Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Day After

I wasn't going to touch the story about Martin Luther King III meeting with Donald Trump, but changed my mind after reading what Charles Pierce said about it.

I am not a fan of the surviving children of Martin Luther King jr.   I did have genuine admiration for the late Yolanda King in many ways but I think the present generation of the family seems to have done its best to tarnish and diminish the legacy of their father.  The numerous legal actions and lawsuits among them and other King family members,friends and colleagues to try to get hold of property to turn it into cash is sad and at times pretty trashy but, far worse, is their holding his words for ransom, going after anyone who publishes them without pay and their permission first.  His family has managed to do what racists during his lifetime couldn't do, silence him, diminish his influence to make change.

MLK III meeting with Donald Trump to get his support for a pretty far-fetched idea of a national ID, supposedly to prevent voting fraud that doesn't exist OR to prevent an accusation of voting fraud that doesn't exist was regrettable.   It lends Trump a credibility he doesn't deserve and which he won't earn by pushing Republicans to do such a thing.  It was a free photo-op for the most overtly racist candidate to have won the presidency in more than a hundred years.  John Lewis got it right, no one should lend Trump the credibility that he doesn't rightly possess and never will have.

Yolanda King made a speech twenty years ago in which she expressed disapproval of what MLK Day has turned into

King, 42, lamented what she called complacency and apathy among many Americans with regard to social issues. She exhorted the audience to service.

"My father would be disturbed if he knew that people were taking the day off in his memory to do nothing," she said. "Get involved. It's about service, not shopping."

When someone like Donald Trump can co-opt The Reverend Martin Luther King jr. and there aren't any safely used words to counter him with from the man himself, it's clear his legacy has been jeopardized and eclipsed by the very people who should have most valued what he lived for.  Way too many people who have worked to destroy the progress he fought and died for have used him and turned him into a tool of their racism and bigotry.  I don't think it would be as easy for them to do it if his words had been freely available to represent the man.

If we're going to restore the legacy of the Civil Rights struggles of the 1950s-60s, we're going to have to do it without those words because we won't be able to afford to use them.

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