For years now, perhaps even decades, white America has engaged in a tradition reserved for the day we celebrate the legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., in which they lie on his name and what he stood for to placate fragile white feelings. Every year, on the third Monday of January, the melanin-Jim-Crowed show off the boundlessness of their caucasity and take a man who was hated and opposed by the strong majority of white Americans until the day he was murdered by one of them and water him down to make him as palatable for white consumption as humanly possible. They isolate a single passage from a single MLK speech, completely remove the words “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” from the excerpt’s context and suddenly MLK goes from a pro-Black radical to a Caucasian-adaptable posthumous “Black friend” for the whites to invoke at will.
Don’t get me wrong—white conservatives don’t wait for the holiday to start trotting out their little whitewashed version of the civil rights icon, but they really ramp up the white nonsense on MLK Day.
For example, here’s Texas Gov. Greg Abbott praising King and his “I Have a Dream” speech as if his state didn’t pass an anti-Critical Race Theory law dropping requirements for educators to give lessons on MLK’s teachings.
Here’s a question: Why wouldn’t white conservatives want to make sure MLK’s views, speeches and writings were taught thoroughly if King is such a shining example of how Americans ought to think and behave? Why are conservative groups seeking to ban books that he’s written from school libraries if he’s to serve as one of the few Black civil rights leaders recognized with the white American stamp of approval?
I’m guessing that some in the war against CRT have discovered that if you dig deep enough into the words of MLK, you’ll find that what he actually stood for is exactly what white conservatives wrongly believe CRT is—an indictment of white racism at the individual level and white people as a whole.
Fortunately, Black scholars, academics and negroes who know things have begun their own tradition of using MLK’s own words to prove right-wingers don’t know what TF they’re talking about.
Educator, journalist and activist Nikole Hannah-Jones enters the chat.
On Monday, Hannah-Jones tweeted about being invited to an event to give an MLK Day speech and about how “a small number of members of the group hosting me wrote and then leaked emails opposing my giving this speech, as it dishonored Dr. King for me to do so,” calling her a “discredited activist” who is “unworthy of such association with King”
Now, we all know what that was about—white people are still salty about Hannah-Jones’ Pulitzer Prize-winning work The 1619 Project, which continues to succeed in spite of their objection. When they call her a “discredited activist,” they’re referring to the number of conservative historians who have called her work ahistorical propaganda while ignoring all of the accredited historians who contributed to the project and have praised it.
Hannah-Jones said she gave a speech anyway, but she had a surprise for her audience—she decided to pass King’s words as her own before revealing the true author and proving how white people-friendly MLK wasn’t.
The Twitter thread was just glorious.
Hannah-Jones may or may not have included the time MLK explicitly said, “The thing wrong with America is white racism,” and that “white folks are not right…It’s time for America to have an intensified study on what’s wrong with white folks,” so I’ll just be petty and include it. Either way, Hannah-Jones made her point and she said that when she “revealed that everything I said to that point was taken from his speeches between ’56 and 67,” her audience was “SHOOK!”—because of course they were.
Just think of all the anti-CRT warriors who have claimed the academic study that revolves around racism in the legal system and other structures, not white people in general, was designed to promote the idea that white people are inherently racist. Think of how often those people have praised MLK’s legacy when the truth is, between CRT and MLK, only the latter set of initials belongs to an unabashed judge of the whites.
I’ll just end this on the same note Hannah-Jones left her audience on:
“People who oppose today what he stood for back then do not get to be the arbiters of his legacy.”