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Today is the day that the United States, and its citizenry, will celebrate the first (and only) national holiday honoring a Black man. At the White House Rose Garden on November 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill creating a federal holiday to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was observed for the first time thirty years ago; on January 20, 1986. The holiday unofficially kicks off what is known as “Black History Month” which occurs in February; the shortest month of the year.
Depending on one’s perspective, it is a day that celebrates “progress”; to others, it is a day of mourning. It is a day which white Americans use to ease their dis-ease with pro forma, perfunctory and obligatory statements and queries such as: “what would Dr. King think today?” Or, my personal favorite, has “the dream been realized?” Those familiar with my opinions know that it matters not to me if “the dream” has been realized. For the prerequisite to dreaming is being asleep.
The United States is replete with sleepwalkers; both black and white.
I think that Dr. King would be astonished at the optics of the United States, today. I think he would be astonished to see that a brown man, a "Negro", is referred to as, and in fact is, the President of the United States. In a more generic sense, he would clearly be astonished at the technology that exists today just as my grandparents were when television showed up; or my parents when Sputnik was launched or the first person landed on the moon. Even I am astonished at the technological marvels of my time: from rotary-dial telephones in the 70’s to tiny, wireless devices that people carry around in their pockets that they can watch television on, send messages and do all manner of fantastic things. However, when we speak on Dr. King and, by extension, “Civil Rights” the universe is narrowed considerably.
I think Dr. King would be astonished to see that there have been Black Senators, Governors, Mayors, and astronauts. Those things, politically speaking, I think he would find astonishing. He would, probably, find it astonishing that there was a national holiday in his honor (though still poorly observed). Though I do not agree with either the tactics or strategy of the so-called “Civil Rights Movement” (particularly Dr. King’s), I do have a deep and abiding admiration for his intellect.
So, let’s dispense with the optics and discuss the more substantive issues that I believe Dr. King would find astonishing.
I think Dr. King would be astonished at the fact that the United States is involved, and has been involved, in perpetual wars; one of which is a decade and a half old and soon to enter its third decade. You see, one of Dr. King’s last speeches was entitled “Beyond Vietnam”. In my mind, it was his most significant but white folks didn’t like that one. Dr. King would be astonished, given the aforementioned speech, that the United States has not only learned nothing from Vietnam but has, in fact, doubled-down on its global oppression and war mongering to the point that its entire economy is based on same. He would be astonished to see the hundreds of thousands of innocent people killed, many of them children, by the United States resultant of these wars.
I think he would find it astonishing, even considering his first astonishments (those which are political and social) of a Black President and the corresponding optics, that there was a Black President presiding over the very type of global racism and oppression that he spoke of in Beyond Vietnam.
Dr. King would be astonished at the number of Black people in America, including children, that continue to be lynched, and summarily executed by extra-judicial processes by State assassins (or quasi-State assassins). Even white American civilians are, by a social and political structure, given the subliminal cue (be it overtly or covertly) that there are no consequences to the oppression and murder of Black people in America.
Black lives do not matter; never have and never will. Not in the United States of Arrogance.
He would be astonished at how Black people in America have sold their proverbial souls to the devil. Astonished at the lack of pride and respect among those people towards each other. Astonished at how our collective intellect is in decline; and our children have been left to their own devices because we, as parents, as a community, are failing them.
He would be astonished that from the time he walked this earth until now, the social metrics that he was so concerned about (particularly regarding Black people in America): employment, poverty, education, incarceration, etc. have not changed; and, in fact, are worse. He would be astonished at the blatant Blackism that has white supremacy groups realizing record numbers of membership.
He would be mortified.
Dr. King once said: “Morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless”.
Dr. King would, were he alive today, find that America’s heart is still…black.