One of the reasons that I dislike the way that black people deify Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is that it makes a lot of us adopt a passive way of dealing with racism and racist white people that is really fucking unproductive.
MLK was a Christian minister. He advocated for nonviolent protest and civil disobedience because these principles aligned with Biblical doctrine. He strategically combined a political message and mission with ministry. But this isn’t a mandate. This is not the only or the “right” or at this point a proven way to effect change around issues of race in our society
As courageous, wise, and principled as MLK was, we can look at the racial climate in this country today and say–in all fairness–he might not have been as effective as we needed him to be.
Because he sought to change people’s minds. He sought to make the Masters of the Universe and their racist minion perceive black people as “good” and so deserving of equal rights and fair and decent treatment.
And I’m sorry, but his aim was off. There, I said it. Throw holy water at your screen if you feel impelled. Or smear it with anointed oil. It may sound like sacrilege, but appealing to white people’s spirits just wasn’t the way.
It makes sense that MLK would’ve opted for a nonviolent approach, though; he was a religious man; he was raised in the Jim Crow South where blacks were regularly terrorized; his protests were just one prong in the operation of the entire Civil Rights Movement; and King had no precedent to demonstrate to him that the changes he helped to make–without the threat of violent recourse for any reneging by the white establishment–wouldn’t last.
I am a 40-year-old black woman that has been educated academically and through experience in institutional and interactional racism. I’ve been treated like shit by the system and by individual bigoted people. America has given me a lot, but it’s taxed me a whole hell of a lot for that shit, and so I don’t feel like black people have overcome enough in the past 50 years to call the Civil Rights Movement anything more than an extremely valiant effort.
It achieved fractional victory, at best, and that is not a castigation of the men and women involved in it; it’s an indictment of America and whiteness and a recognition of just how entrenched bigotry–and particularly anti-blackness–is in both things.
I once sat in a class during my MA in which I was the only black person and the only student excluded from the class’s study group. Everyone included in the group was white, and that was everyone else in the class.
They never issued me an invitation, and they arranged meetings right in front of my face, across the discussion table where I was sitting, regularly. They wouldn’t even turn away or speak quietly or try to be discreet.
It wasn’t until I got an A+ on a paper, and the professor raved about me to them, that they finally even acknowledged my presence. Before that, whenever I would contribute to class discussions, they would fall silent and then pass right over what I said, onto another of their comments. Habitually, someone would repeat a point that I made earlier in class, and he or she would be praised for it as if he or she thought of it first.
After I got the A+, though, my classmates issued that invitation to the study group. They started listening when I spoke in class and asking me questions like I was a mini professor.
This led me to assume the only reason they hadn’t done these things before was they thought I was stupid, and I couldn’t think of any other reason for them to think that except that I am black.
I was enrolled in the same graduate program as them, which meant I had to have the same minimum GPA, same GRE score, and same number of bachelor level credits to gain admission. They’d heard me speak eloquent English in class and make really smart observations, so, in order to dismiss these things, they had to call on something other than logic. That would’ve been either belief or emotion.
I learned from this dumbass ordeal that bigotry is based in belief. It’s emotional, not factual or scientific. That is the reason that you can’t reason it out of people. But you can’t love it out of their asses, either. Sorry Van Jones.
And anyway black people shouldn’t be treated fairly by this society out of love or even respect. We should be treated fairly by this society because this society placed a mandate on itself to fucking treat us fairly.
How white people or anyone else feels about us is too capricious a determiner for whether we should, say, not get shot by police when we are unarmed and innocent of a capital crime, for which police can’t legally execute us anyway because that is not their fucking job.
White people don’t get the protections afforded them by the government or law enforcement because of how legislators or cops or judges feel about them. They get them because they are legally entitled to them, and it is easier for white legislators, cops, and judges to give them these protections because of cross-race effect.
But who cares? They can circumvent that shit if they need to, and they need to. They don’t need to be bribed; they need to be put on notice.
In the same way that so many millions of black people can harbor generational resentment of white people but still deal with them nonviolently, civilly, and productively, white people should be forced to deal with us the same way, even if they believe every single bullshit stereotype about us. It shouldn’t matter whether they “like” us or “love” us or not.
I can work with white people without exploding my antipathy for the worst among them all over the rest of them. I can teach white people without exploding my antipathy for the worst among them all over the rest of them. I can share public space, transact business, cooperate with, and socialize with white people without exploding my antipathy for the worse among them all over the rest of them.
And so can millions of other black people. So do we all. Because if we ever did explode–whenever we do explode–we get eviscerated or incarcerated or fucking eradicated.
And since we do it, and white people rank themselves as better than us–they make all these adamant claims to superior intellect, morality, discipline, and wisdom–they should be able to do it, too. They should be able to interact with us without exploding their supremacist bullshit all over any of us, even if they fantasize about doing it the entire time.
So fuck using love as a weapon for fighting racism. Unless you’re going to make love into an acronym. Unless you’re talking about
Leveling with people about their bigotry;
Opting into confrontational political action aimed at definitive positive change;
Voting in every election, not just the Presidential election, so the political process can benefit the oppressed inasmuch as it can in America; and
Educating yourself about what the-hell the government is doing by reading real news and doing independent, academic research if necessary–yes–you should–knowing the shit that’s happening is that important–look at what just happened back in November. It was only a minute ago.
If you ask me, this is the only type of L.O.V.E. that’s going to get us–black people, Latinx people, Muslim people, Arab people, indigenous people, LGBTQIA+ people, undocumented immigrants–everyone Trump and his pack of dogs will be systematically attacking over the next four years–anywhere or anything.
The ruling class in America only cares about two things: preservation of power and access to money. So anything that doesn’t threaten these two things isn’t going to compel or impel them to do a damn thing.
You can come together and support these racist-ass politicians or “love on” your garden variety moneyless Trump supporter all you want; if you don’t inconvenience or obstruct them, they’re not going to change anything about the way they deal with you.
This ain’t Disney. This is the dog-eat-dog world of American imperialism. This ain’t Obama’s America anymore. It’s Trump’s.
Getting back to MLK–I often think that so many of these black men that pop up in the political arena echoing and aping him are really just looking for fame or glory–they are looking to be valorized or canonized like he was–not continue his work–not lead black people to viable solutions to our problems or help us make progress toward a more equitable America.
I think that they lack integrity–because they know that “love” is not a political strategy–it’s the way to heal personal relationships–they know race politics aren’t personal–they’re subconsciously vying for the affection of white people and using the fight against racism as a vehicle to gain legitimacy from white culture–they’re too cowardly to do something drastic and die (even just from the public eye) like real soldiers but for a worthy cause–that’s why they preach nonviolence and tell us to fight an actual enemy with what amounts to submission–but they’re still vain enough to want to be heroes.
They’re playing the role of the magical negro when they know better and could do better, if they wanted to.
In other words, they exploit the fight for civil rights to become media and/or Internet famous the way Tomi Lahren exploits the fight against civil rights to be Internet famous.
They’re all sound bytes and catchphrases and hashtags. They love the spotlight and hoopla and maybe even the drama, they love their paychecks and high profiles, but they don’t really love us. They can’t.
Because if they did, they wouldn’t tell us to bend over in a queue and take the establishment’s unlubricated dick with smiles on our faces.
They wouldn’t encourage us to funnel our light into their seemingly bottomless pit of narcissism and nihilism like it’s nothing or like we have an inexhaustible surplus.
MLK was the product of a specific moment in history. He was right for his era, and he earned his venerated appearance in the American narrative. I do not argue with that.
I admire him, and I appreciate him. I even forgive him his indiscretions, if that’s even my place. I think he is a tremendous model of leadership, even if he wasn’t our political messiah.
I am not writing to bash MLK, or Van Jones, or other supposedly woke, professional Uncles (or cousins in the case of Trevor Noah) because I guess selling hope or false wisdom is better than selling cigarettes or alcohol or crack or lottery tickets to poor, struggling black people.
I’m just saying–black people are already a love army. The fact that we haven’t attempted, at any time, on a wide scale, to burn this country to the ground for what it did and continues to do to us, despite how we have fought, labored, and died for it–and in it–and because of it–shows that we are filled with love for our fellow Americans.
Racist people’s selective blindness to that is an indication that they will only ever see what they want to see when they look at us, no matter what we do.
So we should stop putting on all these performances of “respectability” and “morality” for them and do something that will actually improve our condition.
We should love ourselves enough to fight for what we want, not roll over and beg like good little pets.