Late Night Memorial Open Thread: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Cannot yet RIP

In the official story told to children, King’s assassination is the transformational tragedy in a victorious struggle to overcome. But in the true accounting, his assassination was one of a host of reactionary assaults by a country against a revolution. And those assaults were astonishingly successful…

King spoke of a “white backlash”—a term he helped popularize—to his movement. But in retrospect, the strength of the reaction he predicted and endured often receives short shrift. The support of white moderates who recoiled at images of Negro children sprayed by hoses and attacked by dogs was instrumental in passing laws that ended legal segregation and protected voting rights. But by 1966, it had become clear that many of these whites chafed against further activism and greater demands for equality. They viewed the Voting Rights Act as a final concession; King saw it as a start. According to Gallup polls, King’s popularity waned in the coda years of his life; his unfavorability rating reached 63 percent in 1966. At the same time, public opinion turned firmly against the civil-rights movement…

… For white America, hostility toward the civil-rights movement turned into a cherry-picked celebration of the revolution’s victories over segregation and over easily caricatured, gap-toothed bigots in the South. Embracing King became a way to rejoice in overcoming and to reify white innocence, even while ignoring the cries of those who had certainly not overcome. Accordingly, the life of King past mid-1965, a radical three years spent fighting a tide that had turned against him, is barely mentioned today…

In a 1978 retrospective article on King, Baldwin looked back at his friend’s life and at how the country had changed since his murder. “A vast amount of love and faith and passion—and blood—have gone into the attempt to transform and liberate this nation,” Baldwin wrote. “This is not the land of the free, is only very unwillingly and sporadically the home of the brave, and all that can be said for the bulk of our politicians is that, if they are no worse than they were, they are certainly no better.”

How much has changed in the 40 years since that retrospective? Have politicians improved? If King were alive today, would he bask in the glow of achievement, or would he gird himself again to march?…

19 replies
  1. 1
    Adam L Silverman says:

    Did you mean to include Congressman Steve King’s (R-IA) tweet in there without any comment on the fact that Steve King is commenting on MLK?

  2. 2
    mvr says:

    @Adam L Silverman: And that it is apparently not anything King ever said.

  3. 3
    Ruckus says:

    Is ole Stevie trying to get his committee assignments reinstated by one bullshit tweet? Or was this written by someone on his staff? Because I find it difficult to see him writing one word of that.
    Snopes says no he didn’t say those words but in one speech he did say:

    A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.

  4. 4
    AThornton says:


    The Right Wing specializes in misquoting people and then using it against them.


    And I was promised a 1980s Hasbro commercial for their GI Joe APC toy 3 threads back and I had to go find it myself.

    “Full service blog” indeed.


  5. 5
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷 says:

    @Adam L Silverman:
    He must be trying to improve his image. I see it as a hail mary to save his committee assignments. An Iowan congressman isn’t worth anything if he’s not on the Agricultural committee or so I’ve heard. I assume the caucus vote to remove him failed.

  6. 6
    Plato says:

    So the racist totus thug has been getting away with it all since 1973? That’s over four decades of systematic failures.

  7. 7
    Mary G says:

    @Ruckus: I tweeted back that his intern is a good writer, but you are shameless. No way he wrote that.

  8. 8
    Anne Laurie says:

    @Adam L Silverman: I figured I’d harped enough about Rep. Pigmuck King that y’all could draw yer own conclusions!

  9. 9
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷 says:


    Is ole Stevie trying to get his committee assignments reinstated by one bullshit tweet?

    Were they ever taken away in the first place? I understand the full GOP House caucus needed to vote unanimously to remove him from them. I have a hard time seeing that happening given some of the shitheads in the R House.

  10. 10
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @mvr: MLK or Steve?

  11. 11
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷 says:

    Off to bed for me.

  12. 12
    Aleta says:

    Saw a saccharine MLK Day quote from the NRA on twitter, and another one from the FBI.

  13. 13
    Yutsano says:

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷: It isn’t unanimous, but the caucus does have to vote on it. That’ll probably happen this week if it hasn’t already.

    (Note to self: Tense Agreement Matters)

  14. 14
    Mike G says:

    Winchester .30-06 rifle…The store that sold it is still in business today.

    And I’ll bet they pull a lot of business by bragging about that sale.

  15. 15
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    Matt Fuller @ MEPFuller
    Isn’t it ~interesting~ that none of the first-person accounts of the White House present Trump as, like, the 3D chess player some supporters believe he is.
    Every account is him watching TV, sipping Diet Coke, and wandering out of meetings with Paul Ryan.

    another ex-staffer, another book

  16. 16
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷 says:


  17. 17
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    President Trump watched on television, increasingly angry as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan criticized his handling of the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. He held the remote control “like a pistol” and yelled for an assistant to get the Republican leader on the phone.
    “Paul, do you know why Democrats have been kicking your a– for decades? Because they know a little word called ‘loyalty,’ ” Trump told Ryan, then a Wisconsin congressman. “Why do you think Nancy [Pelosi] has held on this long? Have you seen her? She’s a disaster. Every time she opens her mouth another Republican gets elected. But they stick with her . . . Why can’t you be loyal to your president, Paul?”
    The tormenting continued. Trump recalled Ryan distancing himself from Trump in October 2016, in the days after the “Access Hollywood” video in which he bragged of fondling women first surfaced in The Washington Post.
    “I remember being in Wisconsin and your own people were booing you,” Trump told him, according to former West Wing communications aide Cliff Sims. “You were out there dying like a dog, Paul. Like a dog! And what’d I do? I saved your a–.”

  18. 18
    Cthulhu says:

    Yeah, because if MLK had a concealed pistol, he could have totally taken out James Earl Ray and his rifle.

  19. 19
    justawriter says:

    @Cthulhu: At the rate we are going, if cheeto-face wins in 2020, the official story in 2023 will be JER was a disaffected black panther who killed MLK for supporting father Trump against racists who were forcing him to rent to black people. Then again, given the history of the last two years, I probably underestimated how awful the next five years could be.

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