[News] America's Martin & Martin's America by Mumia Abu-Jamal

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jan 18 16:27:38 EST 2008



America's Martin & Martin's America
[col. writ. 1/11/08]  (c) '08 Mumia Abu-Jamal


     As millions of people ready themselves for a (hopefully) paid 
holiday in remembrance of assassinated civil rights leader, Rev. Dr. 
Martin Luther King, Jr., we are forced to come to grips with who the 
man was, rather than who he has been projected to be.

     In the words of noted historian (and once King's close 
confidant) Vincent Harding, America has largely chosen the path of 
amnesia rather than true remembrance of the man. Prof. Harding wrote, 
in his 1998 book, Martin Luther King: The Inconvenient Hero (Orbis Books):

                      It appears as if the price for the first 
nationalist holiday honoring a black man is
                      the development of a massive case of national 
amnesia concerning who that
                      black man really was.  At both personal and 
collective levels, of course, it is often
                      the case that amnesia is not ultimately harmful 
to the patient. However, in this case
                      it is very dangerous, for the things we have 
chosen to forget about King (and about
                      ourselves) constitute some of the most hopeful 
possibilities and resources for our
                      magnificent and  very needy nation.  Indeed, I 
would suggest that we Americans have
                      chosen amnesia rather than continue King's 
painful, uncharted, and often
                      disruptive struggle toward a more perfect 
union.  I would also suggest that those
                      of us who are historians and citizens have a 
special responsibility to challenge the
                      loss of memory, in ourselves and others, to 
allow our skills in probing the past to
                      become resources for healing and for hope.  In 
other words, [if] Martin King cannot
                      challenge those who make him a harmless black 
icon, then we surely can raise
                      such a challenge -- assuming that we are still 
alive. {p.60}

     What distinguishes the life and work of King towards his latter 
days, was his dedication to Black poor folks, a group that seems to 
be all but forgotten in the years since his passing.

         While today's America seems to be on the brink of electing a 
Black person (or at least possibly nominating one), the plight of the 
Black poor could hardly be more perilous.

     For it is on them that the twin weights of poverty and state 
repression are dropped, with little relief from a civil rights 
leadership which occasionally seems overwhelmed with the threats and 
conflicts facing those of better means and resources.

     Indeed, much of that leadership is, as was Dr. King himself, 
quite highly educated, and seeking entree into the highest levels of 
state and corporate power; levels virtually impenetrable to millions 
of Black poor folks.

     For them is reserved: the worst of public education the worst 
housing; brutal treatment by cops; ignored by political leaders (at 
least until election time rolls around), highest rates of 
joblessness; the highest incarceration rates -- we know this list can 
go on and on.

     King Day may be remembered, but the man behind the name is fast 
disappearing.

     It is virtually forgotten that he sacrificed his life on behalf 
of striking garbage men, Black workers who wanted a decent wage to be 
sure, but also wanted simple, human dignity.

     In 1967, one year before his assassination, a perceptive 
journalist, the late David Halberstam wrote, in Harper's magazine his 
impressions:

                      King has decided to represent the ghettos, he 
will work in them and speak for them.
                           But their voice is harsh and alienated. If 
King is to speak for them truly, then his voice must
                           reflect theirs; it, too, must be 
alienated, and it is likely to be increasingly at odds with
                          American society. [Harding, 62]

     America establishes a holiday, and promptly forgets what he lived for.

--(c) '08 maj



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