Today, of course is Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, a holiday, BTW, thinned to gruel by several states (Alabama and Mississippi and, to an extent, Florida) that co-celebrate Robert E. Lee’s DOB on this date.
Let’s just ignore that virtually criminal insult for the nonce and concentrate instead on what MLK Day really means in the rest of America. Most white people, I’d guess, in the year 2019 respect and admire the cardboard cut-out that the nation’s most-heralded civil rights warrior has become. It’s safe, natch, for Dubuque moms & pops to embrace him because he’s dead.
America’s black population, I’ve gleaned, digs King well enough but sees him, rightly, as one of many, many heroic figures in the fight that, sadly, continues to this day. It’s a fight, in fact, that has flared anew in recent decades, thanks to the prominence of overtly racist media whores like Rush Limbaugh, Joe Arpaio, Megan Kelly, David Duke, Alex Jones, and our very own president of these United States. There’ve always been — and always will be — dark-skin-detesting reprobates crawling around underneath this or that rock but they’ve come out into the air because of the growth of the 24-hour news cycle and social media.
Funny thing is, Hubert Humphrey in 1948 set the tone for the diversity-embracing post WWII Democratic Party with his “bright sunshine” speech at the national Dem convention that year. Here’s the meat graf of his speech:
My friends, to those who say that we are rushing this issue of civil rights, I say to them we are 172 years late. To those who say that this civil-rights program is an infringement on states’ rights, I say this: The time has arrived in America for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow of states’ rights and to walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights. People — human beings — this is the issue of the 20th century. People of all kinds — all sorts of people — and these people are looking to America for leadership, and they’re looking to America for precept and example.
Bright sunshine, Humphrey implied, would cleanse the nation of its racist sepsis. Rather, we’ve learned the emergence of haters into said bright sunshine has not destroyed them, the noxious bacterial slime they are, but has elevated them to a previously unimagined platform.
Looking at the spectrum of race relations herein, the likes of Alex Jones, Stephen Miller, or Li’l Duce occupy a place to the far right, the infrared side as it were, near the extreme edge where, if they drift any further away from the center, they tumble directly into the fires of Hell. Most of us white people like to think we occupy a reasonable center, accepting of all god’s children, no matter if they’re black, white, or purple — although I’ve yet to meet a purple human being in this life.
Truth is, we whites give ourselves more credit than we deserve, especially when we congratulate ourselves for celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr.’s b-day.
The far-too-prevalent sentiment hereabouts runs along these lines: Yeah, sure, we want to be the fair and equitable home to all races, creeds and colors and let’s hold hands while we sing Kumbayah…, but, damn it, why don’t these blacks and browns and Muslims and gays and whatevers quit their complaining and start realizing how great I have it here?
Because, in this Land of Me, only I matter. King, we like to forget, was most assuredly not an I guy.
So, today, a lot of white folks are not celebrating him but some fanciful image of themselves.