In his death, King has achieved a level acceptance that he was not granted during his lifetime. Today, many supposed allies quote his I Have A Dream speech to evidence their commitment to anti-racism. The cynical side of me sees this for exactly what it is. You see, when it comes to Dr. King, Whiteness only likes that which makes them feel safe, and not that which holds them accountable for the racial privilege that they continue to possess and perpetuate.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
Comforting isn’t it? But the truth of the matter is that Blacks are still judged by the colour of their skin thanks to White supremacy. We have had some success, but the everyday existence of a person of colour is very much mitigated by the fact that Whiteness continues to exist with unabated power. I have most often heard the above quote from White people, in an effort to entreat me to be a good nigger and shield my rage at their direct oppression of me. King wanted equality and I have had that quote used against me to suggest that fighting White supremacy is unjust to White people — yeah for reverse racism. Equality to many means silence in the face of continued racism. The appropriation of Dr. King has long been part of the White supremacist agenda, proving that though he sacrificed his life, many have yet to truly internalize his message. Dr. King’s dream has not been fulfilled.
To truly know who Dr. King was and what he stood for, it is imperative that Whiteness begin to look at the Dr. King that challenges their perceived right to lead. Dr. King spoke a lot about forgiveness and non violence, but he also knew who was responsible for the generations of pain that has been inflicted upon people of colour. It is believed by far too many that non-violence means passive and this what fuels the appropriation of King’s work. It was never Dr. King’s wish that we should be passive, non-violence was just his chosen form of protest. I think that he would be amazed by the appropriation today because when he died, he had a 30% approval rating. I think what this proves is that if Whiteness can appropriate and twist an agenda to benefit itself it will.
The following are a few quotes that I believe need to become more popular. King was never about comfort, but challenging the status quo and that means acknowledging that what he had to say was not meant to soothe the sensibilities of White supremacy.
The sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality.
We who in engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive.
Let us say it boldly, that if the total sum violations of law by the white man over the years were calculated and were compared with the lawbreaking of a few days of riots, the hardened criminal would be the white man.
When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative.
It is incontestable and deplorable that Negroes have committed crimes; but they are derivative crimes. They are born of the greater crimes of the white society.