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Martin Luther King Jr.
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“”The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929—1968) was an American Baptist minister and socialist who was at the forefront of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and '60s. His most famous moment was his "I Have a Dream" speech, given on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. in 1963. He was essential in the political movement that led to the passage of the Voting Rights and Civil Rights Acts in 1965.
His birthday, January 15, is now honored in the United States as a holiday (formerly "Civil Rights Day" in laggard states) celebrated on the third Monday of January. Racists throughout the South refer to it as James Earl Ray Day, after his assassin.[note 1] Others refer to it as Robert E. Lee Day, and indeed the general shares Rev. King's legal holiday in many states.
Was he a conservative or establishment liberal?
“”Society honors its living conformists and its dead troublemakers.
Occasionally, present day conservatives as well as conventional liberals attempt to portray MLK as one of their own, or as a "reasonable" fellow, within the context of invoking him to bolster the perceived legitimacy and power of their position. The historical record does not attest to this at all.
- Supported a higher minimum wage.
- Called for compensation for historic wrongs against blacks.
- Considered the Vietnam War an attempt to create a US colony, and called the US "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."
- Was affiliated with the very liberal Highlander Folk School. In fact, it was after he first listened to that Pinko Commie scumbag Pete Seeger sing the song that he said, on a ride back from a speech at the school, "Gee, that song Seeger was singing, 'We Shall Overcome,' sure has a nice ring."
- Organized a campaign for the rights of poor people, including calls for more federal money to be given to the impoverished of all races.
- Went to Memphis (where he was assassinated) to support black sanitation workers on strike there.
- Called himself a socialist in private on several occasions: "I am much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic," and "There must be a better distribution of wealth, and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism," while criticizing the "strangulating totalitarianism" prescribed by Marx.
- Was close associates with a communist. While largely hidden from history due to politics, communists were very much active in the civil rights movement and helping protect it during its infancy. But once the US got its collective brains out of its anus and realized that racism was a serious embarrassment, the red had to be scrubbed off, and America was always
at war with Eastasiafor equal rights.
- Bayard Rustin, who taught King everything he knew about Gandhi and non-violence, was openly gay and had been arrested for public indecency with another man (meaning he was doing the nasty in a parked car when the cops found him and hauled him off to jail). Members of Congress tried to use this affiliation to smear King as a two-timing homo, but King merely asked Rustin to stay away from the limelight when things got heavy. In the end, civil rights activist Asa Phillip Randolph and Rustin coordinated and organized the entire March on Washington, up to and including the "I Have A Dream" speech, proving that the LGBTQ community will always throw the best and most successful parties in American history.
He was actually a very radical socialist for his time. Most moderates like to overlook the fact that he openly condemned them in Letter from Birmingham Jail and use him as a rhetorical bludgeon against black people who are being too "uppity" and doing things that disrupt the status quo.
Relations with Democrats and Republicans
King was acutely aware of the divisions within the Democratic Party. Half of the sitting Democrats from the South were old-time asshole Dixiecrats who had rallied around Strom Thurmond when he walked out of the 1948 Democratic Convention after the party approved a desegregation plank; King knew firsthand, from fighting George Wallace's regime in Alabama, that segregationists retained strong influence within the party. He was vocally critical of liberal Democrats' incremental approach to civil rights.
Even when John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson started pushing civil rights, King had a contentious relationship with both men, feeling (not unreasonably) that they balanced idealism with political expediency. He was especially critical of Kennedy, finding his rhetoric didn't match his actions. He fared better with Johnson, closely assisting his efforts to pass the Civil Rights Act. He wrote that "I do not doubt that the President is approaching the solution with sincerity, realism and, thus far, with wisdom" and reportedly wept when Johnson announced the Voting Rights Act from Congress. However, King's disapproval of Vietnam caused a rift between him and LBJ.
King also occasionally flirted with the GOP. He was frustrated with Dwight Eisenhower's reluctance to press for desegregation or meet with civil rights leaders, though he did praise Ike's sending troops to Little Rock. He befriended New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, who paid King's medical bills, donated large amounts of money to SCLC, and helped bail its members out of jail. King liked Rocky enough to invite the Governor to speak at his church in Atlanta. Shortly before his death, King commented that he preferred Rockefeller or Michigan Governor George Romney over any Democrat in the 1968 election.
Nonetheless, King violently denounced Barry Goldwater's 1964 candidacy as "a threat to freedom" for opposing civil rights, calling his position "morally indefensible and socially suicidal." King understood that Goldwater and later Richard Nixon were preparing their Southern strategy, wherein, after generations of suckling the Democratic Party's teat, Dixie would start voting Republican and become the strongest supporter of Lincoln's party. The moderate Republicans that King respected were effectively being written out of the GOP. The loud ker-thump heard around America in 1968 when Nixon won was the seismic effect of all the Confederate soldiers and vets doing back-flips in their graves.
The gist of the argument is that MLK was far more of an independent than a supporter of either party, both of which he considered responsible for the turmoil of his time. He was willing to work with any politician who showed a genuine interest in civil rights, regardless of their affiliation, and equally willing to criticize their failures.
King and the U.S. government
In an attempt to detract from his achievements, the United States government conducted a prolonged campaign intended to undermine King's power and reputation; they tried to label him as a communist sympathizer, and to discredit him by revealing him to be "amoral" in his personal relationships.
President John F. Kennedy and FBI director J. Edgar Hoover authorized a wiretap on Dr. King's phones in 1962 and possibly longer. The FBI bugged his home, his office, and hotel rooms in the cities he traveled to. The taps were part of an attempt to frame Stanley Levison, a lawyer King had ties to, as a communist. King adamantly denied that he or anyone in the freedom movement were communists. The taps continued with little to no legal authorization, years beyond the original "search and explore for a month" that Kennedy authorized. King made several public comments during this surveillance, arguing that Hoover's goal had little to do with uprooting communists but was simply an attack on King's own status meant to give Hoover cover with the Southern political machine. The FBI's own words give hint to what their goal was: "[King is] the most dangerous and effective Negro leader in the country."
“”The American public, the church organizations that have been helping — Protestants, Catholics and Jews will know you for what you are — an evil beast. So will others who have backed you. You are done. King, there is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. You have just 34 days in which to do (this exact number has been selected for a specific reason, it has definite practical significant [sic]). You are done. There is but one way out for you. You better take it before your filthy fraudulent self is bared to the nation.
Unable to prove he was a commie, the US government leaked information on his private life that suggested, if not proved, that he had had several sexual relationships outside of his marriage. In political games no different than those played today, Lyndon Johnson called King a "hypocritical preacher," LBJ's personal life notwithstanding. Since his death, more and more speculation and scrutiny into King's life has shown that he had several extramarital affairs.
Such exemplars of moral enlightenment as the virulently racist Senator Jesse Helms and other Republican senators fought against the national Martin Luther King holiday by raving about extramarital affairs and King's association with reds. Nevermind that many of our venerated founding fathers were slave-owners, and one of them, the U.S.'s third president, repeatedly impregnated a black woman he owned.
In studying real conspiracies, Thomas Burnett and Nick Kotz demonstrated a direct plot against King's reputation. Evidence from wiretaps was distributed not only to high ranking government officials but friendly reporters, who then sent King anonymous letters threatening to expose him by going public.
In a final blow to decency, there is now evidence that the FBI was watching King through carved peepholes in the window coverings of the hotel he was staying at, the night he was assassinated. An undercover FBI agent was the first on the scene. No APB was issued for Dr. King's killer. This has led to speculation that the FBI was actually involved.
Every January on Martin Luther King Day in the U.S., conservatives and some liberals ooze unctuously that King supported whatever status quo the (usually) white person invokes. The radical black revolutionary that was King is turned into a plastic icon who would, don'tcha know, be horrified by the left-wing activists of today. King's "vehement anti-war advocacy is ignored when commemorating his life (just as his economic views are)." What the public gets instead is a sanitized distortion:
“”Many are taught a simplified version of King's life, focusing on only one of the three dimensions that defined him. During the Vietnam speech that turned the establishment against him, King railed against the “the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism.”
But even still, the ongoing movement for King's first of three causes — racial equality — have to contend with the same hate-filled arguments and attacks that King was subjected to.
Back then, the white establishment called on "decent Negros" to get "King off their backs". Today, black activists are forced to endure the same patronizing twaddle about their tactics. They are, however, reclaiming King's actual legacy. King not only accepted the accusation that he was "an agitator" but embraced it. To reclaim King, then, is to be an agitator.
Repeatedly, King called on the U.S. to "see the enemy's point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves". This, as in King's time, the political establishment is allergic to; it will get one called a "terrorist apologist" now, just as then King was labeled a "commie" and one who "whitewashed Hanoi". Oh, and let's not forget "anti-American"; King was called that, as are many who hold similar views today to hear establishment conservatives and liberals tell it. Additionally, the Gamergate and anti-Muslim contingents have decided that those in the tradition of King are "regressive leftists".
When in 1967 King delivered his Riverside Church speech declaring America to be "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world" and denouncing napalm bombings in Vietnam, 168 U.S. newspapers denounced him.
Moreover, and as noted above, King was a democratic socialist. When courting his future wife he wrote in a letter to her:
“”I imagine you already know that I am much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic. And yet I am not so opposed to capitalism that I have failed to see its relative merits. It started out with a noble and high motive, viz, to block the trade monopolies of nobles, but like most human systems, it falls victim to the very thing it was revolting against. So today capitalism has outlived its usefulness. It has brought about a system that takes necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes.
The country may finally be catching up with King on the economics front. But many still are tarred with all the same vicious demonization that King had to endure.
MLK and LGBTQ+ rights
King's record on LGBTQ+ rights is an interesting microcosm in how conservatives and progressives have managed to fit King's lives into their worldview. During his life, King's record on gay rights was mixed, telling a gay kid that he should see a psychiatrist to "fix his problem".. While in the present day, this can easily be read as a case of blatant homophobia, King's stance was notably progressive for the time, given that during his time most courts ended up outlawing homosexuality. As King died before the Stonewall riots and the LGBT rights movement would take off, one cannot conclude what King's stance would have been.
This however has not stopped both his wife, Coretta Scott King, and his youngest daughter, Bernice Albertine King, from ascribing a stance to the late King. His wife, who would end up becoming an early supporter of the LGBTQ+ rights movement ended up citing King's epithets about racial equality as a reason to support LGBTQ+ rights. On the complete contrary, his daughter would end up as an ordained minister and has cited the late MLKs stance as her reason for opposing LGBTQ+ rights.
The main thing that can be concluded from this is that no matter what King's stance might have been on a topic in life, someone will try to use a theoretical version of him to try to bolster their own position.
- We're not linking to it.
- Martin Luther King Jr. made our nation uncomfortable, Washington Post (Maybe 40 years too early.)
- See the Wikipedia article on Highlander Research and Education Center.
- King, Martin Luther, Michael K. Honey, and Martin Luther King. All Labor Has Dignity. Boston, MA: Beacon, 2011. ISBN 0807086029
- The Anti-Capitalism of Martin Luther King Jr., HuffPo
- Franklin, Robert Michael (1990). Liberating Visions: Human Fulfillment and Social Justice in African-American Thought. Fortress Press. pp. 125. ISBN 0800623924.
- “My Pilgrimage to Nonviolence”, Stanford University
- King, Martin Luther. Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story. 1958. PP 92-95 (pp.4-5 pdf). "in so far as [Marx] pointed to a weakness of traditional capitalism, contributed to the growth of a definite self-consciousness in the masses, and challenged the social conscience of the Christian churches, I responded with a definite "yes".
- King Encyclopedia: Eisenhower, Dwight David (1890-1969)
- An extinct breed of Republican
- David J. Garrow, Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (1986), p. 575
- Garrow, p. 358
- Like all frauds your end is approaching, Letters of Note
- Burnett, Thom (2005). Conspiracy Encyclopedia. Collins & Brown. p. 58. ISBN 1843402874.
- Knight, Peter (2003). Conspiracy Theories in American History: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. pp. 408–9. ISBN 1576078124