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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What the insurrection tells us about where we’re at

So, it’s been a little over a year since January 6th . Think pieces bloomed. TV specials aired. Harris and Biden gave speeches. I couldn’t care less. In this country, racists rioting to get their way ain’t nothing new and how this particular example is being handled just feels like a distraction. That may seem callous, but plenty of people agree with me, including the government. According to federal law:

“Whoever incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof, or gives aid or comfort thereto, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.”

Seems like pretty light punishment for trying to destroy an entire country, doesn’t it? Don’t worry, it gets lighter. Did you know that most of the people at the insurrection haven’t been arrested? Did you know that out of those who have been arrested, most of them haven’t been convicted? Did you know that most of those convicted weren’t sentenced to even a single day in jail?

Does the coming fascist turn of this country frighten you? What exactly scares you about fascism? Is it the potential disregard of your vote or some other dissolving of your rights? Restricted access to resources? Something more pointed like false imprisonment or another form of state-sanctioned violence? I hate to tell you this, but you already live in that country—it’s just a little less obvious if you’re white.

It’s cliché to even mention it at this point, but we all know how last January 6th would’ve panned out had the insurrectionists been Black. We know this because all too often the penalty for simply being Black in any given situation is immediate state-sanctioned execution. Living in this country, knowing that and seeing even top democratic leaders’ complete inability to take any of this seriously, it is very difficult for me to see this as anything other than a distraction.

A distraction from what? Well, downplaying the Omicron variant just before the holidays seems like an obviously reckless thing to do, especially when the variant is certainly not as mild as the Biden administration has been implying. Then there’s the CDC changing its 10-day isolation requirement to five days without a test. Flying in the face of the medical science they’ve been telling us to trust, their admittedly economic reasons have caused a reaction that could very well be a terminal blow to the CDC’s rapidly declining reputation.   

It seems more and more of us see both the Democratic and Republican Parties functioning to serve the wealthy elite by maintaining an order for the rest of us to primarily provide for them. Yes, there are differences. Yes, our Republican 45th president objectively personifies professional, personal and spiritual failure more directly and thoroughly than any other person on record to have ever lived. And yes, his handling of COVID-19 was uniquely a cataclysm. And yet despite access to tests, vaccines and the clearest possible roadmap of what not to do, our Democratic 46th president is somehow handling the pandemic worse. Of course, we’re meant to believe that new variants predicted by all experts from the very beginning were somehow completely unforeseen. It seems almost patriotic to pretend that 2020’s anti-maskers becoming 2021’s anti-vaxxers was in any way surprising. We’re told to focus on the psychological effects closed schools have on children. At the same time, we’re never to consider the psychological effects of bringing home COVID to a vulnerable parent and joining the estimated 167,000 other disproportionately Black and brown American children orphaned by COVID.

Cases and deaths are surging yet again while shutdowns and stimulus are nowhere in sight. We all know that our 45th and 46th presidents and those in their class do not face unemployment, financial ruin or eviction. They will never face a lack of money, food or a single other resource. There are no circumstances that will force the children in their families into a COVID infected school. In the event that they face this illness, the rare medical treatments available to them are unimaginably beyond anything the average American could afford.

The immeasurable and ever-widening gulf between classes in this country is swallowing us faster than we can notice—but hey, maybe seeing some speeches and slapping a few insurrectionists on the wrists will take our minds off the fall.

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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.

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