Monday, January 17, 2011

What did Martin Luther King Really Say?!?!

Today we will be inundated with Reverand Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s, “I Have a Dream” speech. What we will generally be hearing is the last four or five minutes of a 17 or so minute speech. We will hear him eloquently repeat a vision he had expressed on several other occasions, but never on a stage that large. I know it was God that made Mahalia Jackson stand in front of the podium nagging at him to “tell them about the dream” until he gave up his prepared text and went into it. That change in his presentation that day had world-changing ramifications, but it reduced King to a “dreamer”. What people don’t hear is the pragmatic power of the first 2/3 of the speech where he gave America a report card of our poor treatment of its citizens, and what our fate would be if we did not become accountable. What they don’t hear are the words of a man who not only dreamed of a better world, but was constantly fighting for it.

I love King. He is one of my favorite military strategists, and he was a pretty good speaker as well. I tend to hang onto every word he said, particularly, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere!” As an adolescent, I got into studying war and military strategy. In addition to The Swamp Fox of the Revolutionary War, and The Desert Fox of WWII, I studied The Country Fox of the War on Segregation. I absolutely fell in love with King's primary military strategy...Non-violent Aggression. It sounded like Judo to me. Put yourself in such a position that when your enemy attacks you, he actually beats himself. King chose cities where he knew the abuse would by strongest. He calculated the loss of blood, and how many woman and children had to be brutalized on national television to get as many as possible of the 90% of the population who were not Negroes to join his army. I imagined the pain he felt sending sheep off to be slaughtered for the sake of a better future for coming generations. He had a hard job. I couldn’t do it. At the base of the dream there was always a harsh reality.

Two of my aunts marched with him that day. Like me, they are disgusted by his military strategy being distorted by revisionist history. “Dr King preached Non-Violence” WRONG!!!! Non-violence was the adjective; aggression was the noun… ie, the thing. Dr. King preached Nonviolent AGGRESSION, and at the very least, Non-violent RESISTANCE... but both active, not passive concepts. I won’t go into who pulled this Jedi Mind Trick with his legacy, but it’s probably the same folks who convinced some of us that “they gave us the shortest month of the year” for Black History Month rather than Carter G. Woodson choosing February to honor Frederick Douglas’ birthday. The only thing worse than being denied the truth is letting someone convince you that the truth you know is a lie.

The FBI labeled King a "subversive", and targeted him with their COINTELPRO spy program. Politicians labeled him a Communist, and wanted to try him for treason. He had his home bombed. People forget that his "Letter From a Birmingham Jail" was written... from a Birmingham jail. He should not be on a pedestal because he is a mythical figure of love and peace, he should be on it as a majestic figure of fearlessness and undying devotion to doing what was right. He organized groups of people across color lines all over the country. When he died, he left his family penniless, because there was no corporate sponsorship or kickback money. He gave everything he had to his cause. Had he not started expanded his cause to include young folks being sent to an unjust war in Viet-Nam, and the rights of poor White garbage workers and other poor White people, they may have let him live. But history shows that... somehow... a man who had multiple death threat in the hours before his death found his police security mysteriously missing at the time of his assassination. Nothing happens by accident.
I hate that Marty King has been turned into a passive “dreamer” instead of a military strategist. I’m going to continue to take every opportunity I get to tell what MLK really said. Somebody’s gotta speak up, ‘cause like he said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” King had a dream, but he was not a dreamer… he was a visionary, a warrior, a strategist, a religious leader, a revolutionary, etc, who was jailed, beaten, and died to achieve his dream. If we truly respect him, we won’t allow ourselves to base his legacy on a snippet of one speech. In addition to the “FULL” I have a dream speech, everyone should also listen to his “I’ve been to the mountain top speech”. A true hero will stand in the face of the people who told him they would kill him in the next two days and make a speech about the fact that they were going to do it... just like he did. Also, read the text to his “Why Jesus Called a Man a Fool” speech. If we are still struggling to fulfill Dr. Kings dream, maybe it’s because we really don’t know what he said.