Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2013
Today marks Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2013 in America, a federal holiday to honor the life and accomplishments of the late civil rights leader and his message of liberation and equality for all humankind. However, although much lip service has been paid to his work against racism and discrimination in the South, and his victory over segregation and Jim Crow laws, some of his most important and long-lasting ideals have been ignored and glossed over as being inconsistent with the mainstream media version of Dr. King.
Since his death in 1968, both liberals and conservatives have sanitized and watered down the racial ideology of King, each group seeking to co-opt his message as their own while quietly dismissing and whitewashing the more radical beliefs that he held during his life. Liberals seek to embrace his anti-racism and social justice legacy as their own, while ignoring his ideas on economic justice, socialism, and the challenging of liberal hypocrisy in the North. Many liberals go no further in their views than general reforms and greater social welfare, while King advocated for an end to capitalism and a radical restructuring of the entire system. Conservatives, meanwhile, seek to recast King as being closer to their platform and beliefs, despite the violent opposition that King faced in his quest from conservatives of his time, and that modern conservatism has drastically shifted away from anything that King would have legitimately supported. They have even used King as an argument against affirmative action, something that King outright supported during his life. Conservatives have gone from denouncing King as a Communist to embracing him as a Republican in spirit. This follows a long tradition in society of domesticating historical figures and ignoring their more radical rhetoric, such as (for just two examples) Albert Einstein (socialist and avid proponent of democratic world government) or right-wing favorite Thomas Paine, idolized by many conservatives despite being an atheist who hated religion and believed in strong government and heavy taxation and welfare for the needy.
So then, lets remember the true Martin Luther King Jr., the radical who would not be happy with just defeating Southern racism, but who wanted to radically change the whole of American society and end poverty and exploitation of poor people. Let’s remember, in his own words, the man who stood against not just racism and discrimination, but who challenged capitalism and American imperialism, who sought to directly overthrow corporate rule and dismantle the slums and ghettos of America, and who sought a better world for not just the affluent and well-off, but the poor, the homeless, the disenfranchised. We owe it to him and the sacrifices he made in the name of a better world.