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Martin Luther King Was a Radical, Not a Saint


Martin Luther King Was a Radical, Not a Saint

Peter Dreier

It is easy to forget that in his day, in his own country, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was considered a dangerous radical. He was harassed by the FBI and vilified in the media. The establishment’s campaign to denigrate King worked. In August 1966 – two years after he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize at age 35—the Gallup Poll found that 63 percent of Americans had an unfavorable opinion of King, compared with 33 percent who viewed him favorably.



I was born in Texas in a time where segregation was still going strong. My parents were conservative (but not by today’s kooky standards). It was through the words of people like the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and Muhammad Ali that helped me break free from the bonds of racial thinking that so defined my parents and their peers. Along with my rejection of the idea of God (I couldn’t get behind predestination concepts imposed by the Presbyterian church), my rejection of racism made me a freak in my own family. Being the youngest of three children I mostly kept my evolving views to myself. Today I revel in being able to express myself simply as a human who not only rejects oppression of different people but also of oppression of all forms of life. I’ll wear the label of “freak” with pride should that be my fate.



“We don’t know what King’s views were on abortion.” Perhaps not, but we do know that he was vehemently in favor of birth control.

King also would not have called the Vietnam War a “misadventure.” He would have called it what it was; a massive purveyance of violence of ghastly proportions that brought us close to nuclear war while destroying the “war” on poverty.



I was contemplating the dynamics of the system dating back to the 1400s that institutionalizes dehumanization as core precept and what that means if I believe that the entire creation is interconnected, and ‘hierarchy’ as this system uses it, a crippling delusion. The distinction - many might not agree with - between ‘dignity’ and ‘pride’. The former dignifies (connects integrity) while the latter is in isolation and after the fact. I much appreciate the dignity of your determinations and that your ‘pride’, oddly enough, IS connected inextricably to dignity.

“They cut you off from your heart, stick you in your mind and manipulate you through a book”.
Birgil Kills Straight



I have little doubt that if King were alive, today, he would be a serious thorn in the side of the Democratic party which has conferred sainthood upon him, even as the party over the years has worked overtime to neuter and sanitize his teachings. A prime example of this cleansing was Obama’s speech in 2011 at the MLK Memorial dedication, where he defended his Wall Street cronies, using MLK to justify it. Obama’s words.

“If he were alive today, I believe he would remind us that the unemployed worker can rightly challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonizing all who work there; that the businessman can enter tough negotiations with his company’s union without vilifying the right to collectively bargain.”

Meanwhile, as Obama was sanitizing MLK’s message, Cornel West was getting arrested on the steps of the Supreme Court. His words.

“We want to bear witness today that we know the relation between corporate greed and what goes on too often in the supreme court decisions … We will not allow this day of Martin Luther King Jr’s memorial to go without somebody going to jail, because Martin King would be here right with us, willing to throw down out of deep love.”



“God didn’t call America to do what she’s doing in the world now. God didn’t call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war as the war in Vietnam. And we are criminals in that war. We’ve committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world, and I’m going to continue to say it. And we won’t stop it because of our pride and our arrogance as a nation.” MLK February 4, 1968



Thank you. I am very fortunate to have found simpatico people like yourself here at CD.

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Ayuh. I remember being surprised at the time that Obama omitted the inspiring imagery of a battalion of Wall Street execs riding a herd of liveried camels through the eye of a needle and into the promised land to accept Dr. King’s grateful praise.



Prof. Dreier,
You gave a description of a Christian saint if ever there was one; in these disunited States of America. A person sacrificing his life to live the love commandment is certainly going to be radical; in fact a down right terrorist to the billionaire corporate state rulers of this world. Some things never change.

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When I was a younger man, I too was a radical, not a saint.

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King isn’t here anymore. He was ruthlessly murdered in cold blood by a professional assassin. There hasn’t been one like him since. The ideas he fought for have lacked for support and the forces against him have exponentially increased in strength. It’s almost hypocritical of this society to honor him when he goes against everything this society stands for. There are still many who grieve for the loss of King and the movement he lead us in, but they are a more subjugated and disenfranchised lot than those who worked for civil liberties in that age.



Geez, hows about Radical Saint? There, fixed that.

After Dr King’s murder, I read everything he wrote. I was amazed at his clarity
and truthfulness and power. Dr King has held a place of honor on my altar ever since.

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No wonder MLK was assassinated!



I think it is important to bring MLK into regular conversation everyday. In the same way that most White folk in the Jim Crow Era have since been converted into rejecting any form of Jim Crow laws, we have to help average people understand that ‘Jim Crow’ and all its evil connotations are a result of a elaborate plan to cement rule by the ‘ole boys club.’
Over thirty years after the end of the Civil War, blacks and whites lived side by side without any such foolish laws. Segregation did exist, but not on a huge scale until after the Wilmington race Riots of 1898 when a united coalition of whites and blacks got elected in the State legislature. Once the poor factions of whites and blacks began to unite, the 1% kicked into overdrive to divide us. Deep pockets influenced the media to demonize “Black Rule” as they coined the phrase and sowed fear amongst whites that blacks would rape white women. This is similar to the way the media has demonized the Germans, the Japanese, Native Americans, Koreans, Vietnamese, Arabs, Muslims and a host of other peoples to divide and conquer us over the years.
Closer inspection of MLK should make any serious scholar realize that racism is an artificial creation used to subjugate all of us. Yet even the divisive concept of race is reinforced everyday in America. All one has to do is to google a real estate listing to find a ‘racial breakdown’ of the neighbourhood as if the color of someone’s skin should be a primary concern of where I should by a home!
In more developed societies, someone’s identity is determined by how they live their lives and not the color of their skin. But the inherent problem with ignoring ‘racial parameters’ is that is makes it quite difficult for the uber wealthy to divide us. The language of ‘race’ is camouflaged in America today, but it is overt to anyone who is paying attention. If we really want to honour MLK, then we need to discuss his message in detail at home, in school and at the workplace. Until we all recognize that his message speaks to all of us, we cannot unite to seize the government from the corporate villains who misrepresent us today in Federal and State legislatures.



We can tag MLK with the term “radical” if we want. The reality of today is that we desperately need a solid "radical"to lead us to glory, or at least close to it.

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