The Revolutionary MLK

by Chris Sturr | January 17, 2011

Martin Luther King, Jr. with Malcolm X, March 1964

Martin Luther King, Jr. with Malcolm X, March 1964

Making King Bland: Every year on MLK Day, a bland liberal version of Martin Luther King is celebrated, and leftists take time to point out how radical King was, toward the end of his life, at any rate.  Two contributions of note:

From the Real News Network, Paul Jay plays some great clips of MLK’s more radical pronouncements, and then interviews Prof. Jared Ball of Morgan State University. I love Jay’s comment that in our (post-Tuscon-shootings) era civility is the watchword, whereas King called for “hostility” toward poverty, racism, and militarism.

From Mark Engler, at Dissent’s Arguing the World blog, a nice piece called The Misuse of Martin Luther King, Jr. Mark finds an egregious example in a Pentagon lawyer, claiming via the Armed Forces Press Service, that King would understand today’s wars. Here’s some of Mark’s post:

The article concerns a speech by the Defense Department’s general counsel, Jeh C. Johnson, who stated, “I believe that if Dr. King were alive today, he would recognize that we live in a complicated world, and that our nation’s military should not and cannot lay down its arms and leave the American people vulnerable to terrorist attack.”

In fact, King did advocate that our nation’s military should and could lay down its arms, even though his detractors insisted this would mean leaving us vulnerable to attack by advancing Communist hordes in Vietnam that would inevitably overrun the world and extinguish the American way of life.

Johnson’s argument is really convoluted, and the article is worth reading in full. Of course, suggesting that the only options available to us in this “complicated world” are to support current U.S. policy in Iraq and Afghanistan or to roll over and let the terrorists have their way isn’t exactly engaging in good faith debate about our country’s overseas engagements. And there are other fishy things going on in the article as well. One curious part is its attempt to lay out Johnson’s credentials for making his far-fetched claims about MLK. It explains:

Johnson is a 1979 graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta, where King graduated in 1948. He also attended school with King’s son, Martin Luther King III, and was privy to the elder King’s speaking engagements there.

I’m not sure that attending the same college as a notable person several decades later lends much expertise (to say nothing about being vaguely acquainted with their kids as a grade-schooler), but maybe that’s just me.

Read the rest of the post, if you can stomach revisiting the whole spectacle of Glenn Beck claiming the mantle of MLK in his rally on the mall.

Last but not least, United for a Fair Economy (with some help from D&S economists) has just released the State of the Dream 2011:  Austerity for Whom?.  Here’s a blurb from their website:

MLK envisioned a work where the color of one’s skin mattered about as much as the color of one’s toothbrush. Sadly, the juxtaposition between the beauty of MLK’s dream and the reality of racial and economic equality in America today is startling.

According to a new report released today by United for a Fair Economy—State of the Dream 2011: Austerity for Whom?—the racial economic divide in this country remains significant. For example: for every dollar of net wealth held by Whites, Latinos hold 12 cents and Blacks hold just 10 cents. Blacks are 90 percent more likely and Latinos are 50 percent more likely to be unemployed, and those who do work earn significantly less than their White counterparts—Blacks earn 57 cents and Latinos earn 59 cents to each dollar of White median family income.

Austerity measures supported by GOP and Tea Party activists will hurt all of us who rely on good schools, safe roads, and strong communities. But beyond that, austerity measures will simply worsen the economic inequality and prevent us from realizing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream.

Download the pdf.

More soon.

–Chris Sturr

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