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.
“King’s words have been appropriated by the people who rejected him in the 1960s,” said Professor James Cone, who teaches at Union Theological Seminary in New York and who wrote the book Martin & Malcolm & America. “So by making his birthday a national holiday everybody claims him, even though they opposed him while he was alive. They have frozen King in 1963 with his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. That is the one that can best be manipulated and misinterpreted. King also said, shortly after the Selma march and the riots in Watts, ‘they have turned my dream into a nightmare.’”
Copyright © 2010 Truthdig
Chris Hedges spent two decades as a foreign reporter covering wars in Latin America, Africa, Europe and the Middle East. He has written nine books, including Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle (2009) and War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (2003).
from the archives: