Archive for Martin Luther King
On Christmas Eve, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a five speeches in the prestigious Massey Lecture series. He titled the series “Conscience for Change.” These lectures are compiled in both text, as a book, and audio format, as a CD) [The book was re-released as "The Trumpet of Conscience."] Although these lectures were recorded almost fifty years ago, King’s words still resonate as we continue to come to terms with many of the same issues.
You can also listen to the entire message here (about 1 hour in length and the site requires free registration). What many people forget (or never knew) about King is how radical he really was. In this lecture, he explains that part of the reason people are so upset about riots that had happened recently is that these were attacks on property, which he says, “is symbolic of the white power structure.” Not only is the content of what he says here compelling and contemporary, his oratory is unparalleled by anyone else.
As Jennifer Mueller noted here earlier this month, Glenn Beck is organizing a rally tomorrow in D.C. on the anniversary of the March on Washington. Beck’s goal is to co-opt Dr. King’s legacy. The folks at Brave New Films have made a short (2:16) video mashup that highlights the not-MLK-ness of Glenn Beck:
Brave New Films has also organized an online petition, which you can sign here.
Today, the U.S. celebrates Martin Luther King Day as a national day of remembrance for Dr. King and the civil rights struggle. This is Dr. King’s last speech, given the night before he was assassinated, on April 3, 1968 at the Mason Temple (Church of God in Christ Headquarters), Memphis, Tennessee:
The full text transcript of the speech is available here.
Today, we in the U.S. celebrate Martin Luther King Day, honoring the legacy of Dr. King. Jesse Jackson, Sr. has an opinion piece in The New York Times reflecting on what this great civil rights leader might have thought about the inauguration of Barack Obama tomorrow. Jackson writes:
What would Dr. King, who spent much of his life changing conditions so that African-Americans could vote without fear of death or intimidation, think of the rise of the nation’s 44th president? I can say without reservation that he would be beaming. I am equally confident that he would not let the euphoria of the moment blind us to the unfinished business that lies ahead. And he would spell out those challenges in biblical terms: feed the hungry, clothe the naked and study war no more.
While I know that some of my friends on the left (especially many of my queer friends) cringe at any reference to ‘biblical terms,’ but I think it’s important to remember that the civil rights movement was steeped in a progressive social gospel that interpreted the Bible as a text of liberation, not one of oppression. And, I agree with Jackson’s assessment that King would have spelled out the challenges we face today in terms of a social gospel to feed those who are hungry, clothe (and house) those in need, and work for peace not war. Increasingly, people are taking the MLK holiday as a day of service, and many of those efforts will get people involved in soup kitchens and food pantries, feeding the hungry and the homeless. We should also recall that Dr. King was an ardent opponent of the Vietnam War, and reinvigorate our commitment to ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ironically, one feature that often gets left out of the efforts on the national day of service is any discussion or push toward anti-racism. This seems like a missed opportunity to me, and one that I’d like to see change. In my view, MLK Day should be a time for those who are committed to anti-racism to talk about the strategies of the civil rights movement and address what’s left to be done. And, make no mistake, there’s still plenty work to be done. If you’re unsure about how to get started taking action against racism, I suggest Damali Ayo’s steps as a good beginning place:
Jesse Jackson closes his piece in The New York Times this way:
We should celebrate the election of our new president. And then we should get back to work to complete the unfinished business of making America a more perfect union.
This is what we must do about racism, as well, on this important holiday. Celebrate the wonderful accomplishment of the election of the country’s first ever African American president. And, then we must continue the work of dismantling all forms of racism.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran an article recently about the website about Martin Luther King that white supremacist Don Black publishes (h/t Charles Cameron). The site is what I refer to as a cloaked site, that is, a website published by an individual or group who conceal authorship in order to deliberately disguise a hidden political agenda. In the case of Don Black’s website, the goal of the website is akin to what one scholar has called the discursive construction of uncertainty. In other words, the site is intended to make visitors to the website question the contribution of Dr. King to civil rights, and indeed, to question the goal of civil rights as a worthy goal. In my research with young people (ages 15-19), I’ve found that stumbling upon the site through a search engine frequently is confusing for novice web surfers. (I’ve written about this in a number of publications and this research also appears in my forthcoming book, Cyber Racism.)
Part of what was intriguing to me about the Atlanta Journal-Constitution article is that the reporter, Ty Tagami, takes up the comparison of the cloaked site and the legitimate King Center site, a comparison that I address in my research. What I found in comparing traffic to both websites using the web traffic site Alexa is that at this time of year, around Martin Luther King Day, there’s a big increase in the number of visitors to both sites. Here, in a graph generated by me via Alexa, traffic to the legitimate site appears in blue, the traffic to the cloaked site appears in red. The time period covered is the first six months of 2006; and, the website traffic is graphed here in terms of “Daily Reach (per million)” along the left, and the months across the bottom.
There are several things worth noting in this graph. First, and perhaps most alarming, the traffic to both websites peaks in mid-to-late January, around the time of the national Martin Luther King holiday. I interpret this to mean that people are interested in learning more about Dr. King around the time of the annual holiday, and log on to find more information. Relying on a typical search engine, they find both sites and inadvertently end up at the cloaked site. Second, what’s telling about this year in particular is that 2006 is the year that Coretta Scott King, Dr. King’s widow, passed away (January 30, 2006) and the traffic for the King Center reflects a rather dramatic jump around that time. This is the only time that the traffic for both sites is noticeably different. Mostly, the two sites have very similar patterns.
This suggests a rather profound shift in the terrain of racial politics. Using a standard search engine and the search terms “Martin Luther King” this website regularly appears third or fourth in the results returned by Google. Before even viewing the content of this site, the URL makes it appear to be legitimate, in part because the main web reference is made up of only the domain name “martinlutherking,” and the URL ends with the suffix “.org.” The decision to register the domain name “martinlutherking.org” relatively early in the evolution of the web, was a shrewd and opportune move for advocates of white supremacy; failure to do likewise was a lost opportunity for advocates of civil rights. Recognizing that domain name registration is now a political battleground, a number of civil rights organizations have begun to reserve domain names to prevent them from being used by opponents of racial justice. For example, the NAACP has registered six domain names that include the word “nigger” and the ADL has registered a similar number of domain names with the word “kike.” However, registering offensive epithets is only a small part of the struggle. The move by opponents to equality to register the esteemed symbols of civil rights as domain names, such as Martin Luther King, and use them to undermine racial justice is one that was clearly unanticipated by civil rights organizations.
To be effective, cloaked sites with seemingly legitimate-sounding domain rely on the naïveté of their target audience. This naïveté is about both new media literacy and about a racial consciousness that recognizes and resists the white racial frame. Cultivating both of these is important as we once again approach the national King Holiday and millions of web visitors look for information about Dr. King.