Monday, January 20, 2014

MLK Day 2014

Today we will hear endless tributes to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Many of those tributes will come from people who opposed him at the time. We saw the same phenomenon after the death of Nelson Mandela. Even those who did their best to prop up the apartheid regime in South Africa waxed eloquently about Mr. Mandela's life and mission.

Many don't know that Dr. King was about more than civil rights and racial equality. He spoke out for justice for the working class and the poor. The night before he was assassinated he spoke to an audience of striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. He also spoke out against the Vietnam War.

Dr. King understood how the various struggles were interconnected. He understood that the war in Vietnam was really a war against the poor and minorities at home. He could see the connection between oppression abroad and oppression at home.

Of course that analysis would show that Dr. King was far more radical than he has been given credit for. And, in our sanitized histories, such a view has no place. Our children are taught history as a series of episodes that have little or no connection with each other. We don't teach them to make connections; we don't encourage them to seek out parallels.The last thing our power structure wants is a bunch of folks questioning the very assumptions of the society we live in.

Dr. King saw how racism, classism, capitalism, imperialism and colonialism all worked hand-in-hand to keep the vast majority of the world's population in check. The more he spoke out about those connections and parallels, the more dangerous a person he became.

Here is Dr. King's 1967 speech calling for an end to the war in Vietnam.

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