There's also the ever-so-obvious whitewashing of MLK's legacy - a subject which has garnered a multitude of think pieces.
So I talked about these things on Twitter because I remembered that a lot of the people who "love" MLK for what they perceive to be his platform of peace and non-violence have never had the privilege of growing up around elderly Black people. People that were in King's age-group. That would be MY generation's grandparents. Those Black people who went to Civil Rights marches were my grands, great aunts and uncles. People who were very respectful and respectable (in public) but wouldn't hesitate to whoop your ass behind closed doors if you were a member of their family and stepped out of line. These were people who weren't always patient and nonviolent. They were just like me and you and they absolutely, positively HATED the indignities they were forced to suffer at the hands of a racist system, propped up by everyday racist and complacent White people.
I bring this up because I want y'all to understand that these people who - just like Dr. King - were humans with complexities, annoying habits and adoring loved ones fueled the Civil Rights Movement that brought about some of the rights that marginalized groups enjoy today.
We celebrate Dr. King's birthday in honor of his service as a Civil Rights Leader. A humanitarian that raged battles against the status quo that rocked the entire nation and brought about changes that are still felt to this day. Yet still we shut out from his legacy, the humanity that fueled his very existence.
Dr. King was about peace and love. Dr. King was never angry. Never frustrated. Never felt down. Never said a mean word. Can we stop already? Please?
I've jokingly said that people shouldn't be allowed to utter Martin Luther King's name without, first, taking a two year Master's course on his speeches and his life. But now I think I'm serious about that Master's program because Martin Luther King's name is almost always coming out of someone's mouth when they are silencing a Black person or telling them to "stand down" as if Dr. King's legacy was one of silence and stoicism.
Case in point:
The level of arrogance that this patronizing tweet garners is enough to power two hundred space ships to Jupiter. But this is what people really believe MLK was about because apparently, he'd "won Civil Rights" with his charm.
Interesting Fact: The whole non-violence part of the Civil Rights Movement was calculated. SNCC - the main groups involved in the Civil Rights Movement - stood for Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. That means there was coordination and training involved in learning how to take a punch, be spit on, etc. Do you know how much self restraint it takes to remain nonviolent when you are being physically and verbally attacked? Short answer: A lot. So Rob Schneider thinking that Dr. King didn't give into anger or hurt is condescending, presumptuous, ignorant and callous to say the least. Especially considering that he's speaking to one of the original chairmen of SNCC who worked closely with Dr. King, experiencing many of the same indignities and helping to engineer the Civil Rights Movement in the first damn place. He might as well tell God to just "be like that Jesus guy. He never got angry."
Anyway, here's what I take away from MLK - and from all of my Black ancestors, and the Black elders that I've known and loved and who have paved the way for me (WARNING: this might come as an unpleasant shock to some of you who only know about 3 minutes of the March On Washington speech)...
We - as in, Black people - aren't enamored with the idea of interracial friendship.
We just want justice. That's pretty-much it.
Dr. King's struggle - at least, for me and for many like me - was not about future generations sitting around the bonfire singing Kumbaya with White people. It was about equality (although the bonfire would - no doubt - be a very welcome byproduct.)
I'm sorry if anyone finds that offensive and in no way am I saying that friendship amongst different races is a bad thing or even something that we don't think should happen. I love my my rainbow of friends but if I had to choose between having non-Black friends OR receiving equal pay as well as fair treatment from our country's legal/justice system, I would choose the latter EVERY. SINGLE. MOTHERFREAKING. GOTDANG. TIME.
And that is what Dr. King was fighting for. Equality. So all of the "go along to get along" stuff - as the young people would say - is cancelled. That was NEVER his ministry.
When we think of Dr. King, and all of the people who fought for justice alongside him, I want us to remember that they fought for progress and fairness. They fought for the disenfranchised and unheard. They fought for the underrepresented, the poor and the mistreated. They fought for a seat at the table. The point is, they fought. And in order to fight, you must be emotionally and mentally moved enough to get to that point. To bypass the outrage MLK must have felt day in and day out is to completely skip over the entire point of why he did what he did in the first place. He said it himself, he didn't want to endure another minute of injustice.
Dr. King was an imperfect person who was angry at the unfairness around him and worked his entire life to change it in the best way he knew how. If that's not inspiring to the rest of us humans, I don't know what is. He wasn't a saint that sacrificed himself so that Black people and White people could hold hands. He was murdered by the U.S. government because he was successfully fighting for equality for Black people and other marginalized groups. So let's celebrate the man in the full complexity of his humanity and not lose sight of the equality that he stood for. Because in that way, we are giving ourselves a standard that is both noble and achievable.
Happy Martin Luther King Day!