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Martin Luther King Jr Was a Radical. We Must Not Sterilize His Legacy


Martin Luther King Jr Was a Radical. We Must Not Sterilize His Legacy

Cornel West

The major threat of Martin Luther King Jr to us is a spiritual and moral one. King’s courageous and compassionate example shatters the dominant neoliberal soul-craft of smartness, money and bombs. His grand fight against poverty, militarism, materialism and racism undercuts the superficial lip service and pretentious posturing of so-called progressives as well as the candid contempt and proud prejudices of genuine reactionaries.


Cornell West as ever, speaks the truth. Today the struggle continues with Black Lives Matters and with the efforts of Rev. William Barber via the New Poor People’s Campaign – https://poorpeoplescampaign.org/
These efforts can and must be a rallying for people of consciousness – for revolutionaries. On that note, we must remember and honor Winnie Madikizela-Mandela who, like Dr, King is whitewashed and criticized by the ruling class. We must carry forward the principles, the militancy and the struggle. Reforms are only small steps, Revolution must be our necessary goal, overturning the rule of money and replacing it with collective participatory democracy.


The one percent tremble at the thought of being judged by the content of their character.


" King’s last sermon was entitled Why America May Go to Hell. His personal loneliness and political isolation loomed large. J Edgar Hoover said he was “the most dangerous man in America”. President Johnson called him “a nigger preacher”. Fellow Christian ministers, white and black, closed their pulpits to him. Young revolutionaries dismissed and tried to humiliate him with walkouts, booing and heckling. Life magazine – echoing Time magazine, the New York Times, and the Washington Post (all bastions of the liberal establishment) – trashed King’s anti-war stance as “demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi”."

Interesting to consider this snapshot of the interactions/reactions that were intended to prevent actual interface and conversation, much less dialogue. I remember the coherence in response across exacerbated divisions being more light, dining together, walking together, doing daily things in community.

The corrosive intent of the likes of Trump grate away on the surface of society, while sucking the resources extracted by others in order to sink the ship of state and make all of us accomplices to it. The likes of Soros, the semi-centrist power broker is the equivalent of a holding pen at a gladiator fest. The Koch problem is like the massive coal mining machine in Germany with octopus arms into civil governance that numb victims before poisoning them.

But the beauty of simplifying life, dropping out of the mass marketing roller coaster and its jaw flapping viciousness, is that the sheer scope of community engagement far exceeds any shell. The distinction between the slick media framing and personal experience begins to clarify and resonate. The human nervous system loves rhythm repetitions, it remits to being rocked in a mother’s arms. But the soul mind loves coherence and that is found at the level that King fostered and made each interaction an example to learn from. Many artists from the era intuited and created timeless art that still resonates today. Music began to see ‘crossover’ production and underlying commonalities superseded the shallow self-serving extractive lies of segregation.

Empire systems will always work to divide and conquer until there is nothing left - which in some ways seems to be where we are now. The anthropophagic (cannibal) becomes the oroboros that then consumes itself. The comparison holds, with an interesting element to consider: predatory capitalism virtually blindly denies, externalizes, extracts in an increasingly narrowed perception fed by intensification of greed. What it cannot afford to see is that all along it has been consuming falsely ‘externalized’ elements, that like the Oroboros, are the greater portion of itself.

We struggle with a profoundly sick and poisoned system infecting institutions and must be struggled with. The work of Dr. King was/is life lived as a ‘how to’ book lived in the present. When the going gets tough, the tough engage with resilience of wisdom, the value of the past consistently referencing wisdom, not hatred and confusion as his detractors spewed. We can see this happening all around. When coherent organization with ideas that resonate and heal, there will be those who who attempt to poison it. It takes time, loving effort and resilience. Nurses, artists, teachers, young people, Grannies, self-identified in commonality, the list goes on… all happening under the divisions and violence the empire attempts to impose.

Cornell West is one of those lively souls who is a living, practical soul treasure. Essay on Dr. West - your morning’s work has energized the day! Thank you!


One of our tasks would seem to be to establish that mirror so that they can no longer look away from it. Most seem to be still at the stage where the truth of coherent character is buried under the tailings of the model of extraction.


The contrast between leaders America once had, their integrity, wisdom and dedication to others, with the utterly contemptible, corrupt, and ignorant ciphers attempting to pass as “leaders” today, is as stark and ugly as could possibly be.

“We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. . . . When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” — the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., April 4, 1967


Great piece Dr. West.

" A radical man deeply hated and held in contempt is recast as if he was a universally loved moderate."

So we can take this example of a real man and see how his intent and purpose has been neutered and recast - in real time as we have watched - and apply this lesson to the question: just who the hell was Jesus? I’m not a Christian, I’m just sayin’.


Trump says that MLK fought for American unity instead of against racism and inequality.


“We must not sterilize his legacy.”

But from my perspective, that is exactly what has been done!

Until the deep state, fascists that were responsible for the assassination of MLK (and were never held accountable by using their patsy James Earl Ray) are brought to justice for orchestrating the egregious murder of MLK…his legacy will remain sterile.


From Hoovers perspective, no doubt that statement was true. Because MLK was no doubt the most dangerous man in America to J.Edgar’s political, power!

The fact that J.Edgar’s fascist, name is on the F.B.I. headquarters in Washington D.C. is a travesty to say the least! If we had a true democracy it would have been removed a long time ago.


Excellent post! One of the best comments on this thread…thanks.


Yes! Well said by an astute scholar. I wish he ran for president! Way better than Obama!


Thank you, Dr West, for focusing on King’s real message, which continues to be largely rejected
and/or ignored today…at our great peril, I might add.


True. Many of the founding fathers were plantation and slave owners and were the oligarchs of their time. That is why they demonized the real land owners, the Native Americans, as “SAVAGES” to justify stealing their land!


Yeah, well…Trump says a lot of crap.


Trump fights for racism & inequality. The opposite of what King fought for.


Rev. Dr. Cornel West, YOU ROCK, BAYBEEEEE!


Today’s corporate owned neoliberals and media treat Bernie Sanders today the way the “liberal careerists” treated MLK when he was alive.

Carl Rowan resorting to implying that MLK was a commie is especially despicable.


An important point to remember. Martin Luther King Jr. was not widely loved and respected during his life, he was widely condemned and criticized - particularly when he spoke out pointedly against the war in Vietnam and economic injustice.

He was no moderate, though maybe compared to the Black Panthers or Black Muslims he may have appeared to be. Regardless of his human shortcomings, which no person can escape, King is one of the truly great American heroes.

He was assassinated not by some “lone gunman,” but by the forces who actively spoke out against him while he was still alive.

“I would rather be dead than afraid.” - MLK Jr.


Jesus Christ was a radical as well, recast as something he never claimed to be. imho