“Most of you have no idea what Martin Luther King actually did” – Hamden Rice

MLK was more than a speech to black people.

 I dare anyone to read what follows and then continue to exploit Dr. King’s legacy in an effort to prove to black voters why Obama is such a disappointment to them. Go on. I dare you.   If you want to argue points of fact or issues, then do it without dredging up the legacy of a man who lived and died so that black people in America could stand up and speak for themselves; so that black people could be free.

You who seek to twist and exploit Dr. King’s legacy should be embarrassed and ashamed of yourselves.  Please stop it. You too, Cornel West.

Just stop it.

All emphases are the author’s:

This will be a very short diary. It will not contain any links or any scholarly references. It is about a very narrow topic, from a very personal, subjective perspective.

The topic at hand is what Martin Luther King actually did, what it was that he actually accomplished.

The reason I’m posting this is because there were dueling diaries over the weekend about Dr. King’s legacy, and there is a diary up now (not on the rec list but on the recent list) entitled, “Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Dream Not Yet Realized.” I’m sure the diarist means well as did the others. But what most people who reference Dr. King seem not to know is how Dr. King actually changed the subjective experience of life in the United States for African Americans. And yeah, I said for African Americans, not for Americans, because his main impact was his effect on the lives of African Americans, not on Americans in general. His main impact was not to make white people nicer or fairer. That’s why some of us who are African Americans get a bit possessive about his legacy. Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy, despite what our civil religion tells us, is not color blind.

I remember that many years ago, when I was a smart ass home from first year of college, I was standing in the kitchen arguing with my father. My head was full of newly discovered political ideologies and black nationalism, and I had just read the Autobiography of Malcolm X, probably for the second time.

A bit of context. My father was from a background, which if we were talking about Europe or Latin America, we would call, “peasant” origin, although he had risen solidly into the working-middle class. He was from rural Virginia and his parents had been tobacco farmers. I spent two weeks or so every summer on the farm of my grandmother and step grandfather. They had no running water, no gas, a wood burning stove, no bathtubs or toilets but an outhouse, pot belly stoves for heat in the winter, a giant wood pile, a smoke house where hams and bacon hung, chickens, pigs, semi wild housecats that lived outdoors, no tractor or car, but an old plow horse and plows and other horse drawn implements, and electricity only after I was about 8 years old. The area did not have high schools for blacks and my father went as far as the seventh grade in a one room schoolhouse. All four of his grandparents, whom he had known as a child, had been born slaves. It was mainly because of World War II and urbanization that my father left that life.

They lived in a valley or hollow or “holler” in which all the landowners and tenants were black. In the morning if you wanted to talk to cousin Taft, you would walk down to behind the outhouse and yell across the valley, “Heeeyyyy Taaaaft,” and you could seem him far, far in the distance, come out of his cabin and yell back.

On the one hand, this was a pleasant situation because they lived in isolation from white people. On the other hand, they did have to leave the valley to go to town where all the rigid rules of Jim Crow applied. By the time I was little, my people had been in this country for six generations (going back, according to oral rendering of our genealogy, to Africa Jones and Mama Suki), much more under slavery than under freedom, and all of it under some form of racial terrorism, which had inculcated many humiliating behavior patterns.

Anyway that’s background. I think we were kind of typical as African Americans in the pre Civil Rights era went.

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 mid west 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 decided to use 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 grandparent’s 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 non-violent resistance, and taught the practices of non violent 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 OK.

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 sicked 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.

So yes, Dr. King had many other goals, many other more transcendent, non-racial, policy goals, goals that apply to white people too, like ending poverty, reducing the war like aspects of our foreign policy, promoting the New Deal goal of universal employment, and so on. But his main accomplishment was ending 200 years of racial terrorism, by getting black people to confront their fears. So please don’t tell me that Martin Luther King’s dream has not been achieved, unless you knew what racial terrorism was like back then and can make a convincing case you still feel it today. If you did not go through that transition, you’re not qualified to say that the dream was not accomplished.

That is what Dr. King did — not march, not give good speeches. He crisscrossed the south organizing people, helping them not be afraid, and encouraging them, like Gandhi did in India, to take the beating that they had been trying to avoid all their lives.

Once the beating was over, we were free.

It wasn’t the Civil Rights Act, or the Voting Rights Act or the Fair Housing Act that freed us. It was taking the beating and thereafter not being afraid. So, sorry Mrs. Clinton, as much as I admire you, you were wrong on this one. Our people freed ourselves and those Acts, as important as they were, were only white people officially recognizing what we had done.

PS. I really shouldn’t have to add this but please — don’t ever confuse someone criticizing you or telling you bad things over the internet with what happened to people during the civil rights movement. Don’t. Just don’t do it. Don’t go there.

PSS Weird, but it kind of sounds like what V did to Evie.

UPDATE: There is a major, major hole in this essay as pointed out by FrankAletha downthread — While I was focusing on the effect on black men, she points out that similarly randomized sexual violence against black women was as severe and common and probably more so, because while violence against black men was ritualistic, violence against black women was routine.

Bravo, Mr. Rice. Bravo.

(H/T rootless_e at The People’s View!)

[via DailyKos]

[cross-posted at ABLC]






225 replies
  1. 1
    Yevgraf says:

    We white folks in the south earned and deserved righteous insurgent style fury from angry black folk. To this day, Jfk ashamed of the attitudes of my grandparents and my mother.

    Frankly, had Davis, Lee, Stevens and the entire legislature of South Carolina been Hung as traitors and war criminals, it would have gone aong way toward reforming attitudes.

  2. 2
    taylormattd says:

    Thx ABL. This was a wonderful diary, and I was proud to recommend it.

  3. 3
    Brachiator says:

    And yeah, I said for African Americans, not for Americans, because his main impact was his effect on the lives of African Americans, not on Americans in general. His main impact was not to make white people nicer or fairer. That’s why some of us who are African Americans get a bit possessive about his legacy. Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy, despite what our civil religion tells us, is not color blind.

    Wow. Talking about taking an opportunity to miss a larger point.

    This kind of stuff invites anyone who is not black to shrug his or her shoulders and say, “Dr King has got nothing to do with me.”

    like Gandhi did in India

    Kinda suggests that there is something universal to human liberation movements. Otherwise, why would civil rights leaders like Bayard Rustin have gone to India to observe and to work with Ghandi?

    While working to promote democracy at home, Bayard Rustin also supported human rights struggles worldwide. In 1945 he organized the FOR’s Free India Committee which championed India’s fight for independence from Great Britain. Following the examples of Ghandi and Nehru, with whom he consulted during visits to India, he was frequently arrested for protesting Britain’s colonial rule in Africa. He consulted with Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Nnamde Azikewe of Nigeria. At home he helped organize the Committee to Support South Africa Resistance which later became the American Committee on Africa.

    And of course, a gay man who kept in the closet to prevent more negative press from being heaped on the Civil Rights movement, he later supported gay rights legislation.

    Who was it who said:

    Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny

    I think it had something to do with a letter. Maybe written from a jail somewhere.

  4. 4
    MTiffany says:

    You too, Cornel West.

    Ease up on Dr. West. He hasn’t been quite right since that Matrix movie.

  5. 5
    Adrienne says:

    @Brachiator: Wow. You’ve thoroughly missed the point.

  6. 6
    John Cole says:

    Incoming stream of white butthurt.

  7. 7
    Warren Terra says:

    I am informed by people I trust that Cornel West’s early academic work was outstanding, that his contributions to symposia and the like have been stellar, and that he is in fact an extremely intelligent man capable of penetrating insights. That said, he has spent at least the last decade or so perfecting his jackass and buffoon act, always willing to exert himself in the quest for new and lower lows. This essay is a definite case in point.

    Speaking as an American Jew, someone whose father was stoned by his Christian classmates and got into college under the Jew Quota system, I understand the gradual expansion in civil rights and equal membership in American society over the course of the twentieth century. I understand the quantum leap forward this idea of civic inclusion and equality took in the 60s, under the leadership of Dr. King – a process that did not finish with his death, nor with the extension of civil equality to Black men, seeing as how there were still Women, and Native Americans, and Mexicans, and Gays and Bis and Wiccans and what have you.

    So I’m saddened, if perhaps not surprised, when Dr. West writes that “his main impact was his effect on the lives of African Americans, not on Americans in general” and suggests that Dr. King is for the Black community and the rest of us should get our own heroes. Certainly, American Jews as a community recognized their own recent experience in Dr. King’s struggle for racial equality, and disproportionately joined in that ongoing struggle. And many Black people have in the years since Dr. King’s death recognized the need to follow his example and continue the struggle for an inclusive and equal society for the benefit of groups other than their own – for the benefit, that is, of America. In short (not that I kept it short), I invite the esteemed professor to go fnck himself.

    Also, and separately, Dr. West manages to overlook the last several years of Dr. King’s life – years in which his animating struggle was not only Race (a struggle that had by that time seen progress and achieved a momentum of its own), but two other causes that were perhaps as unlikely of success in the late 60s as racial equality was in the 50s: peace abroad, and social justice at home. Indeed, he died in Memphis campaigning for the latter, and his work on both of those issues is if anything more unfinished than his work on the inclusiveness of American society.

  8. 8
    John Cole says:

    Maybe written from a jail somewhere.

    Maybe a jail WHITE PEOPLE put him in, even.

  9. 9
    Jay B. says:

    No, it’s better to use the legacy of MLK as a shield to protect Obama from criticism I guess.

    Read what West wrote. Do you really oppose it? Would King, who was assassinated while on a trip to Memphis to support striking garbage workers?

    West:

    As the talk show host Tavis Smiley and I have said in our national tour against poverty, the recent budget deal is only the latest phase of a 30-year, top-down, one-sided war against the poor and working people in the name of a morally bankrupt policy of deregulating markets, lowering taxes and cutting spending for those already socially neglected and economically abandoned. Our two main political parties, each beholden to big money, offer merely alternative versions of oligarchic rule.

    Are you fucking obtuse enough to deny this?

    More West:

    The absence of a King-worthy narrative to reinvigorate poor and working people has enabled right-wing populists to seize the moment with credible claims about government corruption and ridiculous claims about tax cuts’ stimulating growth. This right-wing threat is a catastrophic response to King’s four catastrophes; its agenda would lead to hellish conditions for most Americans.

    Again, how in any way is this wrong?

    West is speaking for people who have been trampled underfoot. Who the fuck are you speaking for?

  10. 10
    MonkeyBoy says:

    One of my favorite examples of how terrorism against blacks was considered normal and entrenched in white societies is the firework now called a whistling chaser which is a rocket that scoots along the ground emitting a loud whistle and then explodes.

    Before things became politically correct this was called a “nigger chaser” and carried the notion that it was good harmless fun to terrorize blacks with minor explosives – ha, ha, just look at those darkies yell and run.

  11. 11
    Loneoak says:

    @Warren Terra:

    Warren, you’re all mixed up here. This diary was by a guy named Hamden Rice. ABL was telling West to listen to it.

  12. 12
    Samara Morgan says:

    shukran jazeelan for coming back ABL.
    beautiful post.

    you are the best almost EID present evah.

  13. 13
    Shinobi says:

    I didn’t learn about lynching until college. I didn’t learn it in any of my gen ed classes, I didn’t learn about it in my American history class in HS where we spent 2 months on race relations. I learned about it on a fall afternoon in a class called “Development of American Culture” where we discussed the changing meaning of freedom throughout American history. I’ll never forget the day my professor played the song strange fruit for the class and showed us photographs.

    Whitewashed indeed.

  14. 14
    Ruckus says:

    ABL
    When you come back you do so in a grand style.
    I doubt that there is a white person in this country who has the smallest idea of what it was like to be black 40-50 years ago or more. We catch glimpses now and then if we are paying attention but a glimpse is not experience. It may not mean much and I know that not all white people were responsible but for the way people were (and sometimes still are) treated I apologize. No human deserves to be treated like an object, let alone a disposable one. Hell I’ll bet most of the haters treat objects better than blacks were treated. It is an insidious disease that humans suffer from, this racial hatred. The question is how do we cure it?

  15. 15
    Brachiator says:

    @Adrienne:

    Wow. You’ve thoroughly missed the point.

    Which is what? And is there only a single point?

  16. 16
    Steve says:

    Dave Weigel pointed out the other day that MLK’s favorable/unfavorable numbers were 33/63 in 1966 and they are 94/4 today. It would be great if this meant that vast swaths of America have now accepted that MLK was right about the things he stood for, but I think none of us believes that. Instead, these numbers reflect the fact that MLK’s legacy has been so sanitized and whitewashed that even dyed-in-the-wool conservatives have convinced themselves that they share a dream with MLK, a dream of colorblindness.

    We have a consensus that MLK was great, and so everyone says he was great, but we remain far from a consensus on the issues of racial justice that he fought for. Somehow the man and the issues have been separated to the point where someone can say, “Oh, I love MLK, I think he would have been against affirmative action just like me.”

  17. 17
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @Jay B.: Then maybe West needs to do more than give his speech.

  18. 18
    BRET says:

    Welcome back, ma’am.

  19. 19
    Chris T. says:

    The worst they can do is not “kill you” nor even “hurt you”. The worst they can do is to make you hurt or kill yourself.

    (Them hurting or killing you is pretty bad, to be sure. But that last is even worse.)

  20. 20
    Garm says:

    Gotta say, it’s amazing how hard a lot of us white people lack context.

  21. 21
    Chris says:

    Thanks for posting this. Great, and important, read.

    @Yevgraf:

    Frankly, had Davis, Lee, Stevens and the entire legislature of South Carolina been Hung as traitors and war criminals, it would have gone aong way toward reforming attitudes.

    Slightly OT but based on this: I’ve heard it observed somewhere that the aftermath of the Civil War was the exact opposite of the aftermath of World War Two in the way we treated our enemies.

    In Germany, we poured as much economic aid and investment as in the rest of Europe to help put the country back on its own two feet. But we also put the Nazi leaders on trial for their country and the entire world to see and made goddamn sure that particular bit of ugliness was stamped out.

    The South post-Civil War was the reverse of that. We definitely didn’t help it get back on its feet: stories of Yankee exploitation are legendary to this day. But as a consolation prize, we let the Confederates go home unharmed, embraced an official ideology of reconciliation, let them write the history books for the next hundred years and, of course, allowed them black people as punching bags for all that time too.

    Can’t remember where I heard it, but think it’s a good point. Reconstruction should be taught all over the world as a textbook example of how not to handle the aftermath of a war.

  22. 22
  23. 23
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @Warren Terra: West wasn’t the writer of the DK article that ABL is quoting.

  24. 24

    @Brachiator
    I disagree; the opportunity to make a greater point isn’t missed, Rice’s essay is the finer point upon which to build from. As an undergraduate history major, the most influential courses I took were those taught by a professor who supplemented the text book with biographies and autobiographies. So, while learning about the American Revolution, and reading from the text, lectures, discussions, and such, we also read the diary of a woman who had to maintain her family and farm while here husband was off fighting the British (forget the title of the book), while studying the antebellum South, we read Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl and Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. These books not only put a human face on the greater history, but also filled in the gaps and told the story like no text could.

    So, to get back to the point, you can’t just start with “Human Liberation”, you have to start with the histories that make up the greater story. You can’t understand the story of the American Revolution without understanding the life of Benjamin Franklin, for example, just like you can’t tell the story of “Humanity” without telling the finer stories of Black Americans or colonial Indians that make up the whole. No offense, but I think you’ve got this backwards.

  25. 25
    Warren Terra says:

    @Loneoak:

    Warren, you’re all mixed up here. This diary was by a guy named Hamden Rice. ABL was telling West to listen to it.

    Ah. I blame ABL. The only obvious hyperlink in the post – the one just before the essay – was to a New York Times piece written by West; as it was the only hyperlink, I assumed the hyperlinked essay was the same obnoxious essay I’d just read, and didn’t check.

    So: take my long and outraged post, and direct it at Mr. Rice instead of Professor West. Cornel West can be spared my outrage in this particular instance, although his pattern of behavior over the last decade or so has earned him my continuing disdain.

    And ABL, I love ya, and I’m glad to see you back. But you’re off base here. That essay was completely spoiled for me by the preface it contained telling non-Black Americans to get their own damn hero.

    ETA: thanks also to Belafon (formerly anonevent) for the same correction.

  26. 26
    trollhattan says:

    All I need to know about Dr. King’s impact I can measure from the response of my black friends and classmates to his murder. A piece of each died that day, and my relationship wtih many was never again the same.

    It took me years to understand a piece of myself died that day, too.

  27. 27
    burnspbesq says:

    @Jay B.:

    In the context of West’s recent work, that NYT piece goes in the “blind squirrel, meet nut” category. 20 percent genius, 80 percent cartoon character is a huge waste of a brilliant mind.

  28. 28
    Brachiator says:

    @John Cole: RE: Maybe written from a jail somewhere.

    Maybe a jail WHITE PEOPLE put him in, even.

    He wasn’t writing the letter to his jailers, nor was he writing it only to black people.

  29. 29
    jeff says:

    This was one of the finer diaries I’ve read in many many months over there, and it deserves your promotion.

  30. 30
    homeruk says:

    Gandhi, MLK, Steve Biko – three men more interested in lifting up their own dispossessed kin then in bringing down the oppressors. All realised that true equality is only achieved when the oppressed themselves think of themselves as equal. god bless you abl.

  31. 31
    Judas Escargot says:

    @MonkeyBoy:

    I’m old enough to remember that term.

    And I grew up in the 70s in the Deep North.

  32. 32
    Midnight Marauder says:

    @Jay B.:

    Again, how in any way is this wrong?
    __
    West is speaking for people who have been trampled underfoot. Who the fuck are you speaking for?

    Um, hold on a second there, champ. These are the kinds of things Cornell West has said about President Obama:

    He bitterly describes Obama as “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats. And now he has become head of the American killing machine and is proud of it.”

    That is what crazy people think. I don’t know who Cornell West thinks he’s speaking for, but it sure as fuck isn’t sane rational individuals. That much is for damn sure.

    Oh, and who could of course overlook that the entire crux of Cornell West’s righteous indignation is that he is a WATB not getting the attention he deserves from the President:

    The first thing he told me was, ‘Brother West, I feel so bad. I haven’t called you back. You been calling me so much. You been giving me so much love, so much support and what have you.’ And I said, ‘I know you’re busy.’ But then a month and half later I would run into other people on the campaign and he’s calling them all the time. I said, wow, this is kind of strange. He doesn’t have time, even two seconds, to say thank you or I’m glad you’re pulling for me and praying for me, but he’s calling these other people. I said, this is very interesting. And then as it turns out with the inauguration I couldn’t get a ticket with my mother and my brother. I said this is very strange. We drive into the hotel and the guy who picks up my bags from the hotel has a ticket to the inauguration. My mom says, ‘That’s something that this dear brother can get a ticket and you can’t get one, honey, all the work you did for him from Iowa.’ Beginning in Iowa to Ohio. We had to watch the thing in the hotel.

    Ta-Nehisi Coates took care of this a while back:

    But there’s very little in the way of specific, detailed policy critiques. Of what little there is, I don’t know how you support a president and don’t expect him to “head of the American killing machine.” That’s what a Commander In Chief is. I can’t think of a single president, who was more committed to loving the weak and the vulnerable first. In specific, practical terms, I’m not even sure that it’s a good idea, nor do I know what it means.
    __
    Was there something more Obama should have done to get a public option? Should he not have traded the Bush tax cuts for extending unemployment benefits? Did Obama settle too quickly on a small stimulus package? Was he wrong to allow the GOP to shut down planned parenthood in DC? Is the strategy of increased drone attacks in Pakistan inhumane? Was the financial reform bill he signed ultimately too weak?
    __
    I think all of this is fair game. I think Charles Ferguson’s critique in Inside Job was really solid. I think calling someone a “black mascot” or a “black puppet” because they don’t agree with you is much less so.

  33. 33
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @Chris:

    The South post-Civil War was the reverse of that. We definitely didn’t help it get back on its feet: stories of Yankee exploitation are legendary to this day.

    Yes, legendary in the same way that Gone With the Wind was a history novel. There were very few carpetbaggers. The only installed governor who refused to resign after reconstruction was the one from Texas who locked himself in the governor’s office.

  34. 34
    licensed to kill time says:

    Reading that essay gave me major goosebumps. Well done, Mr. Rice.

    And thank you ABL for highlighting it.

  35. 35
    Surly Duff says:

    @Brachiator:

    And yeah, I said for African Americans, not for Americans, because his main impact was his effect on the lives of African Americans, not on Americans in general. His main impact was not to make white people nicer or fairer. That’s why some of us who are African Americans get a bit possessive about his legacy. Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy, despite what our civil religion tells us, is not color blind.

    Wow. Talking about taking an opportunity to miss a larger point.

    This kind of stuff invites anyone who is not black to shrug his or her shoulders and say, “Dr King has got nothing to do with me.”

    I think the author’s emphasis was that King’s MAIN impact was the effect on African Americans. Can that really be agrued? Yes, King’s efforts had a significant impact on American society, but that was a subsequent result of the efforts of King, as well as other civil rights leaders and participants, to enact change for African Americans. It is not denigrating to any non-African Americans that supported or welcomed the civil rights movement by stating that the Primary impact was on African Americans.

    I think the diary is a result of the recent efforts to co-opt King and his message for any purpose (maybe it has been going on for a longer time than I realize). Dr. King is not a blank slate where anyone can shoehorn his message into their own political narrative (see: the attempts to convince themselves that if Dr. King was alive today he would be a Republican); the man had a specific purpose, and, primarily, that was to address the inequities and inequalities that African Americans faced in this nation. The diary above just states this clearly.

  36. 36
    amused says:

    Thanks, ABL, for coming back, and for this article and the links. For once, the kos komments don’t make me want to puke. Here, I always find a couple more names for the killfile. Most other threads, they hide in plain sight, but on your threads, some people just can’t help themselves. You perform a great service!

  37. 37
    Steve says:

    @Warren Terra: I don’t think the diarist was saying that only black people can be inspired by MLK, No one would argue that, any more than anyone would say that you can’t be inspired by Gandhi’s example unless you’re Indian. But the point is that society has dumbed down MLK’s message to be about nothing other than an idealized concept of equality and peace and love that everyone thinks they agree with. You can’t separate MLK’s message from the reality of life for black Americans in the 1960s and think that he was just trying to make some generic point about how everyone should get along.

  38. 38
    Loneoak says:

    @Warren Terra:

    Ah. I blame ABL.

    Yeah, it wasn’t very obvious. ABL’s disdain for blogging etiquette is sometimes charming, sometimes frustrating. This seems to be an unforced error that she should fix with about 5 seconds of editing.

    On the other hand:

    That essay was completely spoiled for me by the preface it contained telling non-Black Americans to get their own damn hero.

    Maybe you should read that again with a more open mind. The premise of the essay is that MLK’s most enduring legacy among AAs is not making whites all friendly and stuff, it was making AAs brave and showing them that the worst whites could dish out was not enough to keep them down. Yes, there are universal aspects to all human liberation movements, especially those that are non-violent, but the universal comes only after the personal and painful experience of being beaten and raped for generations. To be honset to the latter is more important to me than holding onto treasured, and largely unearned, vague feelings of affection for heroes. Indeed, he’s all the more heroic in context because it’s easy to make a speech, and really hard to take a beating.

  39. 39
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @Brachiator: And you’re doing exactly what the author was trying to point out: It’s not King’s speeches that had the real impact. It was what the Civil Rights leaders helped blacks do – gain some equality by facing their fears – that made the biggest change. It sounds almost like how you deal with a bully. Yet, when I read your rebuttals, it all falls back on the MLK who stood at the Lincoln Memorial, and no one had better tarnish that.

  40. 40
    Poopyman says:

    Welcome back ABL.

    Lots of food for thought in Rice’s article, but I have a quibble with one word that he uses multiple times. “Berserk” indicates a loss of control, and I’m pretty sure that the incidents Rice refers to were carried out by folks who were anything but out of control. IOW, I think he lets those whites off the hook a bit with that term.

  41. 41
    Chris says:

    @Steve:

    Dave Weigel pointed out the other day that MLK’s favorable/unfavorable numbers were 33/63 in 1966 and they are 94/4 today. It would be great if this meant that vast swaths of America have now accepted that MLK was right about the things he stood for, but I think none of us believes that.

    Yeah… and 33/63 is the number in the overall population. Imagine what those numbers would be if you restricted it to the white population.

    Which is why the common sentiment among white people, illustrated a few posts back, that “these people should really be more grateful to us, look and how magnanimously we all freed them” is such arrant bullshit. Even at the height of the civil rights era, an overwhelming majority of whites either fought integration with their dying breath, or squirmed in general discomfort at its messy application. Civil rights was largely passed in spite of the majority of white people, not because of it.

    But hey, now that it’s passed, it’s all good, and we’re supposed to believe that Lincoln and LBJ’s reforms redeemed every last white man in America, including those who to this day piss and moan about the “war of Northern aggression” and/or believe the Civil Rights Act was unconstitutional.

    Go figure.

    Instead, these numbers reflect the fact that MLK’s legacy has been so sanitized and whitewashed that even dyed-in-the-wool conservatives have convinced themselves that they share a dream with MLK, a dream of colorblindness.

    “Conservatism is the blind and fear-filled worship of dead radicals.”

    It’s the same principle that allows them to clap and cheer for Kennedy or Truman, or Teddy Roosevelt, or Lincoln, or the Founding Fathers, or Jesus Christ, and feel that all these characters would totally be on their side if they were alive today.

  42. 42
    Loneoak says:

    @Brachiator:

    This kind of stuff invites anyone who is not black to shrug his or her shoulders and say, “Dr King has got nothing to do with me.”

    Ya know, maybe Dr. King has nothing to do with you? Or at least next to nothing. He’s not your personal buddy who exists to make you feel satisfied with your contributions to human decency, perhaps unless your name is Rep. John Lewis. This is the very essence of butthurt, imao.

  43. 43
    Svensker says:

    A powerful essay. I’m in tears.

  44. 44

    It is easy to form opinions of things from inside one’s ones own shoes, and in this case, miss the relentless daily terror of living in a world where justice doesn’t reach you, and that any day you could be murdered just for existing without legal recourse or protections, and there is no safe place, save for the space within the safe harbor of personal spirit.

    The piece helped me some to understand this critical nuance, when thinking about where AA’s are coming from, especially when Barack Obama is attacked on a personal level, or otherwise unfairly. Especially from those that claim political alliance. Disagree with policy, or tactics, but leave off the ‘in over his head” bullshit and the rest of the reductionist memes of personal inferiority. Let the wingnuts use those.

    Obama has, or should have earned that basic respect by now. Dontcha’ think?

  45. 45

    @Warren Terra: I don’t know about your Jewish forbears, but mine, and those of my acquaintance, had something that African Americans have never had in abundance. Money. Lots of it. And if they didn’t, they were related to, or worked for, or were friends with someone who did.

    And that will always get you a seat at the table.

  46. 46
    Martin says:

    @Warren Terra:

    That essay was completely spoiled for me by the preface it contained telling non-Black Americans to get their own damn hero.

    I think the preface is telling non-Black Americans that maybe they should fucking bother to understand the lesson before joining in with the chorus to declare the teacher to be a genius. Certainly he can be our hero too, but we should at least be able to articulate why. I think the quoted essay does quite a good job of articulating Kings legacy that could not be articulated by negligibly close to 100% of white Americans. Maybe we should just STFU and take the time to learn and understand, and when we’ve proven that we’ve learned the lesson, then we can put him back on the hero list along with Reagan, Jesus, Dale Earnhardt and Gordon Gekko.

  47. 47
    Adrienne says:

    @Brachiator: You missed the larger point. You also certainly seem to have missed this:

    It is about a very narrow topic, from a very personal, subjective perspective.

    Why in the WORLD you wanted/expected the essay to cover all the points you mentioned is beyond me. Alas, others in the thread have already taken issue with your statements in the same way I have so I’ll let them continue as I have entirely too much work to complete.

  48. 48
    Arclite says:

    NICE. Read the whole thing.

  49. 49
    Kane says:

    1. Maintain your dignity
    2. Call your adversarie­s to the highest principles they hold
    3. Seize the moral high ground
    4. Win by winning over your adversarie­s by revealing the contradict­ion between their own ideals and their actions.

    Sound familiar?

  50. 50
    Tony J says:

    @Jewish Steel:

    I don’t know about your Jewish forbears, but mine, and those of my acquaintance, had something that African Americans have never had in abundance. Money. Lots of it. And if they didn’t, they were related to, or worked for, or were friends with someone who did. And that will always get you a seat at the table.

    Not wishing to Godwin the thread I’ll just say, there’s a pretty good example within just about living memory of that not being true at all.

  51. 51
    gex says:

    Sometimes I feel like I get a sense of what it might have been like, as I see more and more violence against gays since the GOP declared war in 2004. There are places we go where I feel I need to be very careful not to make our lesbian status obvious.

    I don’t want to take that too far, because I feel that if offends some African Americans. I just mean to say that I feel a sense of that, in that when we go out, when we travel, etc. we have to watch what we do.

  52. 52
    Laertes says:

    Beautiful essay. Thanks for posting it here.

    I wasn’t looking forward to your return, but so far I’m glad you’re back. That you’re capable of work like this makes it all the more frustrating when you turn to the dark side and start trolling.

    Edit: By “work like this” I mean bringing essays like this to a wider audience. I’m well aware that ABL didn’t write the essay in question.

  53. 53
    Chris says:

    @Kane:

    Call your adversarie­s to the highest principles they hold

    I remember reading this mentioned on right-wing blogs as one of the “Alinsky Rules for Radicals” that they’re terrified of.

    Something about how nasty liberals will try to make you live up to your values, but since they don’t have any values, cause they’re liberals, that puts them at an advantage, so the lesson is that you shouldn’t deny yourself weapons by living up to your values, just go with the “take no prisoners” approach.

    A good example of projection, and the purpose it serves – to convince your own people that “they’re already doing it so it’s okay if we do it, in fact we need to do it or we’re all going to die.”

  54. 54
    pete says:

    @Warren Terra: When you make a mistake, it’s not a good idea to open your acknowledgement with the formulation “Ah. I blame XXX” (unless perhaps face-to-face with an obvious laugh) — it makes you look defensive and kind of idiotic. Having a bad day?

  55. 55
    Constance says:

    Glad you are back! Thanks for the diary. It should become part of the junior high school curriculum in US schools. I’m almost sick to realize how ignorant I am about Dr. King’s real legacy. Is this what John means by “white butthurt?”

  56. 56
    Kyle says:

    I’m a white man who was raised in rural Alabama. I didn’t know who Bull Connor was until I was in law school and watched Eyes on the Prize on PBS. I don’t question at all that MLK’s work was primarily aimed at improving the lives of black folk, but the arguments made in this post and in the Kos diary seem to limit it to that. In that respect, I strongly disagree. America is a far better place because of MLK, and because of that I am a far better man. So I will go ahead and believe that his work improved all of our lives, even if some received more benefit than others.

    I think of all Americans, MLK is the one that helped make America the country that I love. I doubt I could have loved it at all had I not grown up after Dr. King had pushed it to the right course. He gave us the language of civil rights that allows us to understand the American ideals of fairness and freedom. Black folk can and should claim him, but I would feel disrespectful in saying that his works benefited only black folks, because I am living proof that it didn’t.

  57. 57
    Thoroughly Pizzled says:

    @gex: The spoon theory is something like that. The original essay is about illness, but it’s popped up a lot in discussions about race that I’ve read on the intertubes.

  58. 58
    Tuttle says:

    We must see now that the evils of racism, economic exploitation and militarism are all tied together … you can’t really get rid of one without getting rid of the others… the whole structure of American life must be changed.

    Crazy talk that. The sort of thing that gets a man shot.

  59. 59
    Warren Terra says:

    @pete:
    It hadn’t especially occurred to me that anyone would think “Ah. I blame XXX.” was meant to be taken as a serious passing of the buck.

  60. 60
    David in NY says:

    Can’t bear to read all this stuff. Some great people are just big enough for all decent people to share them.

  61. 61
    Woodrowfan says:

    gave me goosebumps. I think i will assign the article ABL is quoting in my class.

  62. 62
    CynDee says:

    Thank you, ABL, for providing this wonderful post. It’s one of the most important things we’ll ever read. I’m saving it to live by.

    Until human beings get over the obsession of oppressing someone who is “different,” no one will be out of danger. Any of us could be “in the minority” during our lifetime.

    What a huge waste hatred is — and we all just die anyway. What’s the point?

    If only everybody could stop being afraid and agree that we’re all just US, and get on with the important work of creating health, peace, and sustainable good lives for ALL OF US.

  63. 63

    @Tony J: No doubt. And there are plenty of commenters here who know loads more about this topic than I do.

  64. 64
    Lysana says:

    @Laertes: Irony, you are thick with it. ABL doesn’t troll, but you sure are trying to here. Grow the fuck up. All of you haters. She brings truth and you spit in its face.

  65. 65
    Stephen1947 says:

    @Adrienne: I couldn’t agree more – none are so blind as those who think they know it all.

  66. 66
    Trakker says:

    In 1955, at the age of 10, I spent the summer living with my grandparents in Pensacola, Florida. As we drove down through Kentucky, Tennessee, and then Alabama, it was like driving into another country. As a curious, smart-ass white kid my grandparents had to explain Jim Crow to me so I didn’t upset the locals.

    Actually seeing the affects of Jim Crow on the population made the civil rights movement more real to me, but it really hit home when I read Isabel Wilkerson’s wonderful book “The Warmth of Other Suns.” She described in vivid detail the terror blacks in the south lived with daily.

    Reading Hamden Rice’s piece explaining what Dr. King really accomplished was like the final puzzle piece in my understanding Dr. King’s legacy. Of course! The marches, the speeches, it was all for a bigger purpose.

    Sadly, I wonder if future generations of Americans, black and white, will be able to grasp the true enormity of this? Even reading descriptions in a book can’t impart the level of terror that must have resided in every African American’s subconcious every hour of every day of their life?

    Today I see the cruelty of racism creeping back into our society, and I see no concerted effort to smack down the Limbaughs when they distort the truth and get rich by convincing gullible whites that people of color are ruining America. Where are the marchers? Where is our outrage?

  67. 67
    dww44 says:

    @General Stuck: Though I promised not to reply to one of your comments ever again, I must again point out that you seem to have misunderstood my post from a couple of evenings ago.

    Disagree with policy, or tactics, but leave off the ‘in over his head” bullshit and the rest of the reductionist memes of personal inferiority. Let the wingnuts use those.

    Just to make clear, I didn’t say Obama was “in over his head”. That was said to me in a Facebook post by a friend of the way right poster who’s forever making Anti-Obama statements there which I frequently rebut. When I rebutted his, that comment was made to me. In my recounting on BJ and wishing for a forceful push back from his administration and indeed his supporters, you labelled me a concern troll and worse. I didn’t appreciate it then, and I don’t appreciate it now.

    I am sure you worked very hard for Obama’s election in 2008, as did I. For months I walked the African-American neighborhoods and manned the phones in this deep Southern city, helping to register and arrange transportation to the polls on election day. If advocating for better messaging and more liberal policies from the administration makes me a hopeless concern troll, then so be it.

  68. 68
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @ Kyle: Indirect vs. direct benefits.

  69. 69
    namekarB says:

    Thank you ABL and ditto what General Struck said

  70. 70
    MikeJake says:

    Mr. Rice’s point is well taken. Talk is cheap; action matters.

    It’s why black people stick up for “Al Charlatan,” whom the average white person probably thinks is a self-aggrandizing clown. It’s because Sharpton has shown he’s willing to put his money where his mouth is. People respect and appreciate that.

  71. 71
    SFPoet says:

    Looong time BJ reader, first time posting. First off welcome back ABL! I always enjoy your posts. One of the reasons I come here.

    This was an especially powerful post about MLK’s legacy. One of the most moving parts of the article was about the “humiliating practices” people were taught ( and still taught, like telling a cop: “I am going to slowly reach into my pocket, to get my wallet” to avoid being shot).

    For this reader, it didn’t make your father look bad. It was a poignant window into what people had to do to survive “living under terrorism in the South.”

    IMHO, though those practices are a horrible part of american history, those are the kind of details we need to teach each other. So that MLK’s legacy is much more than the “I have a dream” speech in our minds. Though it was a fine and important speech.

  72. 72
    Elie says:

    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.

    This, this, this.

    I am 61 years old. I remember traveling south with my parents from Chicago to see my Grandparents in Georgia in my Dad’s new metallic blue chevy. I remember the tension they exuded once we were in the south. We stopped to get gas and in those days, there was no self serve. I just remember Daddy looking really stressed and that when we got to our Grandparent’s house, the car had to be take to the shop as something was put into the gas tank.

    Even in Chicago, there was an unwritten “rule” that you never went on the “north side” or in certain suburbs or neighborhoods. We just didn’t. When I moved near north in 1978, my folks were concerned despite my assurances. My mother now lives on the north side, but it was difficult to get her to move there, many years later.

    Y’all who do not understand Obama, do not understand his understanding of this and the fierce loyalty to and identification with the sacrifice of Dr. King and what that meant. He will not be broken. He will not be turned away by his own fear or pain. Those looking for that are wasting their time.

    The Republicans are using what remains of their “terrorism” tactices with their overt racism (forget dog whistles, these folks are pretty open). It won’t work. Special note to all the PUMA and Windbaggers, you too.

  73. 73
    Laertes says:

    @Lysana:

    ABL doesn’t troll…

    Welcome! Since you’re new here, you should take the nickel tour. Have a look around, meet the locals. You might ask after the pie filter.

    Enjoy your stay, and remember to get a tetanus booster shot. The trolls here bite.

  74. 74
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @David in NY: I don’t think the point is that we can’t share him, it’s that he shouldn’t be made into some creature that he wasn’t, especially some kind of here’s-how-he-fits-my-narrative type. Because then you end up with “MLK endorces Glen Beck” stories.

  75. 75
    LanceThruster says:

    ABL, I think you touched on a point that is often lost on most people.

    I remember watching movies such as “In the Heat of the Night” or “Nothing But a Man”, or any number of films in the provincial Southern genre. I would get a severely uncomfortable feeling knowing that these widely separated burgs were their own little fiefdoms, and that they could do whatever they wanted to you at will (and historically often did, flying in the face of any other entities attempting to bring these regular flagrant abuses to justice).

    It has since been sanitized so that even the corrupt local sheriff was co-opted in advertising as “the Dodge Sheriff” (“You in a heap a trouble now, boy!”). The character also appeared in a much less malevolent form in the “Smokey and the Bandit” pictures.

    Forgive the awkward analogy, but Southern blacks were the Palestinians of their day. Their mistreatment and oppression was seen as a “normal” (if not wholly justified) occurrence, and nothing for the general public to get worked up about.

  76. 76
    metricpenny says:

    Thanks ABL for sharing. I concur with Mr. Rice.

    My favorite quote of Dr. King’s is, “A man can’t ride your back unless it’s bent.”

  77. 77
    RosiesDad says:

    Thanks for sharing that, ABL. Important context and perspective that is not generally part of mainstream discussions of Dr. King’s legacy.

  78. 78
    Chris says:

    @LanceThruster:

    Forgive the awkward analogy, but Southern blacks were the Palestinians of their day.

    And that pretty much tells you all you need to know about the Republican Party’s Israel policy and what it’s based on.

  79. 79
    Elie says:

    @Kane:

    Abolutely — you got it — its the heart and soul of Obama’s strategy — the one I guess that makes him “weak”.
    Makes me laugh — yeah…you are weak if you hold to these principles. Right.

  80. 80
    jl says:

    From my very early memories of my right thinking white family, whites were most threatened when he did work explicitly to help all Americans, that is, when he explicitly took on social justice issues and advocated for social democracy for all Americans.

    “What business is that of his?” was the question I heard. The unspoken assumption was that his only official right thinking white approved business was to save African Americans from obvious and vicious social oppression that happened somewhere else and did not threaten the racial/ethnic (Edit: and economic class) accommodation the local community had reached.

    I think there were subconscious alarm bells that went off when an African American asserted his right to be an influential leader outside of his or her community.

    Influential wealthy white forces have been trying to turn King’s message upside down and inside out. Just as they have with FDR. Except King is a more sensitive issue because of dangerous reserve of racial bigotry that persists in the US (as I think we have all seen since Obama was elected). As long as retrograde racial prejudice persists, who, or what community, has legitimate authority to interpret his legacy for the contemporary scene will be a sensitive issue.

  81. 81
    Elie says:

    @Laertes:

    YOu know, I don’t know you, but if you are offering an oliver branch to ABL – or anyone for that matter, you might try a less condescending tone. Who are you to “teach” or judge her work in the sense of “if you did more work like this, maybe I would take you more seriously, or respect you more”?

    How would YOU like to receive that comment and how might you react?

    If you really do want to turn a page, you might just try giving the complement and leaving off the dig and judgement at the end. It shows your still underlying resentment and if it were me, I would be more likely to ignore your compliment and tell you to do something unpleasant.

  82. 82
    J says:

    ABL, in the interest of fairness, since I am one who oft complains about your contributions to this site, thanks for sharing this piece.

    It helped that your introduction had minimal caps/bold/italics ;). But seriously, thanks.

  83. 83
    Elie says:

    @metricpenny:

    That is a wonderful quote… thank you. so very true too..

  84. 84
    boss bitch says:

    Thanks for this. I was getting quite pissed off myself over the exploitation of Dr. King’s legacy.

  85. 85
    David in NY says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent): Well, you’ve certainly got a point there.

  86. 86
    jl says:

    I for one welcome ABL’s type setting. Even when I can’t figure out what ABL is talking about, and I know that I will not be able to figure out what the Very Big Problem some commenters will have with the post in the comments section, I always take a moment to appreciate the style of the post.

    But, then, I like pink and green stripes too, and they way they vibrate.

    But seriously, I don’t see what is the problem with a different style from one of the posters.

  87. 87

    @dww44:

    Oh, chill out
    Is your handle attached to my comment in this thread? Besides, I seem to remember you “wondering” if your facebook buds were right and Obama was “in over his head” . It is not the first time that meme has been posted on liberal blogs. Oddly enough, the wingnuts aren’t using it, but are claiming Obama has become a strongman dictator, or something along those lines. Alas, the fairy tales on the blogs. Where nothing is real, and nothing to get hung about

  88. 88
    Elie says:

    Even reading descriptions in a book can’t impart the level of terror that must have resided in every African American’s subconcious every hour of every day of their life?

    In fact, AA have higher rates of stressful medical conditions from hypertension to lower birth weight babies. Prevalence for hypertension and frequency of premature delivery is not reflected in other black populations, so its our own rates. Some can be accounted for by diet and lifestyle choices, but there is a literature that supports the impact on the ongoing stress of living in a racist culture

  89. 89
    Gravie says:

    ABL, thank you for this.

  90. 90

    @General Stuck:

    Where nothing is real, and nothing to get hung about

    Oops! almost forgot. And strawberry fields forever

  91. 91
    t jasper parnell says:

    @General Stuck: Eric Cantor, then, is not a wingnut?

    The House majority leader says the president is in over his head when it comes to the economy

    Or the good folks at the National Review

  92. 92

    @t jasper parnell:

    Touche!

    and

    To Whit!

    Google for thee, Google for me.

  93. 93
    Elie says:

    @Chris:

    You are right, but I think that how this value gets implemented is pretty important.

    Obama and indeed more significantly, Dr King, did not do “empty” lecturing — rubbing your opponent’s nose in their mistakes or errors. That kind of snarkiness always leads to regret and ends up highlighting not the desired values, but the values of one upmanship. Its a tightrope of course. You want to defend yourself and your goals, but being overly agressive and “in your [opponent’s] ace just obscures what you want to highlight. People generally know dignified and principled behavior, even when they pretend they don’t. It is just no good to mimic their worse behavior trying to appear falsely strong and aggressive (like to many of Obama’s opponents always want him to do)

  94. 94
    jl says:

    @Elie: I knew students and profs from Africa when I was in grad school, and a number of of the older ones had worked or studied in South Africa before it changed its ways at one time or another. They said that in some ways daily life in Los Angeles was more stressful that in South Africa. Reason being is that in South Africa, the rules were explicit, and if you were willing to follow them, or at least go through the motions of following them, everything went OK in terms of daily hassles with authorities. In Los Angeles, there was legal equality, but no way to tell what would happen with police and power structure. There were no safe rules to follow if you were black, and you could often get stopped or treated rudely, or assumed to be some kind of criminal at any time.

    Edit: to be clear, my point is not that ‘the US is worse than apartheid South Africa’. That would be nonsense. Just to point out that there are different sorts of stress and frustration a person has to deal with, and may not match up well with official policies a society claims it follows. While daily routine in South Africa may have been more predictable for these folks I knew than in going around LA, in other ways it was worse.

  95. 95
    Dave says:

    There’s no real point in comparing Obama to MLK, but if we’re going to, Obama’s basically some pointless schmuck.

  96. 96
    Mr. Poppinfresh says:

    Who gives a flying fuck about some idiots arguing over whether Obama can be critiqued via Dr. King. Obama can be fucking critiqued for rolling over on the $8.5 billion dollar BofA settlement and pressuring Eric Schneiderman and Beau Biden to sign on to this bullshit whitewashing exercise that will continue to hurt millions of Americans.

    I love watching people play this bullshit small-ball inside politics game with each other, anything to distract them from the fact that Obama is as big a Wall Street fluffer as the rest of them, and seems perfectly content to let a bunch of ex-Wall Street goons and buffoons “advise” him on how to “fix” the economy via the continued under-regulation of the SEC and Wall Street.

    Yeah yeah, he can’t pass legislation- but he CAN and DOES control Summers, Geithner, Bernanke, or even who he appoints to his inner circle (Bill Fucking Daley? Are you kidding me?)

    Some of us don’t give two shits about what Dr. West says, or any of this other crap, in the face of a massive orchestrated effort to white-wash the largest case of corporate malfeasance in U.S. history.

    Maybe you could write a fluff piece justifying that, I dunno.

  97. 97

    […] ABL. August 30, 2011 | Posted by: Frank | Posted in: Political Theatre | Bookmark this post […]

  98. 98
    t jasper parnell says:

    @General Stuck: I wasn’t disagreeing that some on the right claim he is a dictator manque but rather that the fundamental incoherence of the right when it comes to Obama leads them to insist that his one thing and its opposite all the time. Weak over his head, strong armed thug dictator, muslim/Black nationalist christian who is also an atheistic sochialist, and related etc. Odd, ayna?

  99. 99
  100. 100
    Elie says:

    @jl:

    I believe that.

    Being a black man in the United States is a singular act of courage.

    I certainly don’t want to rephrase what has been documented over and over, but it is hard to understand what it feels like to truly be under scrutiny and to totally capricious treatment.

    Even being a black woman doesnt approach this, though my husband, who is white, had a fleeting experience of a little of what it felt like when I gave a speech at a resort in Alabama about ten years ago. We were stared at — blatantly. When we received service in the restaurant, there was definitely an attitude and a sense of resentment and hostility. He had never experienced it and I had never experienced racism quite so blatantly. Once you “see it”, you are changed forever. I cannot imagine what it was living this every damned day, as my parents did growing up in the south.

  101. 101
    Carol says:

    @Tony J: Tony, Jewish people had far more money than African-Americans did. Not everybody was rich or even close to it, but at least there was a ladder to a better life through education, homeownership. At least there was some freedom to travel, to take a job better than cleaning houses or sweeping streets, to own a business and profit from it. And while the Klan hated both, there wasn’t the terror. Thankfully, there was no Jewish equivalent of Rosewood or Emmitt Till.

  102. 102
    gogol's wife says:

    @Steve:

    I have only read to here, but you have expressed my thoughts exactly. Brachiator says, “This kind of stuff invites anyone who is not black to shrug his or her shoulders and say, ‘Dr King has got nothing to do with me.’” I’m white, and that’s not what it invites me to do. It invites me to understand the specific experience of black people, one that I did not share, and to realize the meaning of King’s work in that context. Understanding the specificity doesn’t stop me from being able to also understand it in a larger human context.

  103. 103
    Elie says:

    @Mr. Poppinfresh:

    he absolutely can pass legislation.

    Hey, you are entitled to your opinion, but not your own facts. You may disagree that he is a good President and represents what YOU think are priorities and judge those effects. Certainly your right..

    But its not fluff to praise his MANY accomplishments and his fortitude in the face and relentless and ongoing contempt and attack. Not saying you are doing any of it, per se, but if you have a right to be contemptuous and critical, others of us have a right to note and praise him.
    In other words, WE DONT HAVE TO ASK YOU FOR PERMISSION TO PRAISE OR HIGHLIGHT HIS ACCOMPLISHMENTS. If you do not like to read it, then go somewhere else or take up knitting instead of blogging here. Close your eyes even.

  104. 104

    Hamden Rice didn’t say Martin Luther King, Jr. wasn’t there to help all races out. He said that King came to African-Americans first and foremost. The agenda King had was so vast, the momentum from such a shift would cause a lot of second-order effects (such as this little Alabama white boy growing up to despise racism). But his work’s first and sufficient priority was for African-Americans in the South. On this, I agree with Mr. Rice unreservedly.

  105. 105
    Mr. Poppinfresh says:

    Who the fuck told you to ask permission to praise him? Christ, what an insane way to look at the world.

    The fucker is RIGHT NOW pressuring AGs in Delaware and New York to bury a proper investigation of the banking sector, and you want to talk about praising him?

    If he was sitting in the Oval Office on live TV right this second about to bite into a baby sandwich, would I have to preface my objections to that act with a mention of Lily Ledbetter?

  106. 106
    Culture of Truth says:

    Fascinating piece. Thanks for posting.

  107. 107
    Elie says:

    @Mr. Poppinfresh:

    Your tone is excessively coarse and confrontational – actually violent.

    You are not serving your issue well. You come across just a violent, inarticulate dick. There are a lot of those around these days. Does nothing for what you are trying to present. Go disrupt some other blog. I hope folks will ignore you as I am going to now…

    shoo, shoo, go away now…

  108. 108
    Mr. Poppinfresh says:

    Oh, I see, you must be new here.

    Telling me to shoo is pretty cute, though. I was here when Cole was a retarded Republican, and I’ll stick around and suffer through his funbmings at Democratitude.

    You, though, are just an idiot. I come to this shocking conclusion by the fact that you’d rather whine about how mean I am than look into the truly awful behavior of the WH on this particular file. I hope you and the others enjoy picking at your bellybutton lint (sorry, I meant terribly important issues of the day) while the President fucks up the single biggest file on his desk. You know, the one that touches every person in this country, be they black, white, brown, or purple.

  109. 109

    @t jasper parnell:

    Weak over his head, strong armed thug dictator, muslim/Black nationalist christian who is also an atheistic sochialist, and related etc. Odd, ayna?

    You are correct :-)

  110. 110
    geg6 says:

    No white butthurt here. I think this diary is right on. Thanks for posting it, ABL. And welcome back. I sorely missed you.

  111. 111
    CynDee says:

    @Dave: That’s not a helpful statement. Such a sweeping generality is just something to say and adds nothing. Obama has accomplishments and character. We all do, in some combination. The greatness of others does not nullify what the rest of us have to offer. You say there is no point in comparing, but then you go ahead and do it in a juvenile way.

    There CAN be a very good point in comparing — greatness in others is well-known to inspire us to nurture our own lesser gifts and understand or achieve more than perhaps we would have otherwise.

  112. 112
    Emperor of Ice Cream says:

    When I was young I was always frustrated by the fact that I could never REALLY know what people thought. The Internet has opened a window into that – especially in the comments on blogs and news stories. The anonymity is freeing that way. It has revealed that most people only think about themselves – and I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way. It’s just that very few people seem to be able to analyze and empathize outside of their own particular experience and limited understanding. This often leads to very bad places. We see it here in the ferocious response to ABL and her postings. I too am restricted as a white man of a certain age, but I like to think that now and then I’m capable of stepping outside my own experience to appreciate and understand another’s truth. ABL is a truth teller (her own at the very least) and I rejoice at her return. Great essay. Thanks for sharing it.

  113. 113
    Montysano says:

    I recently read John Barry’s “Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927”, which I can highly recommend for a variety of reasons, chief among them that it reads like a novel, and that it helped me understand why the post-Reconstruction South went so wrong.

    In doing some ancillary reading on the topic, I learned that the last racial lynching in America was right here in Alabama… in 1981. Barely a generation ago. I had no idea. For white Americans, it’s receded into the distant past. For blacks, not so much, and indeed the Bull Goose Freakout that occurred after Obama’s election has to be a chilling experience for African Americans.

  114. 114
    Allan says:

    @Mr. Poppinfresh:

    If he was sitting in the Oval Office on live TV right this second about to bite into a baby sandwich,

    Are you sure you want to use cannibalism imagery while making your case that your criticisms of President Obama are race-neutral?

  115. 115
    The Sheriff's A Ni- says:

    Some of us don’t give two shits about what Dr. West says, or any of this other crap, in the face of a massive orchestrated effort to white-wash the largest case of corporate malfeasance in U.S. history.

    It’s all about you, isn’t it, whitey?

  116. 116
    Mr. Poppinfresh says:

    @Allan: Pick your unabashedly horrific metaphor, then; I could care less what it was.

    “Back a car over your grandmother” sufficiently race-neutral for you?

  117. 117
    Nutella says:

    @Emperor of Ice Cream:

    I like to think that now and then I’m capable of stepping outside my own experience to appreciate and understand another’s truth.

    I’m always grateful for essays like Rice’s that show us the author’s experiences so clearly that we can do that.

  118. 118
  119. 119
    singfoom says:

    @Elie: I’m going to go on record here with Mr. Poppinfresh.

    I can criticize the actions or non-actions of President Obama without writing a paean to his successes. You’re the one with bad facts.

    The Obama administration IS pressuring Scheiderman and other AGs to take the bad fraudclosure deal. He owns that. It is a valid criticism.

    That exists outside of criticizing the man or even referencing the dynamics of race. Go ahead and praise the accomplishments, but fuck you if you think I or anyone need permission to gripe about the administrations bad or non-actions.

  120. 120
    Mr. Poppinfresh says:

    @Allan: The joke answer here would be a Pontiac, clearly.

    But seriously, people, you need to read about this settlement push by the Obama people, and get involved. If this goes through, the entire country will lose the legal ability to launch civil or criminal suits against banks for anything that falls under this blanket immunity, including fraudulent robosignings and other criminal practices.

    Stop fucking talking about Cornel West and get mad about the REAL issue staring us in the face.

  121. 121
    ABL says:

    @Mr. Poppinfresh:

    Stop fucking talking about Cornel West and get mad about the REAL issue staring us in the face.

    i so love it when people tell me i’m getting mad about the wrong thing. gee whiz, that’s never happened to me before.

    next time i’ll be sure to ask you what the “REAL” issue is, and i’ll write about that.

    better yet, why don’t you write about it yourself and submit it to cole? i’m sure he’d love to hear from you.

    he loves fan mail.

    -ABL

  122. 122
    danimal says:

    This was a moving post. Thank you.

    A couple of weeks ago, I read a comment about the hurdles President Obama faces that are not acknowledged or recognized by many white liberals as they wonder why Obama doesn’t play hardball in the Team Red/Team Blue wankfest that passes for American politics. We are richer people when white liberals like myself are reminded of the legacy of America’s racial politics.

    It’s why I can forgive lapses in blog etiquette or strange formatting. We need the perspective that ABL brings to the table.

  123. 123
    Montysano says:

    @Mr. Poppinfresh:

    Stop fucking talking about Cornel West and get mad about the REAL issue staring us in the face.

    This is a blog. Blogs have posts. Often the posts are about a specific topic. This is the case with this particular post: it has a topic, and the topic at hand is not the topic about which you are ranting.

    Perhaps you’re new to the internet. Perhaps you’re a moron. Maybe both. Just trying to help.

  124. 124
    Brachiator says:

    @johnsmith1882:

    Rice’s essay is the finer point upon which to build from.

    Actually I agree here. Rice and I are both criticizing the same wrongheaded attitude.

    So, to get back to the point, you can’t just start with “Human Liberation”, you have to start with the histories that make up the greater story.

    I was not in any way trying to abstract the particulars of history into “human liberation.” But the point, as is documented in Dr King’s letter from Birmingham, is that struggles for dignity are interconnected, even though there are people who want to see their own history and struggle as discrete and disconnected or their special personal property.

    Frederick Douglass was deeply supportive of women’s rights (a respect not always returned), and was in turn championed by the great Irish leader Daniel O’Connell, who saw abolition and Irish rights as two sides of the same coin. And as everyone should know, the nonviolent American Civil Rights movement would not have developed as it did had not black American civil rights leaders seen themselves in the people of India struggling for independence.

    You can’t understand the story of the American Revolution without understanding the life of Benjamin Franklin

    or Benjamin Banneker and Crispus Attucks and Chief Joseph. The Harlem Renaissance, for example, also saw the rise of an interracial gay movement, and yet there are writers and historians who cannot acknowledge this and try to keep gay and black history in separate but only semi-equal boxes.

  125. 125
    Mr. Poppinfresh says:

    @ABL: Oh, I wasn’t directing this at you; I know you’re a writeoff in terms of capability to criticize this administration for anything up to and including nuking Des Moines.

    Some of these people might actually read up about the issue and write a letter, though, so there’s yet hope.

    But don’t you worry, you keep on doing whatever it is you call this.

  126. 126
    TimmyB says:

    @Jay B.:

    Exactly right. ABL takes a great Dkos diary on what MLK means to an African-American and tries to make it about Obama. Then she uses it to attack Dr. West, a well known Obama critic.

    However, the actual diary itself has nothing to do with either Obama or Dr. West. That’s ABL’s doing. Her comments about Obama and Dr. West only detract from some great writing. She’s peeing in the pool here.

  127. 127
    Mr. Poppinfresh says:

    @Montysano: The topic in question has yet to come up on this blog, and I picked this one to express my frustration at the small-ball arguments that are taking place instead.

    Given the way ABL comment threads usually go, I suppose I should have known better, and appended this to a Doug thread instead. Mea culpa.

  128. 128
    LanceThruster says:

    @jl:

    Good points all. That uncertainty made things extremely Kafka-esque.

  129. 129
    Jax6655 says:

    @danimal:

    It’s why I can forgive lapses in blog etiquette or strange formatting.

    Nothing needs to be ‘forgiven’ here. Different is not WRONG. I don’t know you personally but what you wrote here sounds like the typical [white] liberal excusing the ‘poor unfortunate Black person for her errors because she can’t help it’ or something.

    The woman is an attorney, for heaven’s sake!! Did the thought ever occur to you [or any of you] that SHE WANTS IT TO LOOK LIKE THAT???? She’s hardly stupid nor in need of your forgiveness.

    Jeez!

    ETA: I don’t know your race. I’m just saying what your comment sounds like to me.

  130. 130
    Elie says:

    @singfoom:

    So Obama is personally arm wrestling these ags. Links to that please and particularly to the conclusion you are making. (Sorry, I know you think you are cool, but I have no idea about how correct you are)

    I think that I pretty much said upstring that everyone has a right to their opinion. I am definitely supportive of hearing criticism of Mr Obama when couched in respectful, even handed tone. I do not like to feel attacked by violent images and a disrespectful tone.

    Of course, it depends on what one’s goal is. If your goal is to convince me of your view, then a nice tone, coherent argument and citations of your facts go a long way with me.

    I am not an unabashed Obama supporter. I find myself defending him more stringently in the face of unfair and aggressive attacks that seem unaffected by other information, mitigating factors or corrections. That seems self defeating to me if your desire is to convince me of your point, don’t you think.

    People like to spar here and I have a certain tolerance for it. It does get boring though reading the same critiques over and over and no real honesty about the purpose. No — Obama is not perfect and mistake free. He has done many good things in his two year tenure. What is signiicat to me is that many of you just cite the criticism and actually say sometimes that he has accomplished nothing. Others have said he is no better than W. You actually think that wins others to your side?

    All this the long way to say, that maybe if you keep getting a negative response to your comments, you may wish to examine what you are saying. People just turn off stupid insults and poor command of facts.

  131. 131
    t jasper parnell says:

    @Mr. Poppinfresh: You are, of course, wrong. The big issue is not giving some fraudsters slaps on the wrists but rather jobs jobs and more jobs. Your focus on a meaningless issue like punishment is so small ball when compared with the crying need to remake the economy, I think you just not only ate several babies but also ran me and other un and under employed Americans under your gold-plated BMW.

    See how insisting that your issue isn’t the issue works?

    I encourage others to derail a conversation about the use and abuse of King’s meaning through demanding that this post be about what matters to them. Curse words score double.

  132. 132
    Ben Cisco says:

    Wow, ABL.
    __
    “Don’t call it a comeback!”

  133. 133
  134. 134
    t jasper parnell says:

    @Elie: Thanks, although I meant is not isn’t.

  135. 135
    Mr. Poppinfresh says:

    @Elie: Did you miss the link before? Here you go, direct to the NYT this time.

    @t jasper parnell: If you think this is about “slaps on the wrist”, you are an idiot. If you think that our economy will recover in any meaningful way with the banking sector free to continue their activities under the auspices of a new legal fig leaf, you are an even bigger idiot.

    Part of the “jobs jobs jobs” agenda is real reform that will ensure we don’t immediately drive the bus back into the ditch. Giving banks legal immunity in return for a tiny pittance is pretty much admitting Game Over on a functioning American economy.

  136. 136
    Jager says:

    @MonkeyBoy: When I was at Fort Benning, Ga in the sixties, I heard a couple of my fellow trainees talking about “plankin Niggers”….sliding a plank out of the car window and hitting somebody walking down the road in the back of the head with it. They were yukkin it up pretty good until Sgt Raoul McGinnis walked into the barracks and gave them a really hard look!

  137. 137
    t jasper parnell says:

    @Mr. Poppinfresh: And good evening to you, although I miss your jolly laugh.

    If you think that bank fraud punishment is going to fix the economy you’re an idiot. If you that creating a sustainable economy filled with decent-paying jobs won’t solve the problem of a boom and bust economy that outsources jobs, you’re a bigger idiot.

    See how argument by assertion with personal insult works?

  138. 138
    danimal says:

    Jax–I’m white and I was mocking some previous commenters with my comment about formatting and blog etiquette. Apparently that’s a big deal for some folks.

  139. 139
    some guy says:

    (H/T rootless_e at The People’s View!)

    too funny. cheerleaders gotta cheer.

  140. 140
    Jax6655 says:

    @danimal:

    . . . lapses in blog etiquette or strange formatting. . .

    I stand by what I said. Lapses? Strange formatting?

    Says who?

    ETA: You missed my point. You implied that because it’s been tough for Black people [whatever] that’s why you forgive her ‘lapses and strange formatting.’ What does one have to do with the other?

  141. 141
    Elie says:

    @Mr. Poppinfresh:

    I am impressed with your coherent and respectful tone.

    It is troubling that we have not been able to fix or “punish” all the financial folks who literally robbed us and rob us today. Of course, undertaking that full throttle would probably upended any other agenda and punishing them doesnt give us jobs, health care or anything else.

    He has had two years and got a big big mess. Our mess wasnt just created in the last two years or even the twenty years before that. Punishing takes a lot of capital. Do you think he would have receive the support from the blue dog congress to do that? How about all his vacant appointments to the court — how much impact do you think?

    I agree, it would be great to see these guys and their crap punished. I do think that it would be extremely difficult to do in the first two years of his presidency given the other issues. You may disagree.

    Thanks for being nice in your words/response.

    Hey, how about writing Cole to set up your own post about this rather than hijacking this thread?

  142. 142
    t jasper parnell says:

    @t jasper parnell: Or how about this:

    In a move eagerly anticipated by labor and dreaded by employers, the NLRB today issued its decision in Specialty Healthcare. I’ve referred to this case several times over the last few months, and for good reason. The case presented the NLRB with a chance to redefine what constitutes a unit of employees that’s appropriate for bargaining.

    Bottom line: It will be significantly easier for unions to organize almost any workplace, thus stemming the steep decline in private-sector union membership. Workplaces previously thought by employers to be insulated form organizational efforts now are much more vulnerable, almost as vulnerable as they would have been had the Employee Free Choice Act passed.

    Because of your brain dead focus on a show trial, you idiotic fuck, you missed the big news that Obama’s administration is rolling back decades of anti-Labor rules and regulations, it ispaving the way to an ever-improving economy, you idiot you.

    You make it too easy to mock your self-righteous nonsense, but I’ve always had a soft spot for the rolls.

  143. 143
    growingdaisies says:

    First, ABL, thanks for sharing this piece.

    Second, I found Taylor Branch’s history of the Civil Rights movement was incredibly instructive along these themes. Soul-crushingly instructive, in a way. You wonder how humanity managed to make it this far.

    Third: “This kind of stuff invites anyone who is not black to shrug his or her shoulders and say, “Dr King has got nothing to do with me.”

    No. This is only a concern if you can’t look at that post, and say, yes, this is something black people did, something incredible that they accomplished — and simultaneously recognize that they are Americans. It’s even entirely possible to be proud of that while recognizing and acknowledging how wrong white people were. The people who accomplished this incredible thing are our fellow citizens. How can you not be honored and moved and inspired?

    It’s like looking at the Revolutionary War and thinking, “Well, that only matters to British expats.”

  144. 144

    @singfoom:

    The Obama administration IS pressuring Scheiderman and other AGs to take the bad fraudclosure deal. He owns that. It is a valid criticism.

    It is valid criticism, if also considered the reasons why the O Administration is pressuring the states to drop their actions and accept a federal settlement. Word has it, because there are some good incentives for the banks to help folks stay in their homes, instead of playing games with them. And not having to defend against lawsuits and criminal probes and actions.

    It is a fair position to want the state actions to continue, as it is to weigh long term legal actions, in lieu of actually helping real people stay off the streets and in their homes. Just don’t make it sound like Obama is doing it for no reason, other than what those reasons are.

  145. 145
    rikyrah says:

    thanks ABL. this was righteous and I’ve nodded everytime I’ve read it.

  146. 146
    danimal says:

    Jax–

    Lapses? Strange formatting? Says who?

    Maybe you haven’t been around long enough to know that there is a cottage industry on this blog criticizing ABL’s posts over her formatting. She acknowledges the criticism in her previous post TODAY. It’s not hard to find.

    For Christ’s sake, I agree with your point.

    My whole point was that we need ABL’s point of view on this blog and the formatting critiques are distractions from the real and valid points she makes. If my use of the word ‘forgive’ offends you, please accept my apologies.

  147. 147
    Donut says:

    I read Mr. Rice’s piece on Great Orange Satan early this morning, while drinking morning coffee, and I stopped to cry and collect myself three times.

    I am gonna sound totally condescending to some of you – and what the fuck do I care – but if you can’t see the truth in this piece and especially if you are offended by it, you are a fucking ignorant ass. Really, to argue with the central point of this piece is fucking idiotic. I’m not an African American but I am descended from people who were treated somewhat similarly not too long ago, and I don’t find it difficult at all to see the fucking point and power in what Rice has to say. If this piece confuses you, I ask you to read it again and clear your mind of anything but empathy. Then read it again. And if you’re still confused, try again.

  148. 148

    @Mr. Poppinfresh: Instead of frothing bile, maybe you could have tried posting some sort of link with some background on the issue. Then instead of comparing the Administration position with eating babies you could have made the case that the proposed deal lets the banks off too easy in regard to possible future litigation on those who securitized the bad loans in return for a settlement against those companies that are robo-forclosing. A settlement only 20 billion dollars to be used to help mortgage holders could be seen as far too little to let the banks off the hook for future litigation. Although, it appears that some aren’t sure that the deal will prevent this and a lot of the conflict now is over just how far the immunity to future litigation will go. There seems to be two valid positions and I can see where you could make you case that the New York AG,Eric Schneiderman, has the better case.

    But instead you seem to want to convince me to hate Obama as much as you apparently do rather than consider and become a supporter of Schneiderman’s position.

  149. 149
    Donut says:

    However, the actual diary itself has nothing to do with either Obama or Dr. West. That’s ABL’s doing. Her comments about Obama and Dr. West only detract from some great writing. She’s peeing in the pool here.

    @TimmyB:

    Hey, ABL – I am glad to see you posting here today and also wish you you would post here more – but I think TimmyB actually has a good point. Rice’s piece is not about Obama. I wouldn’t call your added comments peeing in the pool, as Timmy does, but I don’t know what good it does to inject the president into this discussion in the way you did. Not saying you shouldn’t or should have, just that I don’t know why. I suspect you just can’t help baiting the usual butthurter, and they have obliged you accordingly.

    Anyway….

  150. 150
    Elie says:

    @magurakurin:

    The irony is that they accomplish the oppositve of providing support for their point of view. Instead, they offend and people don’t even hear their point given the vitriol so apparent about Obama…

    Still, none of this makes sense on some level. Presumably, if one is a Democrat or liberal, you would not have the severe, bile filled hatred that so many of these folks have.. you might criticize his priorities, decisions, but where does the hate come from? Where the horrible things he has been called by those on his own side? (supposedly). The violence of that verbal image — eating babies — is so perverse that it just makes me ignore anything else they say.

  151. 151
    LanceThruster says:

    It’s a bit off-topic but ABL’s analysis of Dr. King’s actual legecy made me think of this.

    Goppers regularly contend that the Civil War was about states rights primarily; not slavery.

    But author James W. Loewen, in his book _The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader: The “Great Truth” about the “Lost Cause”_ establishes that the South Carolina secession declaration cited New York’s refusal to honor the Fugitive Slave Act. Subsequent secessionist states pretty copied SC’s declaration and inserted their names.

    Further detail found here: Five myths about why the South seceded

    I first became aware of this author from an interview for Pacifica Radio.

  152. 152
    aisce says:

    @ ben cisco

    Wow, ABL.
    __
    “Don’t call it a comeback!”

    this is a weird sentiment that keeps cropping up. 97% of this post is someone else’s words.

    which is what most of the internet is, after all. reposting, linking, and aggregating the work of some other, better, more incisive writer than yourself.

    i would say “wow, random dailykos dude,” personally. maybe he should write for this site.

  153. 153
    Luci says:

    I am woefully behind, as I’ve been very busy, but I did read that ABL had not been around and she has been missed. I would really like to say that it is wonderful to see a post by you here, and I hope to see more! Please do not leave us!!! :) I don’t know all what is going on with that, but I always enjoy your posts and thank you very much for all of them!

  154. 154
    Keith G says:

    @Elie:

    I do not like to feel attacked by violent images and a disrespectful tone.

    Unpacking that line again, are ya?

  155. 155
    Elie says:

    @Keith G:

    Yep.

    How are you?

    I admit sometimes I am more feisty than others. I don’t mind a certain amount of swearing, etc. Some images however are exceptional and unnecessary… besides, it works against having people accept your point — they just get pissed off and offended. If that is not one’s goal, then one should reevaluate, right?

    I have been known to be a meanie mouth. It is not something that I think overall is effective for me. I like snarky humor better but some days I am crankier than others.

  156. 156
    Jax6655 says:

    @danimal: @danimal:

    For Christ’s sake, I agree with your point.

    Except you still don’t get my point.

    That said, yes, it was the ‘forgive her lapses’ to which I took umbrage. I don’t want to get into a thread war so I’ll drop it and accept your very sincere apology.

    BTW–I’ve been visiting this blog since mid-2008. Long-time lurker, newbie commenter.

  157. 157
    Dave says:

    @CynDee: Put it on a Hallmark card.

  158. 158
    BethanyAnne says:

    Regarding formatting, I find the fact that ABL makes some of her text blue at the beginning of most of her pieces confusing. Looks like a link, but isn’t. I guess that’s on purpose? A minor point, but I guess since I do UI for a living, it stands out to me.

  159. 159
    salacious crumb says:

    hey ABL!

    Amy Davidson of the New Yorker, a big supporter of Obama, recently criticized his intervention in Libya and his by passing Congress over this. is she racist? I mean I think she is because she is only allowed to praise him, but if anyone criticizes Dear Leader Obama that person is most DEFINITELY racist!!

    Please let Al Sharpton know that we need to rally Americans to picket fences in front of Amy’s offices. Then Matt Taibbi is next. And then AL Qaeda lover Glenn Greenwald, who worships black people hater Jane Hamsher. We should also consider throwing a warning to Jon Stewart. No criticizing Obama!

  160. 160
    MikeMc says:

    Are Cornell West and Tavis Smiley important figures in the Black community? Maybe, Pres. Obama hasn’t done enough for African Americans, but the mere fact that he got elected President means he’s done more than these two ever will.

  161. 161

    @TimmyB:

    Exactly right. ABL takes a great Dkos diary on what MLK means to an African-American and tries to make it about Obama.

    Psst. She’s an African American. I think she gets to tell us what his message means to her in today’s climate. Crazy, I know.

  162. 162
    Elie says:

    @MikeMc:

    there is a lot of jealousy that masks as other things…

    Sadder commentary about them than him…

  163. 163

    @salacious crumb:

    is she racist?

    No, but you’re a fucking moron.

  164. 164
    MikeMc says:

    @salacious crumb: Didn’t he win in Libya? No, seriously, be mad. I’m sure it’s the Presidents fault and not your shitty life during his first term.

  165. 165
    Keith G says:

    @Elie: I am well, thanks.

    If that is not one’s goal, then one should reevaluate, right?

    I do not know what his goal is. Maybe you should ask.

    It is possible that he just needed to vent ongoing frustration caused by actions that are viewed to be unfair. Maybe he wanted to use drama to attract attention to and issue that most are not thinking about. Either way, maybe he was in part successful.

  166. 166
    Dr. Squid says:

    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.

    In all seriousness, this was approximately the plot of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. (You don’t think Dr. Seuss could have pinched the news of the day and made a parable out of it, eh?) Except white folks’ hearts didn’t grow four sizes at the end – they just seethed that they couldn’t use firehoses anymore.

    GWB must have made the firehose right feel liberated with his use of torture.

  167. 167
    Monala says:

    @Elie:
    Not just Obama; Mandela, too.

  168. 168
    Elie says:

    @Keith G:

    I guess. Not sure how much convincing he did, but you are right, he DID call attention to himself. As you know, the issue is a little less black and white and a little more complex, and it was not the topic of the thread. For everyone he could have brought to his side with a coherent, well documented argument, he instead offended with bizarre, violent images. I also don’t think disrespecting the President through ad hominem attacks does much to help his cause.

    Hey, tell me. Would someone get you to understand their passion through insulting you and completely dismissing your point of view? How many times would you have to be on the receiving end of that before you ignored the person or told him to do something involving odd body parts and their foot?

    I have been working on local enviro issues and its not uncommon to run into people who oppose our group. We have learned from that principled opposition and it helps us to figure out what we can get done and work to be successful.

    But why would I expect one of my team mates to not only tell us we are wrong but stupid and worthless and wimps? Would you expect that from your team mates? I would be shocked to be accused of selling out our salmon restoration project because I want to buddy up with BP (one of the corporations that own land around here and who we work with on salmon restoration). Over and over I ask the folks that I don’t like their attitude and please acknowledge this or that, and I instead get more aggressive and offensive language that seems out of line with who they SAY they are. Sorry — just does not hang together. My suspicion and their very real negative impact echoed all over the MSM and bloggs keeps me suspicious and avoidant.

    The PUMA and other windbaggers can’t seem to appreciate how odd their behavior is when viewed from the perspective of being on our side (supposedly). I get told that I am a mindless Obot but I truly do not understand the vibe or world view which both insults their own team mates and is so completely pessimistic given the short tenure of this President in office and the huge problems inherited as well as significant successes.

  169. 169
    Elie says:

    @Monala:

    Thanks for the link and the content — amazing…

    Just think if we could implement this awareness broadly…

  170. 170
    dww44 says:

    @General Stuck: Hi, General Stuck, I’ve been off chilling out but returned expecting to see a reply of this sort.

    Is your handle attached to my comment in this thread?

    Nope, it didn’t need to be. There weren’t any other comments on that thread or any subsequent one that I’m aware of that mentioned this particular “meme.”

    Besides, I seem to remember you “wondering” if your facebook buds were right and Obama was “in over his head” . It is not the first time that meme has been posted on liberal blogs. Oddly enough, the wingnuts aren’t using it,

    Nope, I never said nor implied any such thing. . And, where I live, that “in over his head” is employed by conservatives, tea partiers, all degrees of non-liberal acquaintances and non-acquaintances. I personally haven’t come across that meme from actual liberals.

    Again, you’ve misinterpreted me and my comments, and I’m just setting the record straight. No fairy tale blogs for me.

  171. 171
    Shawn in ShowMe says:

    @BethanyAnne:

    She isn’t the one doing it. The stylesheet for the site makes all heading tags blue. Such is life at Balloon Juice. But hey, at least we got a neato pie filter.

  172. 172
    Ruckus says:

    @Elie:
    An awful lot of truth in that statement.
    Why is it that is seems to me to be easier to find jealousy in people that have a modicum to a lot of stuff/job/life than those that don’t have much at all?

  173. 173
    Shawn in ShowMe says:

    @MikeMc:

    Cornell and Tavis are legends in their own minds. Tavis is butthurt because Obama declined an invitation to his Black State of the Union (as did every other presidential candidate). West is on some high school clique bullshit.

    Color me shocked that Obama prefers the company of fun people like Melissa Harris-Lacewell and Jamie Foxx rather than insufferable bores like Cornell West.

  174. 174
    Bruce S says:

    I hate to say it, because there is some value in what this piece is attempting to convey, but it’s remarkably a-historical in terms of the actual civil rights movement and reifies the notion that King was some sort of superhero. It’s almost the inverse of what it argues against. The importance of Dr. King was that he was able to mobilize a mass movement – along with some other brilliant strategists. That mass movement was what transformed this country. The leadership was crucial, but there were also moments in King’s life when the leadership failed – notably in Chicago, which was a stain on the nation that in some ways was more indelible than Birmingham. Also, it’s crucial to remember that King transformed himself into a spokesman for the anti-Vietnam war movement and died leading a movement of striking workers. So, yes, his vision was indeed clear beyond the narrowest interpretation of civil rights or southern segregation. That was the core legacy, but it’s neither historically accurate nor ultimately very useful in the present tense to limit King to that. These comments have nothing to do with Cornel West, incidentally, who is a poseur IMHO. As someone who actually DOES know what King did when he was alive and who actively participated in the movement, I just want to caution against falling for the trap of turning King into an icon – which has as a general rule worked to neuter his radicalism – to fail to recognize that it was SNCC workers who risked the most on a daily basis in the most violent parts of the South, or to put blinders on his own vision, which was – as the civil rights bills were passed, ten years on his risking his life and exercising incredible moral and strategic leadership – one of the most prophetic and encompassing of any political actor of the 20th Century.

    (Semi-random thoughts on a sensitive issue. I know that an ABL thread is no place to do nuance or stray from the groupthink cluster, but I don’t need an imaginary black friend and I actually have life experience that suggests something other than rote response when Dr. King’s legacy is the issue. Also, I truly dislike that stale & mediocre statue, apparently realized by some guy who also did the petrified Chairman Maos – it looks like a tribute to the world’s greatest high school principal. Epic fail. Very disturbing that this was the best that was offered to the greatest American of my lifetime and one of my [few] true heroes, in the best sense of that word.)

  175. 175
    Keith G says:

    Apples and oranges – your local working group vs quick quips on a blog proudly known as snarling pack of vicious vitriolic jackals. Surely you knew that when you first showed up here a few month ago. Your group is a serious attempt to get things done. This, well, this is a forum for recreational blather.

    But you are not totally out of place here as you seem quick enough to call names (PUMA, windbagger etc) and you are quite able to project your emotional preferences onto others.

    …so completely pessimistic given the short tenure of this President in office and the huge problems inherited as well as significant successes.

    It is a tough and thankless job that Barak asked to do. Very few presidents are liked more on their last day than they were on their first. Obama will be fine.

  176. 176
    Bruce S says:

    I just want to add, that insofar as the core of this commentary is about what black folks did at the behest of King’s leadership and example, it is entirely on point.

  177. 177
    Lyrebird says:

    re: Rice posting

    [stands.]

    [applauds.]

    I’ve been using “terrorism” for a while re: lynchings bc it’s true.

    re: Dr King too stood on the shoulders of giants, and many of those giants were little old church ladies:

    Can we make every child (or adult) in America watch the “Eyes on the Prize” series pls?

  178. 178
    Keith G says:

    @Bruce S: Like all important leaders (and especially martyrs), King is always in danger of being used selectively, especially by those who feel a special connection.

    He is truly a great American and world hero. I wish that this were enough.

  179. 179
    Bruce S says:

    Adam Serwer had this good comment on King at American Prospect:

    “King became much easier for the Silent Majority to love once he was dead. No longer alive to demand that black people be able to buy homes in their neighborhoods, that workers be
    allowed to unionize and speak poignantly about American militarism
    bankrupting the country, money that would be better spent investing in
    poor and working people. Without death, there would have been no
    beatification of King. His voice silenced, it became much easier to
    pretend that all along, he had been saying the things we all wanted to
    hear. ”

    King has been relentlessly neutered by people he would have reviled…

  180. 180
    Elie says:

    @Bruce S:

    You know, I also first believed as you that the MLK memorial could have been executed more effectively…

    I will see it soon and make up my mind myself, but I read a little background about why the frontality and the surrounding structure of the piece was as it was: to carve a pillar of hope out of a mountain of despair. Surrounding the centerpiece figure of MLK are the stone mountains from which his image emerges. That by itself is a big help.

    You know, we are complex beings with deep and complex needs and perspectives. No reason that I or anyone or the sculptor should be beyond questioning or accountability to what we project..

    I agree that the power of MLK was in the movement he engendered. If you have tried to lead anything, you now how hard it is to bring enough energy or present the energy, to have people “catch on fire” to do great things. In my life, an individual who can inspire that is a rare rare being — precious not because by himself he answers or solves every dilemma or every challenge, but because it seems that the energy from the universe flows through him to us and to those who will do all of the millions of task both noble and humble.

    We had people lose their lives — their LIVES for this. Not to mention all the thousands of lives before the 50’s of the union soldiers curled up in the fields of Pennsylvania.

    We have been so fortunate to have “the right one” at just the right time for the energy to flow through and help us all “bend the curve” towards justice.

    Please don’t resent Dr King’s fame and his singularity any more than you would resent any gift brought to us — our country and civilization through the miracle of vision and the power of inspiration. Dr King was not just reflecting his own spirit in the power of his words and being, but the spirit of all that is deep and joyous and good in all of us.. we recognized him and he helped us see ourselves and our own power.

  181. 181
    Odie Hugh Manatee says:

    I’m as pasty white as it gets and I have always thought of MLK as a hero, just not my hero. Our nation is a better place because of him (though it has one hell of a long way to go still) and I will always be grateful for his sacrifices, and the sacrifices of others, to help make it so.

    I cringe when I hear white people pontificating about MLK, especially when it’s in a way that fits whatever argument they are making.

  182. 182
    Elie says:

    @Keith G:

    Keith;

    what on earth do you mean by “you wish that this was enough”?

    I am not indignant…just truly questioning..

    Do you mean he was just a man with failings and that he didnt/couldnt do all the myriad of tasks/challenges to fulfil the civil rights movement BY HIMSELF?

  183. 183
    Elie says:

    @Keith G:

    Keith;

    what on earth do you mean by “you wish that this was enough”?

    I am not indignant…just truly questioning..

    Do you mean he was just a man with failings and that he didnt/couldnt do all the myriad of tasks/challenges to fulfil the civil rights movement BY HIMSELF?

  184. 184
    Keith G says:

    @Elie:

    Please don’t resent Dr King’s fame and his singularity any more than you would resent any gift brought to us

    Huh? Help me out, where does Bruce communicate resentment?

  185. 185

    @dww44:

    Alright, enough of this bullshit. First, you attributed a quote to me that I didn’t make, then used some lame excuse that actually I did somehow say it. And then you write some smarmy bullshit, using others to establish a meme that doesn’t really exist and that it is somehow growing, which is bullshit, except for people like you trying to get it growing with more smarmy insinuations that he sould do something to offset something that doesn’t exist outside some anonymous facebook friends who are, if they exist, idiots of the first order. Which would be your order of idiot.

    So here is your comment, that started this, and people can decide for themselves what you were getting at with it.

    Seriously, I’ve often wondered if Obama is this naive? Maybe this helps to explain why so many on the right and, these days, sadly elsewhere, think that he’s “ in over his head” (cause he shud just return to being a college professor, since he’s so unqualified) as was just told to me on Facebook by a supporter of a friend who is forever railing against Obama. Every once in a while I weigh in with some sanity to counter the unceasing anti-Obama stuff from these GOP’ers. Mostly that’s a futile effort cause his minions come in and deluge me with hits. They really do think he’s in over his head, notwithstanding they haven’t applied the same metric to their clown cars over on the right. It really is frustrating and far too time consuming.
    Just once, though, I wish the administration would do a better, i.e. more forceful, job of defending itself and perhaps dispelling this growing perception that he’s in “way over his head”.

  186. 186
    Keith G says:

    @Elie: Ok, to repeat..

    Like all important leaders (and especially martyrs), King is always in danger of being used selectively, especially by those who feel a special connection.
    ___
    He is truly a great American and world hero. I wish that this were enough.

    Many different folk slice, dice, edit and characterize King to fit their needs. I wish it were enough to acknowledge that he is one of the few transcendent American heroes – a man of and for the entire planet.

  187. 187
    Elie says:

    @Keith G:

    Uh-Uhn —

    You first. I asked you a question first.

  188. 188
    Keith G says:

    @Elie: I…..think….. I answered it. Maybe they passed each other.

    Read #186. Is that not clear?

  189. 189
    Elie says:

    Sorry — I didnt see your response before I sent my request..

    I just want to caution against falling for the trap of turning King into an icon – which has as a general rule worked to neuter his radicalism – to fail to recognize that it was SNCC workers who risked the most on a daily basis in the most violent parts of the South, or to put blinders on his own vision, which was – as the civil rights bills were passed, ten years on his risking his life and exercising incredible moral and strategic leadership – one of the most prophetic and encompassing of any political actor of the 20th Century.

    I reread Bruce’s comment and I have to say, its somewhat confusing and moves into two directions. On one hand, he clearly states that he sees MLK’s role as important though somewhat secondary to the workers in the movement, and on the other hand he clearly identifies him as a visionary to whom we will all be indebted. He does not bring those two thoughts together in any complete way

    I guess I have problems with trying to clarify how he critisizes some for making MLK into an icon — and that whole paragraph is a little unclear to me about what that means. MLK was not known by most people who he influenced. People make that influence into a number of spiritual and psychological/social symbols and transform this into meaning and inspiration. What could be wrong with that? An icon is indeed a symbol of a complex value or deeply help belief (in this context anyway). So how would it be ‘bad” for MLK to be transformed into meaning that inspires and helps all of us do difficult things?

  190. 190
    pete says:

    @Warren Terra: Just in case you see this (I had to work): The potential miscommunication was precisely my point. The fact that you also had a substantive argument made it more likely. No biggie from my end. I disagree with you on the substance, but don’t need to argue it. Cheers.

  191. 191
    Keith G says:

    @Elie: Maybe he is concerned that icon status over-simplifies the times, the man, and all those around him.

    Zealous hagiography and icon status had incorrectly led to a bundle of false assumptions about Abe Lincoln, for example. It is only though modern histories that we can appreciate the complexities and growth of that amazing yet troubled man. I think the newer version of Abe shows a man much more interesting and worthy of respect.

    Hopefully Bruce can give you an answer.

  192. 192

    It is fascinating how many folks on this thread completely missed the point Mr. Rice was making. He was not claiming or hogging some notion of “hero” status, nor was ABL. What he was doing was reaching under the hood of the national icon for all, to extract the reason and result of why MLK was doing what he did. And that was to first and foremost free the spirit of black people living under the terror of pre civil rights south. To create a safe haven from fear and dread, in the mind , that provided the courage and serenity to persevere until things changed, from the worst that they were back then.

  193. 193
    Svensker says:

    @Bruce S:

    Also, I truly dislike that stale & mediocre statue, apparently realized by some guy who also did the petrified Chairman Maos – it looks like a tribute to the world’s greatest high school principal. Epic fail. Very disturbing that this was the best that was offered to the greatest American of my lifetime and one of my [few] true heroes, in the best sense of that word.)

    Amen. It’s awful.

  194. 194
    gwangung says:

    @General Stuck:

    It is fascinating how many folks on this thread completely missed the point Mr. Rice was making. He was not claiming or hogging some notion of “hero” status, nor was ABL. What he was doing was reaching under the hood of the national icon for all, to extract the reason and result of why MLK was doing what he did. And that was to first and foremost free the spirit of black people living under the terror of pre civil rights south. To create a safe haven from fear and dread, in the mind , that provided the courage and serenity to persevere until things changed, from the worst that they were back then.

    Hm. it struck me that the point was that it wasn’t possible for King to become the abstract icon without first performing the concrete good
    for black Americans–he became universal by focussing on the individual and folks are skipping a step by focussing on just the universal.

  195. 195
    Elie says:

    @General Stuck:

    Yeah..you have it…

    apparently our hearts/minds crave uncomplicated simplicity for which there is only one — one interpretation or meaning — no changeable meaning, emphasis, new realizations and awareness over time and history… like there can be only ONE truth, ONE perception, ONE meaning that is true for all time and for everyone in the same way…

    this was ONE interpretation, one synthesis of a complex man and his impact from the perspective of someone who had lived through the pre civil rights south — and what that meant in the fullest way, to those survivors…

  196. 196
    Corey says:

    We are aware, right, that Dr. King found the entire bedrock of American society corrupt and loathsome, yes, the racism but also the poverty, inequality, war machine, etc? Dude was a legit leftist.

    And that Barack Obama, while yes, a man of remarkable accomplishment for even reaching the Oval Office, implicitly and explicitly believes the opposite?

    A reasonable comparison between the two can’t be made.

  197. 197
    ABL says:

    I hate to say it, because there is some value in what this piece is attempting to convey, but it’s remarkably a-historical in terms of the actual civil rights movement and reifies the notion that King was some sort of superhero. It’s almost the inverse of what it argues against. The importance of Dr. King was that he was able to mobilize a mass movement – along with some other brilliant strategists.

    Do you see what you did? You partially acknowledged the author’s express intent in writing the piece, than spent the rest of your comment explaining why you think he’s wrong; that the value of the author’s piece is “ahistorical.” The value of the post is his words and the connection that I (and others feel) to those words. The piece is his expression of his perception — as a black man — of Dr. King’s value to the black community. Who are you to redefine the importance of Dr. King in this context?

    I know that an ABL thread is no place to do nuance or stray from the groupthink cluster, but I don’t need an imaginary black friend and I actually have life experience that suggests something other than rote response when Dr. King’s legacy is the issue.

    These types of comments are disappointing (and insulting, but I’m used to that), and sadly, all too typical. Smarmy. Condescending. Haughty. I can do nothing but shrug at them.

    I will never understand what prompts folks to make comments like this.

  198. 198
    Elie says:

    @Corey:

    I don’t think that Dr King found the american society as horrible as you say… he knew Americans could be better, and he appealed to that aspiration that they could, and golly, you know what, that came out.

    Think if like you, he called up only negative failed images to fuel the energy for black liberation? Think if he had exhorted us to hate the whites and to wrest our freedom and hope with violence and hatred?

    I have no idea why you think Obama thinks the opposite — opposite of what from MLK? They both worked hard and took a lot of shit to get important things done for this country. What choo doin, bro?

  199. 199
    ABL says:

    And that Barack Obama, while yes, a man of remarkable accomplishment for even reaching the Oval Office, implicitly and explicitly believes the opposite?

    Really? Obama is pro-poverty? Pro-inequality? That is nonsense.

  200. 200
    Corey says:

    @ABL:

    I will never understand what prompts folks to make comments like this.

    Just a guess, but maybe they have opinions that differ from yours. Imagine that.

  201. 201
    Elie says:

    @Corey:

    You are just silly…LOL

    Better quality trolls,,, Please.

  202. 202
    Elie says:

    @ABL:

    You did better than I… I mostly couldn’t figure out what Bruce was trying to say… i think he made a mess of it trying not to be critical of MLK while being critical of MLK. Like a little squid, the ink ended up obscuring much of any clear meaning as well.

  203. 203
    ABL says:

    @Corey: pffft. the “imaginary black friend” nonsense doesn’t exactly count as a differing opinion.

    i’m out of this thread. too much to do this evening.

    @Elie: agreed.

  204. 204
    Corey says:

    @ABL:

    Really? Obama is pro-poverty? Pro-inequality? That is nonsense.

    Ahem. You left out the bit about the war machine.

    Anywho, the main point is the difference between incrementalism and radicalism. Obama’s an incrementalist – that’s okay – politicians who make it to his level usually are.

    But I think the evidence is clear that Dr. King was not an incrementalist. King rails against moderation in the Letter. Obama is the consummate moderate, beginning negotiations at his preferred point of compromise, working within the society and institutions that King found profoundly unjust. You, yourself, have praised Obama’s moderation on occasion.

    I just think it’s ludicrous to take the legacy of Dr. King – I don’t disagree with a word of the Kos diary you quoted – but then turn it around to attack Cornel West for insufficient fealty to the leader. It’s obvious that West is a lot closer to King’s point of view than Obama is.

  205. 205
    ABL says:

    @Corey: MLK wasn’t a politician. Cornel West isn’t a politician.

    And no, I don’t believe Obama is pro-war machine either. But again, he’s the President. Not a professor. Not a civil rights leader.

    but then turn it around to attack Cornel West for insufficient fealty to the leader.

    nice strawman you have there. be careful, those things are flammable.

    Have a good evening.

  206. 206
    Corner Stone says:

    “I’m here to stay! TO STAY!”

  207. 207
    Ruckus says:

    A black man makes an extremely valid point from a perspective that the vast majority of people can not have and so many people try to shift the whole discussion around to validate only their perspective. When a point sails over some peoples heads it must be traveling at warp speed.
    Can so few see that what Mr. Rice wrote about is not just a perspective but is/was a way of living that no amount of studying or imagining can understand fully? That racial equality is not just being accepted by society but is the ability to get up in the morning and have a reasonable expectation that one will live through the day? Without having to kiss ass, shuffle or act be submissive, (which many, many times was still not nearly enough) to every white face one sees. He is speaking about true terrorism. To white america Martin Luther King is the voice about that, to a black person he is the embodiment of it. And the way out of it.

  208. 208
    Bruce S says:

    Ellie – First, I have no idea where you get the notion of “resentment” agaisnt Dr. King from my comment. That’s bizarre. Or that I was critical of King. That’s just crazy projection.

    RE – “I guess I have problems with trying to clarify how he critcsizes some for making MLK into an icon—and that whole paragraph is a little unclear to me about what that means.”

    I stated clearly that turning King into an icon has generally served to neuter his radicalism – it has actually served to diminish him. What the writer refers to as “our national civic religion.” (The monument is an example of this from his admirers – but the worst cases have been when people who he would have disdained attempt to co-opt him as some sort of “can’t we all just get along” messenger.)

    King’s genius and unique stature was as a movement strategist and an inspirational figure – but he was a genuinely radical figure whose vision included recognition of the perils of economic inequality as a legacy of racism and embedded in our society, and he was a creatively pragmatic man who had a canny sense of the politics that he was inevitably embroiled in. He’s not easily reduced to a symbol. The quotes on the King monument don’t do much to elevate King’s complexity – and the pose in granite is almost antithetical to the dynamism of the fiery preacher.

    Also, when I re-read the original comment posted, it was much clearer to me that it’s essence was an homage to the movement and the agency of many thousands – as I noted in my addendum – although it was heavily framed in “what King did,” presumably because of the distinction being made regarding Malcolm X.

    Really can’t figure out where most of your response intersects with what I wrote. My comments were written in haste, and I probably should have referred to the text of the post more closely rather than spin some of my own thoughts, but your stuff about “resentment” and “criticism of King” is nonsensical.

  209. 209
    Uriel says:

    @Corner Stone: Good god man, but you’re boring.

  210. 210
    Bruce S says:

    ABL – just read your comment. Did you read what I actually wrote – including the second comment? If you think I’m “redefining the importance of Dr. King” that’s your problem. Truly a lame response. For my part, my original comment was an over-reaction to the way the piece was framed, but I was not arguing against what was intended as the essential point, which is why I added the second comment. There was nothing “redefined” regarding King that anyone who has even a modicum of respect for the movement or the man could possibly object to. That’s nuts.

    Can’t say I’m sorry for sarcastically noting what happens routinely in your threads – which are the worst examples of a smug little mob mentality that you seem to encourage and enjoy. Been here before. Given those expectations, and the crap about “resenting” and “criticizing” King, your own response isn’t in the least disappointing, so much as predictable.

  211. 211
    Rock says:

    Let’s talk lynching. Lynching is a white American phenomenon that the U.S. has exported (free of charge) to the culture of vigilante justice throughout the world. The term “lynching” comes from a Founding Daddy named Charles Lynch who was a judge, Virginia state senator, and a militia officer during the Revolutionary War. His claim to infamous fame is the result of him and his militia buddies illegally taking the law into their own hands to punish so-called “undesirables.” Since then, according to researchers at the Tuskegee Institute, lynching as a means of punishment, retaliation, or intimidation has been used by white American terrorists to murder 3,446 known Black Americans between 1882 and 1968. Less than 10% of these killers stood trial and, less than one half of 1% was convicted by a jury of their white peers. There is no data on how many lynchings went unreported.

    The act of lynching is incorrectly thought of by most people as the singular act of hanging, but it’s actually defined as “killing a person without legal process or authority; especially, but not limited to hanging for a perceived offense or as an act of bigotry by a mob.” A mob, by the way, is legally defined as two or more persons.

    Black people were lynched for a variety of reasons other than retaliation for an actual or [suspected] crime. Whites had no problem lynching black people for things like: acting suspiciously, quarreling or cursing in public, indolence, using inflammatory language, suing or testifying against a white man, being out after curfew, attempting to vote, being unpopular, using a “white only” restroom or drinking fountain, being a Peeping Tom, swimming in the “white section” of a lake or ocean, vagrancy, insolence, frightening a white child, or for staring, whistling or god-forbid touching a white woman. For violating any of these petty infractions, black men and women were: hanged, whipped, maimed, tortured, stabbed, castrated, mutilated, drowned, burned, shot, skinned, quartered, beheaded, and dragged behind moving vehicles.

    A lynching was often a festive outing with a carnival-like atmosphere. Parents brought their kids and picnic baskets; vendors sold their goods; and roving entertainers performed as opening acts before the main event. Local sheriffs were sometimes utilized as crowd control. Once the deed had been done photographs of the victim were usually made into postcards and sold at the local Five and Dime store. Body parts like teeth, hair, fingers, penises, and breasts were sold or kept as souvenirs. But most lynches occurred out of the spotlight in the cover of darkness by a handful of cowardly white males. The lifeless bodies of black men and women would be discovered the following day hanging silent and still or swaying gently in the breeze—out of place—necks grotesquely stretched—with fear, but sometimes defiance frozen upon their faces.

    One of the most horrific and gut-wrenching lynchings occurred in 1918 in Valdosta, Georgia. Mary Turner, who was 8-months pregnant, had publically spoken out against the men who lynched her husband for a crime he did not commit. For her actions she was dragged from her home by a mob of several hundred: hung upside down from a tree, doused with gasoline and motor oil, and set on fire. While still alive her stomach was sliced open with a knife causing the baby to fall to the ground where it was kicked around like human soccer ball until finally being crushed. Once dead, Mary’s naked corpse was riddled with bullets for target practice. The makeshift grave of mother and child was marked with an empty whiskey bottle.

    Whether whites were lynching Black Americans, American Indians, Chinese, Irish, East Indians, Mexicans, Italians, witches, or white so-called “nigger lovers”—the killers, mobs, sheriffs, judges, and juries have always been white. To my knowledge there has never been a black, Mexican, American Indian, or Chinese American vigilante mob that has hung a single white person from a tree, bridge, or telephone pole in U.S. history.

    Lynching is but one of the many social injustices that Dr. King, countless unsung heroes, black revolutionaries, and tens of millions of average Black Americans were subjected to 24/7/365. And as the overt racism that continues to plague President Obama has shown, it appears that a substantial chuck of white folks are still longing for the return of “them there good ol’ days.”

  212. 212
    Nquest says:

    Man, to think, if the book of Exodus, etc. weren’t in the Old Testament, Christians revering Moses (and the Prophets) would have you believe he meant them (too) when he told Pharaoh “Let My (Children of Israel) People Go!”

    Simply put, MLK clearly fought for a specific people’s civil rights and his very humanity was tied up in that — which is why he was moved to say, “I’m Black and Beautiful.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWqeQf135qM

    None of that is any less “universal” than his anti-war positions, etc. Neither was his work he did on behalf of Black sanitation workers — in March of 1969 in Memphis during his final days on this earth — any less universal than whatever was planned for the Poor People’s Campaign for opportunity and equality.

    So this apparent narrative that MLK somehow gravitated away from Black advocacy after the 1964 civil rights act is uninformed. All anyone has to do is consider is his Black advocacy in this August 1967 speech specifically as it relates to Operation Breadbasket.

    http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/.....from_here/

  213. 213
    Anonymous says:

    I completely missed any logical connection to what this had to do with the criticism of Obama. There’s an illogical connection–people used to criticize King for being too moderate in comparison to Malcolm X, and therefore any criticism of Obama is wrong. Okay. Of course King was a socialist who towards the end of his life made speeches against the Vietnam War that sounded like something Jeremiah Wright would have said. Maybe he was a moderate compared to Malcolm, but he’d be drummed out of respectable company if he were alive today. (In case it’s not clear, I say all of this as a compliment to King.)

    Obama is a politician who has to appeal to people who go into hysterics if there is any hint that the US might be a major violator of human rights, has a long history of doing that and to some extent continues to do it. (Anyone see a major war criminal on TV lately? But we’ve moved on.) So he had to bash people to his left to win election. Maybe he even started to believe it. It’s a little hard to believe he went to Wright’s church and somehow missed all those King-like sermons denouncing American evil. Poor guy.

  214. 214
    Anonymous says:

    Here’s a website with Rev Wright and MLK giving rather similar sermons–

    link

    I think if Obama had King for his pastor in 2008 giving sermons like that he’d have dumped him. So again, what does this piece about King have to do with Obama? They have their skin color in common and not much else.

  215. 215

    “He ended the terror of living as a black person, especially in the south.”

    I am a white man, with a white wife, who has two AA children who came to us through adoption. MLK made our family possible.

    While I knew all of the history lesson in the article, I cannot help but being a bit ashamed by stating that his main accomplishment of MLK Jr. FOR ME, was my family. I have a lot to learn so I can teach my children.

  216. 216
    Tuttle says:

    I stated clearly that turning King into an icon has generally served to neuter his radicalism …

    Word.

  217. 217
    Nquest says:

    Corrections:

    “Neither was the work he did on behalf of Black sanitation workers — in March of 1968 in Memphis during his final days on this earth…”

    “All anyone has to do is consider his Black advocacy in this August 1967 speech specifically as it relates to Operation Breadbasket.”

    To continue, this apparent narrative and apparent desire to act like MLK’s “radicalism” was somehow separate from his Black advocacy or a different, more mature or less narrow phase… Well, frankly, it’s at odds with the very way MLK indicated he saw those issues — i.e. “the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism” aka the triple yet interrelated evils of “the problem of racism, the problem of [economic or capitalist] exploitation, and the problem of war.”

    It’s clear his Black advocacy, indeed his Black humanity and his Black experience (in the Black church, etc.), informed his views and his Black advocacy never waned or became a lesser focus. It was lens he looked through and interpreted various issues; hence, his view that on the relationship racism had to the anti-war and economic/workers issues people curiously separate out as evidence of his “radicalism”… as if…

  218. 218
    ATT says:

    @Rock

    If you are defining lynchings as “killing a person without legal process or authority; especially, but not limited to hanging for a perceived offense or as an act of bigotry by a mob”, of course minorities have participated in that activity. Twenty years ago in Crown Heights, NY, a mob of African-Americans killed Yankel Rosenbaum, Australian doctorate student, solely because he was Jewish.

  219. 219
    Rock says:

    @ATT: Wow![One] “unproven” example.

  220. 220
    ABL says:

    Can’t say I’m sorry for sarcastically noting what happens routinely in your threads

    of course you’re not sorry. i see that now. what i find disappointing is that it was a mere two months ago that you pledged to try to behave differently in my threads and I figured I’d respond in the spirit of that pledge.

    I’m going to try to stick to making comments addressed directly to you and keep them respectful and on point (concision is not my strong suit) – you’re okay and at least as opinionated as I am and I’m sure under better circumstances and without some of the surrounding noise and escalation of rhetoric, we could probably have a decent conversation.

    I was mistaken, and I will add you to the growing list of people to whom I won’t bother responding and whose comments I won’t bother reading since you have no intention of being respectful and indeed seem rather… erm… conflicted on the subject.

    I just don’t have the patience that I once did for this kind of nonsense. I need to pick and choose my battles more carefully.

    Won’t happen again.

    Best,

    ABL

  221. 221
    Svensker says:

    Yay, ABL’s back! And we got drama and butthurt galore!

    I’m going back to bed. It was a really bad night and the day’s not turning out so good either.

  222. 222
    Deb T says:

    Thanx ABL. As a white midwestern woman in her early sixties, I always cherish the opportunity to broaden my understanding. I’d not heard of Hamden Rice before, but will keep an eye out for his name now. What a beautiful, insightful article. And King did do a lot for white people too. Our gift from him was the chance to rise above the prejudices and bigotries we learned from out elders, from white culture. He freed us in a way or at least created the opportunity to be freed from our sins, and opened the world to us. Bless him and thank you.

  223. 223
    lawguy says:

    @Allan: Oh come one the same imagery was used concerning Bush II and his blind followers.

    Everything isn’t about race, although there are clearly some racists out there, but if you want to see race in every thing, then no one can stop you.

  224. 224
    lawguy says:

    @MikeMc: Only if Obama is successful and he is on the way to being anything but that.

  225. 225
    ATT says:

    @Rock: Oh, come on. You have GOT to be kidding. Unproven? There is no question that Yankel Rosenbaum was killed because he was Jewish, there is no question he was killed by a mob of angry African-Americans, there is no question he was innocent. It is undisputed, except, apparently, by you.

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