To support MLK’s legacy, you must open your eyes and disrupt the status quo

“First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;’ who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a ‘more convenient season.’

“Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

– Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. 

Five years before I was born in 1968, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. His birthday was turned into a federal holiday in 1986, when I was 13 years old. While Dr. King’s actual birthday was Jan. 15, the legal holiday is observed on the third Monday of January.

As I write this, the nation is in the midst of its annual observation of Dr. King’s birthday. But sadly, as the years go by, King’s legacy in certain circles has been reduced to that of a sweet and demure Black man from long ago, with a dream that children of different races could play together. 

The fact is that the real Dr. King was not liked much at all at the time of his assassination. More than 60% of Americans at that time disapproved of King and his tactics. Which is beyond ironic—many times that Dr. King’s name has been evoked in recent years during massive Black Lives Matters protests, it is by white people saying the protesters should be more like King was. 

Actually, the protestors in recent years are following in the direct lineage of King and of radical politics and protesting. Whatever his code of non-violence personally, King was very much into disrupting things—and that is what the vast majority of BLM and other protesters recently have been doing.

As we honor Dr. King’s work and legacy, attention must be brought to the words of his daughter, Bernice King, who on Dec. 18, 2021, stated, “if voting rights is still hanging in the balance” by MLK day, she is calling for supporters to “speak and act in a way to ensure that this nation lives up to its promise of democracy, by putting pressure on our United States Senate to bypass the filibuster and instead of taking the King Holiday off, they should make it a ‘day on’ to pass the voting rights acts.”

Voting rights are hanging in the balance and the fact is that Republican-controlled state legislatures across the country have made it exponentially much harder to vote for people in marginalized communities. 

While many were celebrating the short term “victories” and what appeared to be a partial return to “normal” in 2021, the GOP and their strange assortment of bedfellows were hard at work ensuring that the wins that we saw in places like Georgia in 2020 would not happen again. 

The short attention of white moderates and progressives, many of whom took to the streets for racial justice—along with an overreliance on Black women in particular to do the heavy lifting—created a perfect storm for voting rights to be diminished. 

While a dagger may in fact have been placed at the throat of democracy on Jan. 6, 2021, by the former president and his followers, the fact is that white moderates and progressives aided and abetted the erosion of our democracy and the civil and voting rights therein—in large part with their childlike and naive insistence on the goodness of the system and that the process will work in the end. Also, their unwillingness to see that an empire such as the United States is just as capable of failing as any other country. 

The past several years have revealed that America is not as strong as she once thought herself. Between the Trump years and the ongoing horrors of the pandemic, we are treading lightly on fragile terrain. Our collective survival will go beyond white, Black and other people of color. In fact, our survival will involve facing a reality that many white moderates cannot even imagine—but for marginalized people, we see the handwriting on the wall and have for a long time.

If you truly wish to honor the real Dr. King and do his legacy justice, please face reality. Search yourself and make a commitment to not be the white moderate who is more concerned with order and decorum than with justice.

As the Jan. 6 insurrection showed us, our enemies are prepared to do anything to subvert justice and equality. Dr. King was a deep thinker and radical organizer who sought both racial and economic justice and who realized that our plights and lives were deeply intertwined.

We honor that man by saying “No” to the whitewashed fairy-tale version of America and civil right and Dr. King himself and instead striving to be like the radical organizer who paid the ultimate price in his fight for justice. 

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Thank you for being a reader! Looking back on 2021

It’s been a year! As I sit down to pen this, the news just broke of Betty White’s passing, days before her 100th birthday. In a world defined by our divisions, the collective love—and now collective grief—at the passing of a true icon oddly gives me hope. Perhaps all is not truly lost. 

Betty, thank you for being a friend! A friend that spans the generations. 

We entered 2021 hopeful that the pandemic of 2020 would quickly pass, once we were all able to get vaccinated. For a brief time, there was hope that, indeed, we might return to that place called “normal.” However, the arrival of the Delta variant and the rise of the permanently ignorant dashed our hopes and now we wrap up 2021 with the most contagious variant yet, Omicron. 

The United States is once again showing our greatness by posting record-shattering numbers of COVID cases at a time when testing is harder to come by than my 20s abdomen. 

Joe Biden, who won the 2020 presidential election and who earlier this year we thought might be our way out of this pandemic, has simply washed his hands of this mess; at the same time the CDC is giving out advice so questionable that any reasonably intelligent human knows to disregard them going forward or at least take what they say with the biggest grain of salt. Since, no doubt, this latest surge might be in part due to the CDC telling the American people it was safe to gather over the Christmas holiday, assuming all parties were vaccinated, boosted, and tested prior to gathering. 

The great American racial awakening of 2020 gave way to the average white person in 2021 deciding to move on, thus opening the door to a more vicious and virulent racist who is committed to keeping the next generation of white youth racially and historically ignorant. In fact, these rabid racists are so illiterate that they believe critical race theory is a tool to indoctrinate white youth, instead of a legal framework for seeing the intersection of race. 

Climate change is moving at warp speed and this planet is probably doomed but hey it’s a balmy 35 degrees on December 31 off the coast of Maine, so who cares? People hate being cold and they hate snow.

Lastly, if the world wasn’t just a dumpster fire of epic proportions already, the media landscape has shifted so much that soon, the anesthetization of America will be complete. As long as your immediate day is not impacted and the Zuckerberg machine keeps you feeling good, you can just stay in your bubble and ignore the world. Not a great strategy for our collective survival or liberation, but it has its place I guess. 

All that said, in this changing media landscape where the voices of the disaffected and marginalized are becoming harder to find as our platforms are fading away—either swallowed up by corporations who eventually whitewash us, or the reality that high readerships don’t necessarily mean financial support to pay for operations—I am thrilled to still be here as we enter 2022. Thank you for being here!

In a few days, this site turns 14(!). In internet media years, we are old timers. This site was born  in the era of the mommy blogger, the majority of whom have long given up blogging and front-facing media work.

In the early days of this site, I made the decision to stay independent, which has meant never accepting ads or being a part of any network. Instead, when I did decide to monetize, our strategy has always been: If readers enjoy what they read, we ask that you support the work at a level that is meaningful to you. Honestly, it is scary, especially during the pandemic, as many readers have had to pull back support.

2021 has been a lean year—lean enough that every month, I hold my breath, hoping to not have to dip into my personal reserves to keep us afloat. Some months are better than others but in recent weeks, I’ve seen that several platforms with readership far larger than BGIM have had to cease operations due to a lack of financial support. These are sobering times all around and at the same time, there has never been a greater need for a diversity of voices on race and politics.

So as we enter and settle into this new year, I thank you. Thank you for being a reader, and if applicable, being a supporter. If the spirit moves, we would love your support or even increased support in 2022. However more importantly, thank you for your commitment to a racially just and equitable world. Stay safe in 2022!

If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

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Truth-telling, healing from whiteness and bell hooks

I was born in the early 1970s, and despite having two loving parents—including a stay at home mother—I often felt a sense of discomfort in my body in my early years. My younger self didn’t understand that the unease I felt were the growing tentacles of white supremacy constricting around me. 

Growing up Black and female in the ‘70s and ‘80s was, at times, a solitary experience. 

It wasn’t always easy to see yourself in the larger world, and all the guiding principles were primarily the ones designed and upheld by white supremacy—though no one at that time named it as such. It has only been in recent years that we now can name the “respectability” politics that many of us were raised with as a byproduct of racism. The fervent desire for many of us to prove ourselves to be as good as white people or being directed to play to the white gaze, and the draconian rules we place on ourselves and fellow Black people to do that. The systematic denial of our inherent blackness to achieve. 

As a bookish child, few of the books that I adored had characters that looked like me. Judy Blume was an extraordinary writer who shaped my tween years and younger me fervently wanted to be Harriet the Spy, but what would it have been like to see characters that resembled me? 

Film and television wasn’t much better. It wasn’t until my high school years, when series like The Cosby Show appeared on the air, that I saw much positive. Until then, most of the media representations of Black girls and women were greatly limited, and even with The Cosby Show, I didn’t necessarily see myself. After all, my parents were Black hippies. I would be well into my late 20s, when I would finally realize that families like my own had always existed. 

Toggling between racially integrated schools that leaned more white and our tight Black private spaces caused me a lot of emotional whiplash. At school, it was the white girls with the long, silky, preferably blonde hair that could be feathered who were noticed. In our home life, it was the Black girls who could double-dutch and speak with a confident cadence (that I lacked) who held court.

I was neither of those things; in fact, family gatherings at times were painful, I was the white-sounding cousin and no one let me live it down. I didn’t fully understand the nuance of being able to code switch. It was a different time. Whereas my 16-year-old daughter toggles effortlessly between her Black friends on Facetime and the larger white world, back in 1980 or whatever, I had none of those skills. 

It was my teen years that brought the greatest sense of not belonging, I literally didn’t fit in anywhere, but my theater classes allowed me to create a disaffected persona where I could hide my truths. I danced on the line of wanna-be punk, wanna-be trendy, and wanna-be stoner. I wasn’t very good at any of them but the inability to fully fit in anywhere specifically no doubt allowed me to learn to decently fit in everywhere. The only constant at that time in my life was feeling the weight of white supremacy heavy on my shoulders and not knowing what it was. 

Not only was the weight of white supremacy heavy on my shoulders but figuring out my role in this larger world as a darker-skinned Black woman born at the crossroads of poor and working class. 

For a long time, I couldn’t make sense of any of it, and my mother for all her many strengths and gifts wasn’t one to engage in conversations that would create the space for me to ponder these questions. The women in my family didn’t discuss such things. Instead, I received the indirect nod of approval to seek whiteness; to seek closeness to whiteness. No doubt that nod to seeking whiteness was at play in my decisions to partner with white men. For some Black women of my mother and grandmother’s generations, no doubt they believed that a white man would be a savior. I would like to believe that if my mother and grandmother were still here, they would have learned that their thinking had been shaped by white supremacist culture which seeks to strip of us of our sense of self and instead seeks to have us serve at the twin altars of whiteness and white supremacy culture.

It was over 25 years ago that I started my own process of deprogramming whiteness out of myself and accepting and leaning into the full richness of my blackness—realizing that there is no one way to be Black. The blood of enslaved Africans runs through my veins. I spent half of my childhood on the South Side of Chicago, and just as I can shake my hips to Depeche Mode and The Cure, I get in my feelings and jam even harder when listening to Frankie Beverly and Maze or Minnie Ripperton. I am a granddaughter of the South and those who were part of the first wave of the Great Migration. I eat my catfish fried with hot sauce, along with sides of spaghetti and white bread. No matter how I wear my hair or who I share my personal life with, I am fully Black and no longer need proximity to whiteness to feel secure in my being. 

This reflection on my life was spurred by the passing of bell hooks. Having lost so many of my own family members early in my life, I am rarely moved by the passing of public figures or celebrities. But upon learning of bell hooks’ death, I found myself crying almost as hard as I did when my own Mama died. 

I stumbled into a Black bookstore many years ago, when my eldest was a toddler, and came upon bell hooks’ work. It was her work that lit the match in me that led me on my own journey of finding myself as a Black woman—to give words to my feelings; to learn to create communities of care and love in my innermost spaces. To make the commitment to using my own writing as truth-telling for my own healing and perhaps yours.

There are few writers whose work have left the mark on me in the way that bell hooks did—as she did for so many of us. And in this moment, the best way to move through the collective grief is to bring my truth to this space.

Thank you bell hooks for mentoring so many, including those of us who never crossed physical or professional paths with you. 

If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

Comments will close on this post in 60-90 days; earlier if there are spam attacks or other nonsense.

Image by Alex Lozupone (Tduk) – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,