This is not the time for me to make white comfort a priority as per societal norms of old, so I’ll be direct: like many African-Americans whose ancestors were stolen and dragged to this nation that they built, I tire of the annual white-washed MLK narratives many Americans pacify themselves with: cherry-picked lines from one speech to paint Martin Luther King, Jr. as a pacifist who dreamt.
Nah. Martin was MUCH more than that, and if black history (and black people, for that matter) actually were a priority to this nation, most Americans would already know that. But we live in a time where the truth is not only ignored, it is twisted into what others allow themselves to be comfortable with.
That comfort is what allows racism to exist and thrive and it is the exact reason why 2020 isn’t much different than 1963. It is why over 90% of African-Americans in this nation can plainly see in Donald Trump what many whites don’t. It’s the reason why white people believe having a black President elected twice is a sign of progress, ignoring the fact that OBAMA DID NOT ONCE receive the majority white vote (translation: Obama was elected in spite of white folks, not BECAUSE of them.) It is also the reason why, if you’re reading this, there are four things you need to start doing today if you REALLY want to see Dr. King’s full dream come to fruition. To paraphrase Chris Rock, fixing racism isn’t a black people issue, it’s on white folks.
1. Read the March on Washington speech aloud and STOP when you reach the words “I have a dream.” As a person who had to deliver this 17-minute speech from memory, it offends King’s legacy every year that his scathing, stinging critique of America delivered 57 years ago has been whitewashed into a five-minute “Kumbaya” moment.
Maybe that’s why much hasn’t changed since my parents were in grade school.
2. STOP ASKING BLACK PEOPLE TO EXPLAIN RACISM TO YOU when there are literally thousands of books on the subject. Whether they say it or not, your black friend you feel comfortable asking questions to is REALLY FUCKING TIRED of explaining everything regarding black life to you. Again, if our lives were a priority, you would take the initiative beyond lazily asking questions about things you can go to Barnes & Noble or Google to find out. Hell, click here for a list of books to get you started. (And WE get called lazy, sheesh!)
3. Find a place to volunteer, and do so without taking selfies for clout. King not only stood up for equality, he was a servant to all people. One of King’s most memorable quotes comes from a speech entitled Conquering Self-Centeredness: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: what are you doing for others?” We don’t need to see your goofy ass smile with the miserable-looking homeless guy. Do what’s right because it’s right, not for likes.
4. Find and support a black business regularly. When Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke about equality and equal rights, he was also talking about economic equality…and that’s what got him killed. The average white family makes nearly SEVEN TIMES more money than the average black family, and if you truly believe that this disparity is a result of one race being financially or intellectually superior to another then you might need more help than this blog can provide. If you really want to be an advocate for change, put your money where your tweets and posts are and invest in diversity. Already doing this? Great! Now add another one.
Dr. King died being disapproved by an overwhelming majority of 75% of Americans when he was assassinated. Three in four white people hated what he stood for and the truth that he spoke. If he had the courage to speak his truth nearly sixty years ago, the only way for me to honor Dr. King’s legacy is to continue to speak truth to power and an agitator to the injustices our society has. If you truly want to honor King’s legacy, you should do the same.
Happy MLK Day.