Among the most painful bits of Dr. King’s legacy is how so much of it’s reduced to “I Have a Dream.” It’s true that it’s a landmark speech, powerful and moving…
…and always heard out of context of the other, more direct speeches that graced the March on Washington (a March organized by an openly Gay Man, no less – go look up the badass Bayard Rustin, please and thank you!). As if the marchers just wanted to spend all day on their feet, listening to platitudes and winsome ideas!
I’m not going to dive into that context, I assume your Google button ain’t broke. :) What I will do, is talk about a couple of other works by Dr. King, works that ground him in the realities he fought to overcome, and that echo into these times.
The text for the afternoon will be taken from two works from near Dr. King’s passing:
- “The Drum Major Instinct,” (hereafter DRUM), which you can listen to here, and read here, and
- “A New Sense of Direction,” (hereafter SENSE), which you can read here.
I post all this to encourage you to read/listen to the above in full. To underline that Dr. King was far richer a thinker and even rabble-rouser than gets noticed — that the Hoover FBI feared him for damned good reasons. If you chose to read the above docs, and skip the rest of this? HELL YA!
But for those who want more? Follow…
See, Dr. King did not buy into a color-blind society. That wasn’t the context he gave his “Dream” speech under. The context, the fuller context of his work and life’s mission, is made plain by this remarkable passage in DRUM:
[…]when those brothers told me what they were earning, I said, “Now, you know what? You ought to be marching with us. [laughter] You’re just as poor as Negroes.”
And I said, “You are put in the position of supporting your oppressor, because through prejudice and blindness, you fail to see that the same forces that oppress Negroes in American society oppress poor white people. (Yes) And all you are living on is the satisfaction of your skin being white, and the drum major instinct of thinking that you are somebody big because you are white.
And you’re so poor you can’t send your children to school. You ought to be out here marching with every one of us every time we have a march.”
Now that’s a fact. That the poor white has been put into this position, where through blindness and prejudice, (Make it plain) he is forced to support his oppressors. And the only thing he has going for him is the false feeling that he’s superior because his skin is white—and can’t hardly eat and make his ends meet week in and week out.
And there’s so much more.