Martin Luther King Jr. – What did he really stand for? (#33)

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Jean Latting
May 23, 2023
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What did Martin Luther King stand for? Dr. Eddie Glaude Jr. discusses the watering down of his message to make it more palatable to people in power.

Video by Dr. Eddie Glaude Jr., James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of African American Studies, Princeton University

“The evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and evils of racism.”

“Capitalism forgets that life is social, and the kingdom of brotherhood is found neither in the thesis of communism nor the antithesis of capitalism, but in a higher synthesis.”

- Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

These are not the words we are taught in school. What we hear instead are these:

“I have a dream!”

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness.”

“Free at last, free at last!”

True words, but selected to reinforce the fiction that his only concern was to end segregation. Chosen to soothe the ruffled feathers of an establishment that maneuvered to trivialize him by co-opting his words.

Instead we have an unspoken sense among Whites that our ability to quote Dr. King and commemorate his birthday are enough to discharge our obligations.

What did Martin Luther King really stand for?

Teen Vogue magazine has been running a series of articles on “history not told through a White, cis-hetero-patriarchal lens.” The introduction says, “In this installment, writer Jenn M. Jackson explores the radical nature of Martin Luther King Jr., whose legacy, she says, was whitewashed over time.” 

Jackson points to a Gallup poll in 1966 showing King with an approval rating of 32%. By 2011, his rating was 94% positive. This vast swing “is the product of generations of appropriation of his liberatory work and a whitening of his effort to ensure more freedom for those least likely to attain it in the United States.”

In this vein, we appreciate the clarity of Dr. Eddie Glaude Jr on YouTube.

We ask that you watch the video or read the transcription for a concise explanation of Dr. King’s truly radical views.

Download Transcript

Questions to ask yourself

  1. What was your understanding of Dr. King's legacy prior to today's blog?
  2. How can you contribute to bringing about his more radical vision ?

Leading Consciously concepts and skills
covered in this blog post:

  • Learn to recognize dominant/nondominant dynamics
  • Address underlying systemic biases
  • As a nondominant, recognize that dominants may have blind spots about the impact of their behavior on nondominants
  • As a dominant, recognize that you may have blind spots as to your own behavior and systemic biases

#BetheChange   #BridgingDifferences   #MartinLutherKingJr     #Appropriation

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