Rebranding MLK: How the Establishment Blackened His Dream and Whitewashed His Legacy
BY TEODROSE FIKRE ON JANUARY 19, 2019
First, the ruling class kill messengers and then co-opt their messages. It’s a ploy that dates back to biblical times; Pharisees dispatch prophets and then white wash their legacies in a concerted campaign to appropriate their movements. Truth tellers are twice victimized, once by assassins and the second time around by propaganda. Their likeness and their teachings are then cunningly marketed by the same powers they spoke against to reinforce the status quo.
This same playbook—which has been used to silence dissenters throughout the ages—was unleashed with ruthless efficiency against Martin Luther King Jr. Lost in the midst of politicians, pundits and media personalities praising MLK is the core message that he was pushing before he was felled on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. King evolved in his thinking; instead of seeking Civil Rights for “African-Americans”, he made the fatal decision to fight for economic justice for all.
King realized that the infringements against “black” folks in America were interconnected to the injustices felt by marginalized people throughout the world. That awakening is the reason he traveled to Memphis, by standing up for striking sanitation workers, he was hoping to form a bridge between poor folks irrespective of their skin color. The establishment love people who lead sectional movements—those who seek exclusive justice are doing the work of the status quo—what they will not abide are those who try to unify the oppressed and inspire collective actions.
King paid with his life for having the courage to pursue inclusive justice. After he was murdered, institutions of power—from government, academia to mainstream media and beyond—kicked in, stealthy erased King’s legacy and replaced it with disinformation. What has taken place over the past fifty years is a systematic and coordinated effort to blacken his narrative and dilute the power of his message.
I must pause here and explain what I mean by blackening Martin Luther King. What MLK fought for, and ultimately died on behalf of, was for equality and fairness for all. By narrowing the scope of his cause and containing his sacrifice to only as a struggle for “black” people, opinion leaders successfully ghettoized him in an effort to lessen his appeal to a broader constituency.
This is one of the main reasons why I reject racial labels and disavow constructs that were imposed by the very racists who shattered humanity. When you see me using quote marks around “black” and “white” when describing people, it’s because I know the true intentions behind these designations. Terms that we have come to embrace are actually insidious conventions used to dehumanize people, reduce us into abstractions and induce tribalism. As I make clear in this video below, it is vital for us to understand where these epithets come from and why bigots imposed these insidious labels on us to begin with.
Far from leading us to redemption, leaders are being propagated by the establishment in order to keep us perpetually buried in the role of victims. The profound message behind Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech is continually transmuted by opportunists who use identity politics to advance their own agendas. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” These words were eloquently spoken by King in order to free us from the shackles of imposed identities. We are creeping further and further away from MLK’s dream as we let demagogues lead us into the wasteland of sectarianism.
“One unfortunate thing about [the slogan] Black Power is that it gives priority to race precisely at a time when the impact of automation and other forces have made the economic question fundamental for blacks and whites alike. In this context a slogan ‘Power for Poor People’ would be much more appropriate than the slogan ‘Black Power.’”
This was a quote from King in August of 1967, eight months before he was executed. After spearheading the Civil Rights movement from the 50’s throughout the early 60’s, it dawned upon King that the struggle for equality was greater than being able to sit at lunch counters and ridding at the front of buses. He realized that the only way to overcome oppression was to stitch together the suffering felt by the proletariat in ways that would attract anyone who felt disenfranchised.
King articulated his apprehension about the movement he organized and expressed how he might have directed his people into a quagmire. During a conversation he shared with Harry Belafonte and his inner-circle, King detailed the flaws of fighting racism’s symptoms without addressing the system that gives rise to inequalities.
“I’ve come upon something that disturbs me deeply. We have fought hard and long for integration, as I believe we should have, and I know we will win, but I have come to believe that we are integrating into a burning house. I’m afraid that America has lost the moral vision she may have had, and I’m afraid that even as we integrate, we are walking into a place that does not understand that this nation needs to be deeply concerned with the plight of the poor and disenfranchised. Until we commit ourselves to ensuring that the underclass is given justice and opportunity, we will continue to perpetuate the anger and violence that tears the soul of this nation. I fear I am integrating my people into a burning house.”
Martin Luther King was not disregarding the plight of “black” folks nor was he giving short shrift to the struggles faced by African-Americans. What he recognized is that the struggles being borne by “minorities” would never be alleviated unless a majority of humanity formed a broad coalition to defend their common interests. Martin Luther King was not alone in this realization, Malcolm X came around to this same viewpoint once he visited Mecca and saw that the only way to seek justice was through mass-movements. Do you think it was an accident that both met the same gruesome fate?
Gone are the days of moral giants like Malcolm and Martin, we are firmly entrenched in the era of charlatans who profit from our disunion. What is truly sad is that so many hypocrites readily praise Martin Luther King while they partake in the very institutions that he was speaking against. Proving that treachery is truly bipartisan, on the day Martin Luther King is being celebrated, the King Center is commemorating warmonger emeritus John McCain. What better way to remember Dr. Martin Luther King than by praising the man who vehemently fought against honoring King and dismantling his memory.
Meanwhile, Kamala Harris, California’s former Attorney General—who was one of the biggest proponents of the prison-industrial complex—is expected to announce her presidential campaign on Martin Luther King Day. This is the same Kamala Harris whose office argued against early release of inmates on the grounds that it would hurt the labor supply [slave workers] of for-profit prisons. It is truly an affront that this same politician who reserved draconian measures for poor and working Californians while giving a pass to banking executives like Steven Mnuchin is going to use Martin Luther King day to hide the fact that she made a name for herself by being a staunch advocate of penal plantations.
The ruling class kill messengers then co-opt their message; the same people who are clapping for Martin Luther King are the ones who erase his legacy on a daily basis. #RebrandingMLK CLICK TO TWEET
There is a biblical poetry to it all, the same way Jesus was sold out by his own people, crucified by imperial enforcers and had his teachings inverted to advance the evils he died fighting against, these modern day Judases are embracing King while working for the very institutions he defiantly took on. Goes to show, change agents will never be found amidst supposed activists who cast their lot with the same powers they pretend to speak against. True revolutionaries are either ignored by the establishment or silenced by bullets.
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.