Let The Telling of a Fuller Truth Be Our Gift To You
The article caught my attention immediately. The line that got an Amen from my heart was: “MLK was murdered more than 50 years ago. His legacy has been distorted ever since.”
There is so much here for me as I continue to not only do the work of anti-racism, but also to promote non-violent methods of resolving conflicts. My fascination and commitment to non-violence goes back to being an undergrad at Syracuse University and majoring in Public Affairs concentrating in Non-Violent Conflict and Change.
I studied movements, and leaders and even gave up my goal of getting my degree in Theater, and when it came to Dr. King, non-violence and the civil rights movement, I drank the Kool-Aid. But the truth that I have come to reckon with all these decades later is the truth has been purposefully whitewashed to suppress all those who followed him then and revere him now.
Stay with me. I admire and respect Dr. King and all of his work and sacrifices. In fact, I often joke with God and say, “So glad that was not my assignment, I don’t have the courage and you would have been sorely disappointed.” But here’s the deal… well, let me start off with a current day example of what I’m getting at.
During the Black Lives Matter protests after George Floyd was sadistically murdered, I was reading a lot of posts from White people who took offense to the violence that accompanied some of the protests all over the country. In response, I posted that the oppressor does not get to tell the oppressed how to respond to their oppression.
A relatively new friend who is White reprimanded me and tried to shame me by saying that Dr. King taught non-violence and then she posted a picture of one of the far too many marches that had to take place during the Civil Rights Movement. I looked at the picture and for some reason it finally hit me, the truth.
The civil rights movement was not non-violent, because there was plenty of violence from the White people who opposed everything about it including Dr. King.
It is only the whitewashing of history that keeps us from seeing exactly what is going on here. Yes, Dr. King’s goal was to make this fight for civil rights one that used the principles of non-violence, but the focus on non-violence as such a noble and correct way to go about gaining what are just basic human rights has intentionally left the emphasis off all of the violence of the civil rights movement. The violence that non-violence was met with over and over again.
Everyone involved in non-violence was deemed a troublemaker by all those who violently opposed them and there were many who opposed and disliked and hated Dr. King. The article speaks to this.
“We also don’t think about how many people opposed Dr. King when he was alive. That’s a much more uncomfortable history.
For example, most Americans did not support the March on Washington. In 1966, three-quarters of Americans did not agree with Martin Luther King. But because of the power of the movements that King was a part of, there’s a desire now across the political spectrum to say, “We embrace Dr. King, we’re with Dr. King,” and not really reckon with what he stood for.” (Source)
So, the narrative that gets preached and played out around Dr. King is always about how he used non-violence and never about the violence of the Civil Rights Movement. I’m not saying it isn’t mentioned, but it’s always in the context of the heroic response of non-violence, a message to the nation’s subconscious that no matter what the oppressor does, the proper response is always non-violence and anything other than that justifies the violence used to suppress it.
But the rest of the truth that both violence and non-violence are met with violence is never really talked about and the effects of hiding that truth can be seen in school punishments, objections to critical race theory, the demonization of Colin Kaepernick, the cries of just comply when a police officer stops Black people, the teaching of our children that when someone hits you… don’t hit them back, tell an adult. We taught our sons that and I am sorry to this day.
The truth is that Dr. King knew non-violence would be very difficult, but he had no idea that the violence it was met with would be so destructive, long-lasting and so widely supported. He was tired, short on patience and reflective at the end and I know why.
The legacy he has left us is not the whitewashed one barely and yet incessantly taught in our schools, media and homes.
The legacy he has left us includes the historic use of violence in this country against Black and Brown people and the reality that we are at a point where not all violence will be met with non-violence even by those who teach it.
We are at a point in history where people are tired of the fight, but still down for the cause and that means they will do whatever is necessary to reach their goals. In this next phase of the fight, I believe we will see many things that the oppressor will disapprove of and Dr. King will understand why.
Thank you, Dr. Martin Luther King for the greatest sacrifice.
Happy Birthday to ya!!!!