Analysis: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday and January 6th Offering

It’s an annual observance on the birthday of the iconic civil rights leader: pundits provide provocative interpretations to make the king relevant to contemporary audiences.

But these commentators won’t have to work as hard this year to explain why King matters. Anyone who wants to remind Americans of the urgency of King’s message can now cite January 6, 2021.

January 6 and January 15: These duel dates are just nine days apart, yet they present two different perspectives for America.

For the part of America, January 6 is a “moment of 1776”, a great patriotic uprising. Another part of the country celebrates the king’s January 15 birthday and his dream of a loving community – a “world in which people of all identities are equal and inclusive.”

Two dates present the country with a choice:

Are we going to be us, the people, or are we, a nation of white people?

The question may sound abstract, but if you look at what the two men did with their defining moments in Washington, the difference is clear.

Consider the contrasts between King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, and Trump’s January 6 “Stop the Steel” rally in the Ellipse.

King attracted a peaceful, interracial crowd in Washington and spoke of a dream that unites “all children of God – black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Catholics and Protestants…”.

President Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Washington on January 6, 2021 to protest the certification of the electorate of Joe Biden as president.

Trump attracted a massive white crowd that included members of white supremacist groups, a man wearing a “Camp Auschwitz” T-shirt and a lynching noose on Capitol grounds.

King’s “I Have a Dream” speech helped pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which helped make America a true democracy for the first time.

Trump’s speech killed five people and injured several others before directly attacking Congress and prompting a wave of voter suppression laws that undermined American democracy.

King attracted a cross-section of religious leaders, activists and celebrities such as singer Joan Baez, future Congressman John Lewis, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier and Charlton Heston.
Trump attracted “Qian Shaman” Jacob Chansley, a man who paraded a Confederate flag through the Capitol and others who defecated in the hallways of the building.

A mob inspired the nation. Another debated the US Capitol.

The king had a dream. Trump was crowded.

Supporters of US President Donald Trump protest at the US Capitol Rotunda on January 6, 2021.

King’s Radical Belief in Democracy

January 6th can help revive interest in the King’s holiday in another way. More people can pay attention to an underappreciated aspect of King’s legacy: his passionate defense of democracy.

Our system of government could use some inspired defenders right now. President Biden this month called for the passage of new voting rights legislation that would make it harder to evade elections. But a wall of Republican opposition and at least two Democratic senators who reject any reform have now doomed that bill.
King lived in an era where filibuster was regularly used to negate the black analogy. NAACP leaders once resented that filibuster was the legislative equivalent of a lynching.
Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as they try to storm the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

King provides a model for voting rights advocates today to explain why voter suppression laws betray democracy.

“Unless I have the right to vote firmly and irrevocably, I do not have my own right. I cannot make up my mind—it is made up for me. I do not live as a democratic citizen.” May, following the laws I have helped. Enact – I can only submit to the orders of others,” he said in a 1957 speech, “Give us the ballot and we will turn the South.”

King’s speech was not considered revolutionary at that time. But January 6 now seems to be, well, fundamentalist to King’s belief in democracy.

Most Americans no longer consider their country to be a beacon of democracy for the world. A recent Pew Research Center survey revealed this statistic: 72% of Americans say the US used to be a good model of democracy for other countries, but that hasn’t been the case in recent years.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., center with arms, marches along Constitution Avenue to the Lincoln Memorial with other civil rights demonstrators during a march in Washington on August 28, 1963.
Many Americans believe the big lie that the 2020 presidential election, which saw record turnout, was stolen. Nearly half of Republicans describe the actions of the Capitol crowd as “patriotic” or “defending freedom.” Authoritarian governments are on the rise in China, Russia and Brazil, and democracy is taking a back seat around the world.

How can Americans lecture other countries about democracy when so many citizens no longer believe in it?

That’s why King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is more important than ever. Nowhere will you find a more eloquent defense of multiracial democracy. It is widely regarded as the greatest political speech of the 20th century, in part because, it is completely nonverbal. King was like a master DJ – mixing and sampling all of the country’s founding documents to create something new.

He quotes or alludes to the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address. He ended the speech by invoking an African-American spiritual figure. He turned a political rally into a revival of the Church for Democracy.

Crowds gather at the Lincoln Memorial to hear King and other march on Washington speakers in 1963.
“We continue to marginalize or ignore Dr. King’s commitment to the core values ​​of democracy,” said Taylor Branch, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Parting the Waters.” “He planted one foot in American heritage, the other in scripture, and both in nonviolence.”

The king’s ‘brotherhood table’ still unfinished

Here’s another part of King’s vision that now seems radical after January 6: his belief in racial integration.

His “I Have a Dream” speech reflected his belief that continuing racial conflict is not the destiny of his country. His hope is reflected in one of the most famous lines of the speech:

“I have a dream that one day on the Red Hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood.”

Voting rights activists prepare to be arrested on October 28, 2021 in Capitol Hill, Washington.
Nearly 60 years later, that table of fraternities is still waiting for more diners to grab a seat. The nation’s public schools, neighborhoods, and communities of worship are largely racially segregated.

When was the last time you heard a political or civil rights leader talk passionately about racial integration?

The reasons for this are complex, but it boils down to this: There are never enough white Americans—including progressive white people—who are willing to embrace integration to accept non-white people in their backyards.

King’s contemporary President Lyndon Johnson had a word for what many Americans would experience if they remained isolated. He said the country will have to suffer a “disclosure”.

The violence of January 6 seemed like that resolved snapshot. Has news ever felt so serious before? America has more guns than ever before, pundits warn of impending civil war and polls show a growing number of Americans say “political violence” is justified.

King knew what it was like to live in a country where violence and racial protest seemed unforgivable.

Nevertheless, he still declared that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it tends toward justice.”

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gives his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech on December 10, 1964 in Oslo, Norway.
“I refuse to accept despair as the ultimate response to the ambiguities of history,” he said in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech a year after the March on Washington.

“I believe that unconditional truth and unconditional love will have the last word in reality. This is why perfect, temporarily defeated, evil is stronger than victorious.”

Those are the words that lift the soul. How much will they mean, however, if America becomes a demonstrative democracy – a country that has fair elections but is run by a white minority rule.

If it does, January 6 – not January 15 – will be a true reflection of what America stands for.

And what King said in 1963 would no longer be a dream. It would be a mirage.


Source link

What Do You Think About this News