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Reclaiming The Radical And Revolutionary King

Rev. Ralph Abernathy, left, and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., right are taken by a policeman as they led a line of demonstrators into the business section of Birmingham, Ala., on April 12, 1963. (AP Photo)

Because today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we will see the obligatory nod to Dr. King through movies, memes, and clips in black-and-white from the 1960s marches for Civil Rights. This has become ubiquitous in the months of January and February, even in the face of resistance in some locations.

But what is amazing to me, yet not The Radical and Revolutionary Kingsurprising, is how the image of Dr. King has been co-opted to undermine the protests that have been going on the past couple years, by those who would have opposed him during his life. There are attempts to use his image to shame us into ending our protests against police brutality and state-sanctioned murder.

This revealed to me that too many obviously do not know the Martin Luther King, Jr., that I know and that history records. They regurgitate the same portion of I have a Dream while redacting the first half of the same speech.  They’ve whitewashed the radical King by never mentioning where he spoke about reparations nor on the arrogance of America. As they attempt to “educate” our community on how one of our greatest leaders would have felt about the contemporary protests turned into riots, they conveniently overlooked what Dr. King said in totality on the subject of riots and also, overlooked are his views on acquiescence.

Forgotten are these selfsame thoughts of those who stood in opposition to the marches they would co-opt today to forward their agenda. They want to tell us what our struggle is about; King Marchingthey want to tell us how we should patiently wait for their morals and actions to catch up to their grand proclamations. They, who have never spent a day being African-American, want to educate us on what our experience is like. But ask them if they would want the life African-American’s have to endure, and you get silence. To add insult to injury, they want to tell us that King would not approve.

But, not only do they want to tell us how to behave in the face of brutality and apathy toward the continued plight of Black people in America, they want to tell US how WE should feel about the state of disgrace in America; they want to tell us that we should feel shame for not matching up to their cherry-picked vision of our radical and revolutionary King. And as with every other revolutionary leader they could not control in life nor ignore in death, they attempt to appropriate his voice to fit their agenda.

On this holiday, in our tributes to the historical King, we must tell them that they cannot appropriate our King. We will not be silenced; we will not be ordered nor shamed into submission to the continued oppression that still plagues our community. We will not remain invisible for their peace-of-mind and comfort. We will tell them that if they cannot stomach to stand with us, then they will stand down and get out of our way.

Have a beautiful King Holiday.

Written by Pamela Getz

Writer and Activist. Follow Pamela on Twitter @goddesspamela.

Pamela Getz is Editor of International Affairs for Progressive Army and a member of its Editorial Board.

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Reclaiming The Radical And Revolutionary King