been estranged. Her very first act in office was not some legislation to pull Arkansas from the bottom 10 for health care, education, economy and infrastructure. No. It was to ban CRT from schools that were never teaching it to begin with because, in fact, it is a college law course. I’m sure she knew that people conflate CRT with basic Black history or American history, so the ban essentially means students will learn about the confederacy, but not that it was sh-tty, or even better, you don’t have to go through the process of whitewashing history if you never teach it all. And completely on brand for her kind, she has previously sent out several tweets of reverence about him, years before taking office. I am so sure she can’t wait to cherrypick quotes from the descendant of cotton pickers this coming Monday.
I think the one that burns my biscuits the most is when his image is invoked with a message about what he did or did not die for; this is usually paired with an implicit or explicit call for Black people to be more like King was, was, past tense. Cognitive dissonance always comes into play when you ask them exactly how he died. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised they want more Black people to be like someone who was murdered for fighting racism. He didn’t have a heart attack or get hit by a car, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered because of racism, and he surely didn’t die so that rightwing lawmakers could tweet his more docile quotes and post his image to assure themselves that a moral compass is one that just simply needs to spin in order to work. In his lifetime, he received multiple death threats from the same groups who are conservative lawmakers’ staunchest supporters. He was jailed 29 times, his wife was harassed by the FBI, and his house was bombed. For the entirety of his life, as well as the entirety of his death, he has been victimized by white supremacy.
Dr. King was not colorblind. Nor was his activism. Nor were the Conservative lawmakers who opposed him. King may have been non-violent, but he was still radical; he was still very much opposed to the widespread mistreatment of Black people via white supremacy. The same white supremacy that co-opts his legacy every year for likes.
The same white supremacy killed him.
Even the establishment of the holiday was met with struggle from, you guessed it, Republican lawmakers. Some of the more notable no votes were from Mr. Potatohead Dan Quayle, Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole, and of course, biracial daughter having Strom Thurmond. When the bill to make MLK day a national holiday hit the Senate floor, Jesse Helms presented a 300-page document accusing MLK of being a communist, among other things. In fact, there was a 15-year struggle for the federal holiday to be signed into law, finalized by Ronald Reagan’s less-than-enthusiastic signing of the bill. Let us not forget that Ronald Reagan opposed both the Civil Rights Act as well as the Voting Rights Act.
What’s even wilder is the cruel form of honoring King.
Certain states, I’m looking at you, Alabama and Mississippi, have combined the holiday with the celebration of Robert E. Lee. Somehow a treasonous warmonger gets to be celebrated alongside the man who won the Nobel Peace Prize, like what?!
These lawmakers, who would’ve surely been right along with their ideological predecessors in denying that King deserved a day of recognition, use his likeness to assure themselves and others that they are indeed not racist whilst spewing racist rhetoric 364 days out of the year.
It’s very simple. Conservative lawmakers need to keep those tweets in the drafts because you cannot be anti-Black history and pro-MLK.