When I was a kid, I remember the first time I learned about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr–you know, the Disneyland version. There were slight mentions of protests and arrests–however, my teachers gave the most significant amount of time to King’s “I Have A Dream,” the speech he gave in 1963 at Washington D.C. and his principles of non-violence. We constantly emphasized one quote:
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Then, we jumped right to his assassination in 1968—the end. But we knew everything about the American Revolution, the Boston Tea Party, and how George Washington crossed the Potomac River with his powered wig intact.
It wasn’t until I got older that I learned about the march in Selma, Alabama/”Bloody Sunday,” the Poor People’s Campaign, J. Edgar Hoover ordering surveillance of his activities with the F.B.I., or that his house got bombed in 1956. Much of that research were things to do on my own.
On M.L.K. Day Monday, there will be a lot of Republican lawmakers and congressional representatives posting the same variation of quotes. It’s either from the one I mentioned or from his “Strength To Love” sermon in 1963.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
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It will be from the same cast of people actively working against voting rights legislation across the country, acting as though Jan. 6th is no big deal and further diluting what we learn with this “Critical Race Theory” movement. So, I will ask them for this holiday and others:
Just skip it. Take the day off.
Tell your intern to go ahead and delete that scheduled post. Maybe there’s a big WhatsApp chat you are all in, and you pick the quote to post. Put those notifications on silent.
Or better yet, here are a few that you can use:
From his “Letter From Birmingham Jail” in 1963:
“For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
From his “Beyond Vietnam” speech in 1967:
The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve.
From his “Where Do We Go From Here” speech in 1967:
“We must see now that the evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism are all tied together. And you can’t get rid of one without getting rid of the other.”
From his “The Other America” lecture in 1967:
“It may be true that morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless. It may be true that the law can’t make a man love me, but it can restrain him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important also.”
During Super Bowl LII, Dodge promoted their new Ram Truck in a commercial with some excerpts from King’s “Drum Major Instinct” speech in 1968–completely using them out of context. Even though, in the same address, King spoke to the evils of consumerism.
This is the climate Republicans aim for as they go through history and erase all the bad parts. Because as sunny as the “I Have A Dream” speech is made out to be, it doesn’t show the many beatings, threats, arrests, and prison time that King and many civil rights leaders endured for progress. Many ultimately lost their lives for the rights which are being attacked to this very day.
Truth feels like something you can twist to your likening these days, but history remembers everything. No matter how often you try to ignore it, themes from the past will come back if you don’t address them. The Supreme Court made a ruling in 2013 to strike down parts of the 1965 Civil Rights Act. Ironically, some of the congressional representatives who post the “feel good” MLK quotes were alive when that legislation passed and cheering as it gets broken down.
So, I say this. The facade isn’t worth it. We see right through it. You might be drafting this post as you read this, but as Jay-Z once said on “Takeover,” We don’t believe you/you need more people.”