Tuesday, January 19, 2010

In memory of Dr King

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
Martin Luther King
Yesterday was Martin Luther King Day in the US. Held on the third Monday in January to mark the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr, the day is intended as a reminder of all that Dr King fought for and died for.

Chris Hedges's writes that King's message has been sanitized and appropriated to serve the interests of the powerful:
"Martin Luther King Day has become a yearly ritual to turn a black radical into a red-white-and-blue icon. It has become a day to celebrate ourselves for “overcoming” racism and “fulfilling” King’s dream. It is a day filled with old sound bites about little black children and little white children that, given the state of America, would enrage King. Most of our great social reformers, once they are dead, are kidnapped by the power elite and turned into harmless props of American glory. King, after all, was not only a socialist but fiercely opposed to American militarism and acutely aware, especially at the end of his life, that racial justice without economic justice was a farce"
As Hedges points out the old racist rhetoric may have disappeared but the situation that King fought against remains:
"We pretend there is equality and equal opportunity while ignoring the institutional and economic racism that infects our inner cities and fills our prisons, where a staggering one in nine black men between the ages of 20 and 34 are incarcerated."
In the Nation Mark Engler has written of the Poor People's Campaign which King was planing when he was assassinated. King aimed to mobilise poor people throughout America to demand action from Congress, and engage in nonviolent civil disobedience to force the US government to end economic and social deprivation. Engler ponders how Dr King might respond to the current crises of recession, unemployment and gross inequality confronting the US:
"Without people taking action in the spirit of Martin Luther King's vision, a few Americans may continue to gather inordinate wealth, but many others, thrust against their will into idleness, insecurity or foreclosure by today's crisis, will have little recourse but to wait for relief from a capricious and uncertain economy".

The image is from the No Caption Needed website and appeared in the St Lois Dispatch.

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