So anyway, I was having this argument with my father about Martin Luther King and how his message was too conservative compared to Malcolm X’s message. My father got really angry at me. It wasn’t that he disliked Malcolm X, but his point was that Malcolm X hadn’t accomplished anything as Dr. King had.
I was kind of sarcastic and asked something like, so what did Martin Luther King accomplish other than giving his “I have a dream speech.”
Before I tell you what my father told me, I want to digress. Because at this point in our amnesiac national existence, my question pretty much reflects the national civic religion view of what Dr. King accomplished. He gave this great speech. Or some people say, “he marched.” I was so angry at Mrs. Clinton during the primaries when she said that Dr. King marched, but it was LBJ who delivered the Civil Rights Act.
At this point, I would like to remind everyone exactly what Martin Luther King did, and it wasn’t that he “marched” or gave a great speech.
My father told me with a sort of cold fury, “Dr. King ended the terror of living in the south.”
Please let this sink in and and take my word and the word of my late father on this. If you are a white person who has always lived in the U.S. and never under a brutal dictatorship, you probably don’t know what my father was talking about.
But this is what the great Dr. Martin Luther King accomplished. Not that he marched, nor that he gave speeches.
He ended the terror of living as a black person, especially in the south.
I’m guessing that most of you, especially those having come fresh from seeing The Help, may not understand what this was all about. But living in the south (and in parts of the midwest and in many ghettos of the north) was living under terrorism.
It wasn’t that black people had to use a separate drinking fountain or couldn’t sit at lunch counters, or had to sit in the back of the bus.
You really must disabuse yourself of this idea. Lunch counters and buses were crucial symbolic planes of struggle that the civil rights movement used to dramatize the issue, but the main suffering in the south did not come from our inability to drink from the same fountain, ride in the front of the bus or eat lunch at Woolworth’s.
It was that white people, mostly white men, occasionally went berserk, and grabbed random black people, usually men, and lynched them. You all know about lynching. But you may forget or not know that white people also randomly beat black people, and the black people could not fight back, for fear of even worse punishment.
This constant low level dread of atavistic violence is what kept the system running. It made life miserable, stressful and terrifying for black people.
White people also occasionally tried black people, especially black men, for crimes for which they could not conceivably be guilty. With the willing participation of white women, they often accused black men of “assault,” which could be anything from rape to not taking off one’s hat, to “reckless eyeballing.”
This is going to sound awful and perhaps a stain on my late father’s memory, but when I was little, before the civil rights movement, my father taught me many, many humiliating practices in order to prevent the random, terroristic, berserk behavior of white people. The one I remember most is that when walking down the street in New York City side by side, hand in hand with my hero-father, if a white woman approached on the same sidewalk, I was to take off my hat and walk behind my father, because he had been taught in the south that black males for some reason were supposed to walk single file in the presence of any white lady.
This was just one of many humiliating practices we were taught to prevent white people from going berserk.
I remember a huge family reunion one August with my aunts and uncles and cousins gathered around my grandparents’ vast breakfast table laden with food from the farm, and the state troopers drove up to the house with a car full of rifles and shotguns, and everyone went kind of weirdly blank. They put on the masks that black people used back then to not provoke white berserkness. My strong, valiant, self-educated, articulate uncles, whom I adored, became shuffling, Step-N-Fetchits to avoid provoking the white men. Fortunately the troopers were only looking for an escaped convict. Afterward, the women, my aunts, were furious at the humiliating performance of the men, and said so, something that even a child could understand.
This is the climate of fear that Dr. King ended.
If you didn’t get taught such things, let alone experience them, I caution you against invoking the memory of Dr. King as though he belongs exclusively to you and not primarily to African Americans.
The question is, how did Dr. King do this—and of course, he didn’t do it alone.
(Of all the other civil rights leaders who helped Dr. King end this reign of terror, I think the most under appreciated is James Farmer, who founded the Congress of Racial Equality and was a leader of nonviolent resistance, and taught the practices of nonviolent resistance.)
So what did they do?
They told us: Whatever you are most afraid of doing vis-a-vis white people, go do it. Go ahead down to city hall and try to register to vote, even if they say no, even if they take your name down.
Go ahead sit at that lunch counter. Sue the local school board. All things that most black people would have said back then, without exaggeration, were stark raving insane and would get you killed.
If we do it all together, we’ll be okay.
They made black people experience the worst of the worst, collectively, that white people could dish out, and discover that it wasn’t that bad. They taught black people how to take a beating—from the southern cops, from police dogs, from fire department hoses. They actually coached young people how to crouch, cover their heads with their arms and take the beating. They taught people how to go to jail, which terrified most decent people.
And you know what? The worst of the worst, wasn’t that bad.
Once people had been beaten, had dogs sicced on them, had fire hoses sprayed on them, and been thrown in jail, you know what happened?
These magnificent young black people began singing freedom songs in jail.
That, my friends, is what ended the terrorism of the south. Confronting your worst fears, living through it, and breaking out in a deep throated freedom song. The jailers knew they had lost when they beat the crap out of these young Negroes and the jailed, beaten young people began to sing joyously, first in one town then in another. This is what the writer, James Baldwin, captured like no other writer of the era.
Please let this sink in. It wasn’t marches or speeches. It was taking a severe beating, surviving and realizing that our fears were mostly illusory and that we were free.
Why doesn’t this have a million notes?!
i love how the “did you drug them” has a little pit stop at “you’re evil”
As well it should.
I’ve reblogged this before but Imma do it again because a)it’s awesome and b) I have a specific voice when I say “Do not do the sex”.
This needs to be on a billboard and posters all around the world. Maybe even on menus are restaurants
Needs to be in bars
everyone is a nerd there’s no nerd cliques there’s no such thing as someone being a better nerd than someone else why does nerd elitism exist are you aware that you’re all nerds
Remembering Injured/Killed African-American Victims of Police Brutality
Dymond Milburn, 20-Year-Old African-American Teenager Assaulted By Police Officers When She Was 12, Then Charged With Assault By The Cops That Assaulted Her, & Police Alleged She Was A Prostitute
Three police officers in Texas accused a 12-year-old black girl of being a prostitute, beat and kidnapped her, and none of them ever faced any consequences for their actions.
On August 22, 2006, 12-year-old Dymond Milburn was outside her home flipping a breaker switch to help her family after the electricity went out, when a blue van pulled up and three men exited the vehicle without identifying themselves. The men were cops in plain clothes with the Galveston police and they accused Dymond, who is black, of being a prostitute.
“You’re a prostitute,” an officer declared. “You’re coming with me.”
They then tried to drag Milburn into their van while she scratched and clawed in her struggle to stop them from taking her. She screamed for her father to come to her rescue while the angry officers began beating her in an effort to force her into the van. One of the officers, David Roark, muzzled the girl’s mouth with his hand to silence her.
Hearing her screams, Dymond’s parents arrived on the scene and told officers, “That’s our daughter. She’s twelve.” But Roark didn’t give a damn. “I don’t care if she’s twenty-two, thirty-two, or forty-six,” Roark responded.
Along with Roark, the other officers included Sean Stewart and their Sergeant, Gilbert Gomez. They believed they had the right to take Dymond Milburn away without consulting her parents. Horrified, Dymond’s parents were devastated and powerless as the officers literally kidnapped their daughter before their eyes.
The officers decided to bring Dymond to the hospital for medical attention, and the level of her injuries was devastating. As a result of the brutal beating by police, the little girl suffered a head injury, a throat injury, abrasions on her arms, a sprained wrist, two black eyes, and lacerations as well as spinal injuries. On top of all these physical wounds, Dymond also suffered nightmares and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In all, her injuries resulted in a hospital bill totaling $8,000.
But police still weren’t done putting Dymond through hell. When she finally returned to school following her release from the hospital, police embarrassed her further by showing up at her school. They arrested her in front of her classmates at Austin Middle School in revenge for putting up a fight. The charges? Assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest.
You read that right. Cops beat the hell out of this girl and they charge HER with assault. Plus she resisted the officers because that’s what we tell our children to do when strangers try to force them into a vehicle against their will.
Milburn and her family had to deal with two mistrials over a period of three years before the District Attorney agreed to stop pursuing the charges. By then, Dymond was 15-years-old and a huge chunk of her childhood was stolen from her. In retaliation, the Milburns filed a civil lawsuit against the officers who changed her life three year earlier. But none of them have been punished and a settlement hasn’t occurred. Basically, all three officers complicit in the kidnapping and beating of the then-12-year-old girl got away with it. Sean Stewart was actually named “Officer of the Year” sometime later and Gomez went on to be promoted prior to becoming a private detective.
Dymond Milburn is 20-years-old now and still hasn’t received justice for what these police officers did to her. She was just a black 12-year-old girl in front of her own home at night, and yet, police accused her of being a prostitute even though she didn’t do anything wrong and officers had no cause to accuse her of anything. In fact, the only reason the officers were around is because they were responding to a call about three white prostitutes allegedly soliciting in the area. However, they attacked a black child who obviously didn’t fit the description instead and accused her of being the prostitute. Remember, we’re talking about a 12-year-old girl who was at her house with her parents. She was an honors student helping around the house. She wasn’t out on the street hooking.
Police brutality against people of color is not just an epidemic today. It’s been around for a long time. And even children aren’t immune from illegal police behavior. If this can happen to one child, it can happen to any child in America. For too long, police have been able to do what they want to the citizens they are supposed to serve and protect with little or no consequences. That needs to change or police behavior never will. [PoliticusUSA]
I think one of the reasons the Harry Potter Epilogue was so poorly received was because the audience was primarily made up of the Millennial generation.
We’ve walked with Harry, Ron and Hermione, through a world that we thought was great but slowly revealed itself…