By: Mr. Doshon Farad, Guest Contributor
Photo credits: D. Farad/J.H. Muhammad/J. Darkow
Well over fifty years after his assassination, the image of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is still grossly distorted and misrepresented by those in power as well as those who claim to be the “Keepers of his dream”-primarily many African-Americans. Dr. Cornel West refers to this as “The sanitizing of King.”
As a result, he has been relegated from that of a radical reformer to “the Dreamer” – a description that often portrays him as a weak nonthreatening pacifist. But if one, however, was to closely examine his activism past his iconic “I Have A Dream” speech, they would see that he was the complete opposite. I think it’s also important to mention that the sanitizing of controversial black figures have taken place all throughout past and modern-day history.
Most individuals are unaware that it was King’s activism and organizing that would lead to him being placed on former F.B.I Director J. Edgar Hoover’s hit list referring to him as “The most dangerous negro in America”. I think it’s important to note that despite the various distortions of his persona-“The Drum Major for Peace” was, in reality, a “threatening pacifist” as well as a political theorist who was able to give a clear and critical analysis of the dangers of American exceptionalism, militarism, and White Supremacy.
These factors along with his ability to mass organize and mobilize Americans across the nation made him problematic to the ruling elite.
With all of the above being said – I would like to make clear that the purpose of this article is not to do the usual praising of MLK that occurs every year on his holiday, but instead to discuss his views on American racism as pertains specifically to African-Americans and how I feel they apply today in the current racial climate or “Trump’s America.” I would also like to emphasize that although he was the consummate humanist, the African-American community was his first concern.
Since taking office four years ago, and although he is now on his way out, President Donald J. Trump’s presence has definitely helped to proliferate overt white racism. In comparing Trump’s presidency to that of Obama’s, I’ve said for quite some time that the latter merely drew out the white racists from hiding – whereas, Trump emboldens them with his xenophobic rhetoric – to the point that we are now seeing racism nearly at levels that Dr. King saw over five decades ago.
According to the U.S. State Department’s 2020 report on Terrorism- ethnically and racially motivated terrorism in America is “on the rise and spreading geographically”. The annual report further mentions that white supremacist groups “increasingly target” groups such as African-Americans, immigrants, religious minorities, and those who are identified as members of the LGBTQ community. This report also emphasized the ongoing threat that white supremacists posed to U.S. national security in 2019 as racially motivated attacks have increased since 2015.
What really gets under my skin is not reports such as these or even the actions of white racists. Instead, it’s the conceivably appalled reactions of many Americans – African-Americans, in particular. People keep saying – especially since this month’s siege on the U.S. Capitol: “This is not who we are as Americans.” They are also asking, “What would Dr. King say about Trump’s America?” As Gore Vidal put it: “We are the United States of Amnesia. We learn nothing because we remember nothing.”
How can any right-thinking American, an African-American specifically, be at all outraged by any act of white racism when this has been a part of America’s fabric since its violent founding?
Racial hatred, intolerance, and bigotry are exactly “Who we are as Americans.” If there’s anyone who definitely shouldn’t be surprised by racism and white supremacy, it’s African-Americans. After everything we’ve been through since stepping off of the first slave ship, I find that our community often suffers from what Dr. Michael Eric Dyson once described as “Afri-Amnesia.” This condition is described as the tendency for many members of our community to forget our collective experience in dealing with racism.
There are many of us who are naive enough to sincerely believe that because we have degrees, nice jobs, money, or white spouses that racial hatred towards us is some ancient relic – to the point that we actually become outraged when we hear about a white person committing an act of racial terrorism towards one of us. As one who writes extensively about the African (black) experience in America, I find that our community is lacking the most when it comes to historical knowledge.
But as we can see who also often suffers from a similar type of historical amnesia is white America. There are many-if not most-members of that community who either try to ignore the nation’s racist past or attempt to obscure it by telling us stories of George Washington chopping down the cherry tree. The irony of this is that many white Americans attempt to use Dr. King’s dream of black and white together and social integration as justification for their denial.
Dr. King made it very clear that racism towards black people was ingrained in this country’s fabric since day one. He states this plainly in his book, Where Do Go From Here: Chaos or Community? An excerpt from this book reads as follows:
“Ever since the birth of our nation, white America has had a schizophrenic personality on the question of race. She has been torn between the selves-a self in which she proudly professed the great principles of democracy and a self in which she sadly practiced the antithesis of democracy. This tragic duality has produced a strange indecisiveness and ambivalence toward the Negro, causing America to a step backward simultaneously with every step forward on the question of racial justice, to be at once attracted to the Negro and repelled by him, to love and to hate him. There has never been a solid, unified, and determined thrust to make justice a reality for the Afro-American.”
In addressing what many till this day refer to as “white backlash” King goes on further to say in his book:
“The white backlash is nothing new. It is the surfacing of old prejudices, hostilities, and ambivalences that have always been there. . .The white backlash of today is rooted in the same problem that has characterized America ever since the black man landed in chains on the shores of this nation. The white backlash is an expression of the same vacillations, the search for rationalizations, the same lack of commitment that have always characterized white America on the question of race.”
From reading the above excerpts it is quite clear how Dr. King would react to white supremacy and Trump’s America. He would definitely criticize President Trump for helping to fan racial flames and hold him accountable for being the leader of the country, but at the same time, King wouldn’t at all act appalled or shocked. There’s no question that Trump’s presidency has incited the rise of racial hostilities among white Americans towards blacks and other non-whites, however, he should not be made the poster child for this hostility.
If anyone should be blamed, it should be the Framers of the United States of America – for it was they who took part in the massacring of the indigenous people of this landmass as well as the enslavement of millions and millions of Africans to build this nation’s current wealth and empire.
In closing, I think the bigger question that should be asked is:
“When will we as Americans stop being in denial about America’s past?” Dr. King certainly wasn’t.
Doshon Farad (pictured above, left) is a staff writer for the Your Black World online news network. He has written and reported for several other publications such as Experience Reality Magazine, Movement Magazine, Amsterdam News, The Grio, Black Agenda Report, and News One. He is also a broadcast journalist. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.