First, the ruling class kill messengers and then co-opt their messages. It’s a ploy that dates back to biblical times; Pharisees dispatch prophets and then whitewash their legacies in a concerted campaign to appropriate their movements. Truth tellers are twice victimized, once by assassins and the second time around by propaganda. Their likeness and their teachings are then cunningly marketed by the same powers they spoke against to reinforce the status quo.
This same playbook—which has been used to silence dissenters throughout the ages—was unleashed with ruthless efficiency against Martin Luther King Jr. Lost in the chorus of politicians, pundits and media personalities who are praising MLK is the core message that he was pushing before he was felled on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. King evolved in his thinking; instead of seeking Civil Rights for “African-Americans”, he made the fatal decision to fight for economic justice for all.
King realized that the infringements against “black” folks in America were interconnected to the injustices felt by marginalized people throughout the world. That awakening is the reason he traveled to Memphis, by standing up for striking sanitation workers, he was hoping to form a bridge between poor folks irrespective of their skin color. The establishment love people who lead sectional movements—those who seek exclusive justice are doing the work of the status quo—what they will not abide are those who try to unify the oppressed and inspire collective actions.
King paid with his life for having the courage to pursue inclusive justice. After he was murdered, institutions of power—from government, academia to mainstream media and beyond—kicked in, stealthy erased King’s legacy and replaced it with disinformation. What has taken place over the past fifty years is a systematic and coordinated effort to blacken his narrative and dilute the power of his message.
I must pause here and explain what I mean by blackening Martin Luther King. What MLK fought for, and ultimately died on behalf of, was for equality and fairness for all. By narrowing the scope of his cause and containing his sacrifice to only as a struggle for “black” people, opinion leaders successfully ghettoized him in an effort to lessen his appeal to a broader constituency.
This is one of the main reasons why I reject racial labels and disavow constructs that were imposed by the very racists who shattered humanity. When you see me using quote marks around “black” and “white” in describing people, it’s because I know the true intentions behind these designations. Terms that we have come to embrace are actually insidious conventions used to dehumanize people, reduce us into abstractions and induce tribalism. As I make clear in this video below, it is vital for us to understand where these epithets come from and why bigots imposed these insidious labels on us to begin with.
Labels are insidious forms of reductionism, they are so subtle that most of us don’t understand how malicious they are. Martin Luther King is described as a “black leader” or an “African-American hero”, the adjectives in front of the title being used to depreciate the worth of the people they are describing. Nobody ever says Mozart was a European pianist or that Michelangelo was an Italian painter, yet when it comes to “black” folk, that descriptor is always attached to them—like a Scarlet letter used to insinuate that we are 3/5th human. Martin Luther King is not a black hero, he is a hero who spoke on behalf of all oppressed people.
To hide this truth and marginalize King, instigators and impostors are being propagated by mainstream media and moneyed interests. The profound message behind Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech is continually transmuted by opportunists who use identity politics to advance their own agendas. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” These words were eloquently spoken by King in order to free us from the shackles of imposed identities. We are creeping further and further away from MLK’s dream as we let demagogues lead us into the wasteland of sectarianism.
“One unfortunate thing about [the slogan] Black Power is that it gives priority to race precisely at a time when the impact of automation and other forces have made the economic question fundamental for blacks and whites alike. In this context a slogan ‘Power for Poor People’ would be much more appropriate than the slogan ‘Black Power.’”
This was a quote from King in August of 1967, eight months before he was executed. After spearheading the Civil Rights movement from the 50’s into the early 60’s, it dawned upon King that the struggle for equality was greater than being able to sit at lunch counters and riding at the front of buses. He realized that the only way to overcome oppression was to stitch together the pains felt by the proletariat in ways that would attract anyone who felt disenfranchised.
King articulated his apprehension about the movement he organized and expressed how he might have unwittingly directed his people into a quagmire. During a conversation he shared with Harry Belafonte and his inner-circle, King detailed the flaws of fighting racism’s symptoms without addressing the system that gives rise to inequalities.
“I’ve come upon something that disturbs me deeply. We have fought hard and long for integration, as I believe we should have, and I know we will win, but I have come to believe that we are integrating into a burning house. I’m afraid that America has lost the moral vision she may have had, and I’m afraid that even as we integrate, we are walking into a place that does not understand that this nation needs to be deeply concerned with the plight of the poor and disenfranchised. Until we commit ourselves to ensuring that the underclass is given justice and opportunity, we will continue to perpetuate the anger and violence that tears the soul of this nation. I fear I am integrating my people into a burning house.”
Martin Luther King was not disregarding the plight of “black” folks, nor was he giving short shrift to the struggles faced by “African-Americans”. What he recognized is that the struggles being borne by “minorities” would never be alleviated unless a majority of humanity formed a broad coalition to defend their common interests. Martin Luther King was not alone in this realization; Malcolm X came around to this same viewpoint once he visited Mecca and saw that the only way to attain justice was through mass-movements. Do you think it was an accident that both met the same gruesome fate?
Gone are the days of moral giants like Malcolm and Martin, we are firmly entrenched in the era of charlatans who profit from our disunion. What is truly sad is that so many hypocrites readily praise Martin Luther King while they get paid by the same powers that he was speaking against. Proving that treachery is truly bipartisan, on the day Martin Luther King is being celebrated, the King Center is commemorating warmonger emeritus John McCain. What better way to remember Dr. King than by praising the man who vehemently fought against honoring him and as the King Center dismantles his memory.
Meanwhile, Kamala Harris, California’s junior Senator—who was one of the biggest proponents of the prison-industrial complex—is expected to announce her presidential campaign on Martin Luther King Day. This is the same Kamala Harris whose office argued against early release of inmates on the grounds that it would hurt the labor supply [slave workers] of for-profit prisons. It is truly an affront that someone who reserved draconian measures for poor and working Californians— while giving a pass to banking executives like Steven Mnuchin—is going to use Martin Luther King day to hide the fact that she made a name for herself by being a staunch advocate of penal plantations. Kamala Harris 2020: chains you can believe in!
As always, the way to unravel conspiracies is to follow the money. Martin Luther King was sent to his grave because he connected the dots between wars overseas and economic inequalities in America. The hundreds of billions of dollars that were being spent to perpetuate the Vietnam War and conflicts around the world prevented investments in programs that could have alleviated suffering and lifted millions of people out of crushing poverty. That’s why King decided to come out against the Vietnam War, this brave stance made MLK radioactive and shortly led to his assassination.
Every politician, pundit and/or media personality who is "praising" Martin Luther King and leaving out King's harsh criticism of wars and economic inequalities are the worst kind of hypocrites, They are erasing his legacy while pretending to honor King's memory #RebrandingMLK
— Teodrose Fikre ✒ (@TeodroseFikre) January 20, 2019
What is lost in all the pageantry and the pomp surrounding King’s holiday is the fact that he was once savagely attacked by the very establishment that is now lionizing him. Not only was his character maligned by opinion leaders, the FBI targeted him and terrorized King and his family to such an extent that they drove him into a period of deep depression. COINTELPRO was a program launched by J. Edgar Hoover to identify and neutralize, by any means necessary, the Civil Rights icons who dared speak truth to power. A generation later, the same power structure that extinguished their flames is now lighting candles on their behalf while annulling their true stories—they’ve turned a martyr into a merchandise.
As hard as the “elites” try to commandeer King’s narrative to suit their purposes, the harsh truth is that King was murdered because he threatened the hustle of capital gangsters. If this sounds very familiar, that is because currency traders have a way of exterminating anyone who speaks against their pyramid schemes. As noted earlier, those who defy profiteers are given death sentences only for their memories to be raised to further the very greed they crusaded against. King died standing against wars and economic inequalities; notice how these themes are rarely mentioned by politicians, pundits and media personalities who cry crocodile tears for him. #RebrandingMLK Click To Tweet
There is a biblical poetry to it all, the same way Jesus was sold out by his own people, crucified by imperial enforcers and had his teachings inverted to advance the evils he died fighting against, these modern day Judases are embracing King while working for the very institutions he courageously took on. Goes to show, change agents will never be found amidst supposed activists who cast their lot with the same powers they pretend to speak against. True revolutionaries are either ignored by the establishment or silenced by bullets.
“For there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed, and nothing concealed that will not be known and brought into the light.” ~ Luke 8:17
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Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.