A Proper Diagnosis: Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. & The Lost Blueprints
It’s really hard to write. This blog was and still is often a sanctuary for my thoughts, and for the long-form conversations, I want to share. But it’s not an easy task to write what’s on your mind, especially when your mind can be a stressful, overwhelming, and unorganized place. There is also a level of vulnerability that comes with sharing what’s on your mind. My thoughts, although tethered to my mind, are also an extension of my heart and soul and therefore it’s really hard to write right now.
This past weekend I’ve been wanting to write, and share, but a part of me is in mourning, and angry and wants to scream. Martin Luther King Jr. was a visionary whose vision never came to fruition. And then to see the digested simplification of a very complex individual is infuriating. His message is too often used to mask the white supremacy that still permeates every level of American society and therefore, on this day of memorial, I truly feel like screaming.
What we saw on Wednesday, January 6th, 2021, was the result of white supremacy. It was white supremacy, in its most violent, rawest form. It was a moment of truth coming to the light and yet still a moment of mourning. What resides in the dark, always comes to the light, and this was the case. The darkened and hidden truths of white supremacy shined bright that day, and sadly, African Americans across the country were screaming, “Look, you see this shit. We told y’all.” It’s sad that we’ve lived with it, seen it, experienced it, and yet still weren’t believed.
It’s sad that it took a day of members of congress, and all staff being traumatized to have a moment in this country where black people could finally feel seen and believed from their personnel experiences with white supremacy and racism. And now, I sit here, in mourning, because Martin Luther King Jr. left us the blueprints for conquering white supremacy, and we never did anything with them. We as a collective whole, but especially white communities left and shoved much of his message into a dusty corner of a public library, and instead only digested what could fit the narrative of whiteness and hide white supremacy.
My favorite book written by Martin Luther King Jr. is the book that was published right before his death. Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? was published less than a year before his assassination. This book is his most raw book in my opinion purely because of the underlining anger you can feel between the lines. He discusses what must be done by whites and specifically the “white liberal” in order to end racism. He discusses how little progress we had made, despite the passing of the voting rights act. He discusses his own frustrations with white complacency in homes across the nation. The desperation and cries to white communities to stop being complacent can be felt in the binding. And at the end of everything, in April of 1968, King knew he was going to die. And in his last book, you can feel the burden that died with him. The sadness can still be felt in black and indigenous communities today. The sadness that is carried when all the work you’ve done will never be enough to conquer the oppression that remains in everything.
The oppression flows in the water of Flint Michigan, and it sounds in the sirens of the police in Minneapolis. The oppression resides in the waste dumped on native American lands, and it's cooked in the food deserts of the south. It is still present and yet covered. It's hidden in the forgotten black entrance door that still resides in movie theatres, and it’s in the public school that has painted over the white washroom markers. And it’s still present today as many companies, and woke white people post a quote, and yet have not made measurable actions towards unlearning racism and dismantling white supremacy.
Why do I discuss oppression? Why do I discuss the uncomfortable truth of white supremacy? Why talk about whitewashing and racism?
Its because King stated,
“To describe much of white America as self-deluded on the commitment to equality and to apprehend the broad base which it rests are not to enthrone pessimism. The racism of today is real…The value in pulling racism out of its obscurity and stripping it of its rationalizations lies in the confidence that it can be changed. To live with the pretense that racism is a doctrine of a very few is to disarm us in fighting it frontally as scientifically unsound, morally repugnant and socially destructive. The prescription for the cure rests with the accurate diagnosis of the disease.”
He further goes on to say,
“The white liberal must see that the negro needs not only love but also justice. It’s not enough to say, “we love negros, we have many negro friends.” They must demand justice for the negro. The white liberal must affirm that absolute justice for the negro simply means that the negro must have “his due”. The white liberal must rid himself of the notion that there can be a tensionless transition from the older order of injustice to the new order of justice. The negro can not achieve emancipation by passively waiting for the white race to voluntarily grant it to him. The white liberal must escalate his support for the struggle for racial justice rather than de-escalate.”
The end message is:
“The white liberal must combat the disease of racism.”
We all must do the work of unlearning. We have to unlearn racism, sexism, and prejudices. We must properly diagnose our bias. And we must all do this work, but especially white Americans because like a disease that goes undiagnosed, it often can reside for years, and result in death. We are seeing the result of undiagnosed racism and white supremacy every day. We saw that on January 6th.
So today, I will scream and take a deep breath. I will cry and then appreciate the fact that I’m alive. I will watch the hypocrisy and remain angry. And I will rest in the knowledge that I have continued to diagnosis the disease and remind whites across the nation and in my life that people of color are dying due to their white complacency, and negligence to take concrete actions to ensure justice. We are dying due to the whitewashing of a man whose message was far more than, “I have a dream”.
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* TAKE ACTION:
Diagnose personal prejudices and biases by doing guided reflective activities: visit here
Read and relearn. Here's a list of books
Donate and get involved with organizations doing racial and social justice work such as these.
SPEAK UP. ALWAYS. Have difficult conversations and learn how to utilize the privilege you have to contribute to changing the narrative of white supremacy. Be a leader in your place of work, and in your social circle. Do the necessary work to hold others accountable for their actions that remain harmful to black lives.