Sunday, January 17, 2016

Martin Luther King Jr.

The third Monday in January is a federal holiday marking the birth of Martin Luther King Jr....he was actually born on January 15th, 1929.
The Wikipedia entry that I linked to above notes that only two other individuals have U.S. national holidays that honor them. What the entry doesn't do is point out that one of those individuals, George Washington, was an "owner" of enslaved African American humans and the other individual honored with a national holiday, Christopher Columbus, murdered and enslaved Native American humans.

I don't have any coherent way to wrap my mind around the fact that here in the "land of the free" we honor only three individuals with a national holiday and two of those individuals enslaved human beings. That sort of makes a pretty telling statement about the dominant group (white people) in the U.S.

Martin Luther King Jr. is the only one of the three who didn't enslave anyone. He is also the only one of the three who was murdered...and he was murdered because of his efforts to increase freedom for people.

That makes me shake my head. It also makes me a little disgusted with myself because I didn't start to more thoroughly comprehend many things until a year or two ago. I am a prime example of someone floating in the ignorant obliviousness of the white racial frame. Jeez. 

Dr. King was a serious thinker who wrote and gave voice to many thoughts that were profound and provocative. Abagond's blog post has a number of quotes by Dr. King that are excellent. I especially like this one:
When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Dr. King was not only one of the best humans that ever lived in this nation...he was one of the best that ever lived anywhere.

Here's another quote from Dr. King that comes from a beautiful bit of writing that he did while he was in jail in Birmingham, Alabama.
I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to 'order' than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: 'I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action'; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a 'more convenient season.' Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
You can read the full text of the letter here...I urge you to do is a profound and important document.

One sentence from the excerpt above stuns me with its insight: "Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will."

Just wow.

For one example of "shallow understanding from people of good will" you can read this.

I was a young man when he was murdered...and I knew we all had been diminished. Shame on us...and the "us" I mean is we white people.

To honor him on this holiday you can watch some of his speeches here. You also can read this entry on the Vine Sanctuary Blog for some thoughtful suggestions.

He's the only human that this nation honors with a holiday who was a genuine friend of and advocate for "freedom for all". That's scary and sad...but a little hopeful too. At least there's one. Happy Birthday Dr. King.

As I was writing this it occurred to me that it isn't terribly unfair to characterize Christopher Columbus and George Washington as being strongly motivated by trying to make money and Martin Luther King Jr. as being strongly motivated by the pursuit of justice. Good grief. Like I said, scary and sad.


Have Gone Vegan said...

Don't be too hard on yourself. As you rightly said in your previous post, "Even really really really smart humans get flim-flammed..." And boy do we ever! All those delusions take time and hard work to dismantle.

MLK was indeed a fabulous individual, but even he (and most individuals of that time working for social justice in other ways) was not immune to patriarchal conditioning. It's easy to forget that many black women (including Rosa Parks) were advocating for civil rights long before Dr. King rose to prominence. This isn't to diminish his work or legacy or importance, but to agree that seeing how different oppressions are interrelated was, and continues to be, incredibly difficult.

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting HGV. Your observations about patriarchal conditioning leaving no one untouched is spot on...heck it's still going strong today...just as all the other negative conditionings targeting subordinated groups continues. The presentation of the messaging evolves as perceptions change but the drumbeat of oppression continues.

Christine said...

Great graphic and quote from a great man. I do see your point about honouring people who have enslaved others. Seems bizarre yet few people it seems notice such an incongruity. Here in the UK it is much the same. Churchill is much revered yet he was a racist who committed many atrocities you might find this interesting:

A side of Church of which most people are unaware.

Personally I don’t think his achievements mitigate the racist white supremacist that he was or the atrocities for which he was responsible.