Dear #AllLivesMatter Crew: Dr. King Would Have Thought You Were A Dickhead Too » VSB

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Dear #AllLivesMatter Crew: Dr. King Would Have Thought You Were A Dickhead Too

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There’s a scene at the end of Malcolm X where, during a lesson about Malcolm X from their teacher (who I just like 15 seconds ago realized was Mary Alice), Harlem schoolchildren repeat the refrain “I am Malcolm X!” The scene then shifts to a classroom in Soweto (taught by Nelson Mandela) where a group of South African schoolchildren do the same thing.

It is my least favorite part of the movie. I didn’t — and still don’t — believe Spike had to end this epic and panoramic classic with a saccharine 90-second afterschool special. But it is also (arguably) its most effective. Because of the obvious emotional resonance of having a group of Black boys and girls say those words aloud on film. And also because it makes sense on both a macro (Malcolm X’s legacy lives on) and a micro sense. Malcolm X wasn’t just an everyman. He was literally every man. A poor kid, a pimp, a thief, a transplant, a porter, a prisoner, a bartender, a numbers runner, a preacher, a prophet; it was like he packed 12 different lives into 39 years of life. His life practically begs you to find a connection — any connection — to him.

This scene also comes to mind every Martin Luther King Day, the annual holiday for every racist (subtle and overt), every idiot (subtle and overt), and every racist idiot (clueless and disingenuous) who doesn’t want to admit he’s a racist idiot to attempt to connect himself to Dr. King’s legacy. I imagine them imagining themselves all sitting in a classroom — Tea Party members and Fox News anchors; Breitbart editors and Michelle Malkin; crossing guards and that person on Facebook who you went to middle school with — sitting hand in hand as they repeat “I am MLK!” to each other. Because, of course, Dr. King was a Republican! And he believed all lives matter! And in judging people by the content of their character and shit, which means he definitely would have hated affirmative action. And Obama. Oh, Dr. King would have hated Obama.

Of course, they don’t realize that if Dr. King walked into a classroom full of these dangerously bigoted sociopaths, dog-whistling sycophants, ass-backward extremists, and low-information nincompoops, he would have walked out of that room. And then he would have returned with a firehouse and sprayed the fuck out of everyone in it.

Actually, l misspoke. I’m certain some of these people do in fact realize that what they believe and what Dr. King believed are at two separate ends of the spectrum. Connecting themselves to him is just a transparently counterfeit way to pander politically and give themselves an “I’m not racist” alibi. But I’m sure there are some who do truly believe what they’re saying is true. That what they believe is aligned with what Dr. King believed.

And for those people, I want to deliver a message. You, you post-racial oaf, you narrow-minded little shit, you muttonheaded xenophobe, you intolerant twit, are not Martin Luther King.

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for GQ.com And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't. Whatever.

  • Dr. King would be on his third hear attack. I’m not sure if he would have moved to Canada or France at this point.

    • mr. steal your costco samples

      I tried to download some Mahalia Jackson…

      …but I forgot my iTunes password.

      I hated the end of that episode but some of the throwaway lines / gags still have me /dead

      • “Usher, Michael Jackson is not a genre of music.”

        • mr. steal your costco samples

          I wonder if Dr. King had blaze opinions on pop culture. Like he was just chilling b/w sermons and all of a sudden he’d be like “you know, Jesse, David Ruffin’s upper register ain’t s h i t”

          • More like “Jesse, you see that usher in the front, row? She bout to bow to the King.”

            • If you feel like going deep into Google today, look for his Eulogy for Andrew Young. It’s no joke OMG hilarious.

          • Question

            Thinking that he would have barber-shop pop culture conversations makes me like him even more.

      • Ari

        The BEST phrase of the entire episode. That and “Oh snap! No they didn’t. A boneless rib sandwich.”

        The respectability ending almost ruined it for me too.

  • Hey, I’m a Libertarian, and I know Dr. King, and pretty much everyone in the Civil Rights Movement gave zero f*cks about my economics. Heck, to the extent that they wrote about technology, they were thisclose to being out and out Luddites. Still, I am with their social agenda, and the world is a better place for having MLK in it, despite his flaws. He was an activist and a minister, not a coder or a scientist. And that’s fine.

    • MLK was also kind of a hardcore baptist who would’ve despised most of modern day hip-hop: He thought the youth were already kind of out of control in the 1960’s, in terms of being way too chexualized and materialistic. (imagine now lol). So no, most of us probably aren’t MLK (not even talking about the Republicans, who also tend to say JFK and Jazz music are some way, some how republican), and we don’t need to be, which is what makes his whole legacy relevant.

      That’s kind of the problem with using people as proxies for identity: you attach to the media image/story/propaganda, without actually having to read or familiarize yourself with the actual legacy or ideas the person actually had, not to mention replicating their actions. It’s the same logic behind having a Che Guevara shirt: “I’m a revolutionary…by owning this shirt!” (You’re not, but hey you feel you are…just turn up that Rage Against the Machine track, why don’t you.)

      • Have you ever read the work of George Schuyler? He was a newspaper columnist of some renown until he started gunning for MLK in the 60s for being too religious and a Southerner. (For the record, Schuyler was a Rhode Island native descendant of free Blacks and a militant atheist.) In a certain level, I think he’d be much better in the modern era, for good or ill.

        • Nah, never did. But I’m not surprised.

          To be fair, MLK and the Civil Rights Movement can be seen as a last ditch effort by the black church to maintain it’s power and influence over black politics (ironic that was also it’s finest moment). Since the black power movement, power has shifted towards academia. The 1960’s in general was more pro-exotic religion than Christianity. The 60’s was an age of revolution against the status-quo, regardless of what it was, which is why the Black Power Movement was more in vogue with the Zeitgeist than the Civil Rights Movement.

  • Pinks

    Dr. King certainly wouldn’t want y’all using his face for none of y’all wack a s s hotep a s s misogynist a s s memes, either. He NEVER said “Dress like Coretta to get you a Martin.” Ever in his black a s s big lipped life. So stop.

    • Well, that hotep stuff does have its roots in the Black Power movement. Let’s not pretend that hotep stuff came up in 2011. Besides, MLK was a bit of a pool shark, and used it to relate to the hood.

      • Pinks

        Respectability politics have always been in play with Black folks, but there’s no reason to assign him all these stupid quotes people made up to get likes. I’ve literally seen the saying “Don’t worry about a thing. Every little thing’s gonna be all right” attributed to him. Thinking folks will see it and be like “haha” but the idiots will like, share and try to tell you you’re wrong for doubting them.

        • AlwaysCC

          i don’t believe you. i am naive enough to think people know better.

          • Pinks

            sadly, they don’t. i’ve seen more “profound” ish attributed to marilyn monroe and dr. king than I care to for the rest of my natural life

            • Vibrant C. Mandate

              Wasn’t there some type of meme that said “Just because you read it in the Internet doesn’t mean it’s true”, and attributed that “quote” to Abe Lincoln?

              And some folks didn’t catch it??

              I’ve seen a ton of fake Marilyn quotes too. Shame, cuz she was actually REALLY funny–not just some half-bim/ half-feminist.

        • Brooklyn_Bruin

          Respectability politics isn’t Hotep.

          Kendrick Lamar and RZA are on that , if we respect ourselves, then white folks won’t kill us. It’s the same message our parents and their parents have given. It’s the same mentality that tells girls not to dress “fast” because it invites undue attention.

          In both situations, the powerful will take from the powerless, no matter the disguise.

          It’s typical black social conservatism, rooted in survival strategies.

          But Hotep is RZA 1995, the black man is G.O.D. Man who built pyramids. Jesus is black. Along with my black people need healing thesis, folks really needed these over the top affirmations.

          2016, the Hotep approach is in your face Afrikaness. Emphasis on K, because the “African” language doesn’t have a hard “C”. Lol

          But it’s not the same. Just like black nationalism isn’t the same as Pan-African thought.

          For RZA is a step back.

          • You’re right that Respectability and Hotep aren’t the same. However, they’re both fundamentally socially conservative ways of looking at the world. The Hotep mindset is a bit more aggressive about challenging the hegemonic social structure, but is ultimately about replacing whose on top, not burning the whole edifice down.

            • Brooklyn_Bruin

              I think “Hotep” knowledge would probably burn down the country, if any of them could stop lighting Nag Champa and get serious. I can easily see grocery cooperatives, turn into cooking clubs and classes, community gardens, and finally producer cooperatives. Enough people aren’t willing to sacrifice it all for what are less than tangible goals. The “nation within a nation” concept we see with various ethnic/minority groups all across the globe. The Basque’s in Spain, ethnic Chinese all over South East Asia, etc. These are more than just enclaves and neighborhoods, but group centered economics. (arguably that’s what a lot of on the job racism is in America, implicitly and explicitly the majority group looking out for one another)

              But as far as I can see, it’d replace “Babylon” with a different sort of oppression. Notwithstanding the influence and often direct interference of “other communities”,

              Queens have power, but it is Kings that openly rule. Say what you want about the “power behind the throne”, but when you look at Rasta societies, Nation of Islam, and various other “Hotep” style groups – it’s Patriarchy in a dashiki. The men will argue that it’s a benevolent patriarchy, and some of the women will agree with it – but many of them will still see that the bulk of the work falls on them, but not the spoils. Creating, distributing, and managing resources is the root of every culture, society economy, and political climate. And underlying all of that is the “true nature” of humans. History teaches us that though we may cooperate, some of us will compete instead, to the loss of the group and gain for the individual.

              A real overthrow of the social structure would certainly be more egalitarian, but never for the simple minded, as it would look very messy. Like Occupy Wall Street, it won’t make sense in the conventional way. There won’t be a list of demands, there won’t be a platform.

              People do not like things that are in contradiction, things that are indefinite, hence the intellectual problem of Yung Thug and his lyrics.

              • Jasmine

                I see what you did there with that cliffhanger and I like it.

          • Freebird

            You broke that sh it down homie. Well said.

            • MsSula

              So it could be forever broken down.

          • Pinks

            Get that said.

    • KNeale

      People putting words in his mouth is the funniest part of the nonsense. “MLK would have said ALL Lives Matter” … huh?

      One thing just hit me though. People constantly say “Martin Luther King would have said/felt/thought…” as if this man was always right. His image (I carefully said image and not his person or his true politics) is as close to sainthood as a black person will ever get in America. So we often forget that hey maybe this man might have been wrong about some things. It’s possible that certain modern day controversies might have prompted a different response from MLK had he been here than maybe my own response/opinion.

      • Pinks

        Word – like how are you so sure what he would’ve supported and who would’ve been his allies? I hate the internet for the fu ckery it exposes me to sometimes

        • Jaris Cole

          It’s kind of bitter-sweet, don’t you think? Said exposed f*ckery sometimes allows us to get a glimpse of what some people are really like. So called “allies” get exposed on a day-to-day basis.

          • Pinks

            Every. dang. day.

      • mr. steal your costco samples

        He would have said Draymond Green needs to tone it down a little.

        That’s incontrovertible

        • Oluseyi

          He would have said, “Lead the league in triple-doubles, being the core facilitator for your team’s offense and only have lost two games up to the All-Star break, you can turn it up as much as you want!”

          :-P

          • Brother Mouzone

            I think the MLK episode of the BOONDOCKS had it just about right.

    • Agree 100%. I’m a white guy myself, but I’ve dated several black women and I know how to treat them right. (Some) black men need to get it together!

      • Brother Mouzone

        Maybe you and the person you agree with 100% should run off together..you seem to have the same mindset.

        • Sounds great!

          Pinks, hit me up if you’re ever in the Birmingham area.

      • Jennifer

        • Richard Rabinowitz

          Okay, so the reply to something about a white man treating black women “right” shows an Asian woman being ticked off. Huh?

  • KNeale

    Agreed about the last scene in Malcolm X. Malcolm X was a literal masterpiece. Brilliant film with a brilliant performance. Didn’t need all lat at the end Spike! But admittedly, after being confused, it did move me.

    Also, its not just the right’s co-opting of MLK and his legacy but the left’s co-opt too. I say this all the time, I work at one of those progressive organizations that to the general eye is on “our” side but is completely dominated (and always has been) by white liberal do-gooders who believe they are saving the world and who’s understanding of race doesn’t extend past a Huffington Post article. And they evoke the memory of MLK and the civil rights movement to move forward their own gains like nobody’s business! And then ironically are the first ones to complain about conservatives co-opting/misusing MLK’s image.

    When I come to work its Groundhog Day.

    • I regret that I have but one up vote to give. I guess that Letter from a Birmingham Jail didn’t get his point across.

  • YeaSoh

    Full of insults today Champie… First the post basically cussing yourself out, weird. And, now this post. Still not sleeping good, huh?

  • InezPerez

    Along with people co-opting MLK to spout their own views on race, the day has also become a haven for poorly thought out ad campaigns. Found this gem on Facebook. If MLK stood for anything, it was kickboxing for racial and economic justice.

  • All this projection of Dr Martin Luther King. The man was assassinated at 39! We have no idea where his political consciousness would of went in just 5 years. Much less something like 10, 15, or 20 years! To take like a snippet of one speech he made 5 years before his death is insane.

    • But this is America… this is normal.

      James Deen, Marilyn Monroe, Aaliyah, 2pac, “the forefathers” (a bunch of people who agreed on almost nothing = one being). Famous people, become brands after they die, the shorter their lives (or the period ) the worse it is – that’s the American way.

      • Me

        Don’t forget everybody’s resident homeboy, Jesus.

    • Brooklyn_Bruin

      He was leaning towards socialism, communism, and economic justice.

      But if he was a pragmatist, he might have watched what happened in almost every non Anglo country where that was tried.

      Would there be gentrification? Lots of folks have conveniently forgotten why and how black neighborhoods could exist so close to central business districts.

      Suburban schools?

      Mainstream cats ain’t really thought too deeply for my money.

    • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

      Well, we can be somewhat more sure of what he might of thought about current events based on things he spoke and fought about. It’s utter bull$hit and opposite to say that he’d be against affirmative action when he talked at length about the United States owing black folk, and the unlevel playing field and the ‘insufficient funds’ check. It’s utter bull$shit to say he’d be a corporatist when he spoke at length against the ill of capitalism, wealth disparity and valuing things over people. These people know what they are doing and they cant GTFOH here with that intentional revisionist history bs. We know well enough what MLK would have have thought on most of these issues.

  • TheOtherJerome

    The “all lives matter” folks caused me to loose a little more faith in humanity. It’s so incredibly stupid and selfish that its almost unbelievable.

    As for for the “Dr King Dream” co-opters, the reality is no one wants to be the villain in their own film. And It’s been thoroughly established that anyone who stood against King were the villains in the movie called “America”. So, the same selfish self centered morons who can’t understand a concept like Black Lives Matter, also can’t bring themselves to investigate what Dr King’s beliefs actually were. Their selfishness will only allow them to assume Dr King believed exactly what THEY believe now. And it most assured can’t be the opposite of their current beliefs. That does not compute.

    And so

    Dr King is a Anti affirmative action, corporatist, all lives matter republican. Many of them are quite sure Dr King would be in Oregon with a cowboy hat and assault weapon helping those ranchers “protest” for freedom.

    He is whom ever they need him to be in order for them to stay the heroes of their personal films. 100 years from now Dr King will be turned into a white guy named “Professor Mitch L KingHanson” who saved America from the Communists and LIEbruls who wanted to keep the US segregated by race instead of by income as God intended.

    As an aside, it’s fun to imagine the levels of congnitive dissonance these people will eventually get to:

    “Dr King wouldn’t have just watched the Benghazi movie…. he would have been at Benghazi HIMSELF protecting the Americans”

    • TheOtherJerome

      Professor M.L. KingHanson’s signature speech will be titled “I Had A Dream…. That Sometimes You Have To Wait Your Turn”

    • Brother Mouzone

      Comment of the week right hear!!!…….thunderous applause.

  • John Shannon

    MLK spoke of redistribution of wealth, wasn’t for any political party in particular, was anti-gun, recognized there was a Time for Civil Disobedience and a Time for Riots (at least he understood why folks did riot); he also understood Religion wasn’t for Everyone and never used the Bible to Condemn and Slander those who weren’t.

    King knew that Folks needed to Contribute to their Salvation and not rely on a single person to act- sorta like how folks believed and still do that POTUS just wave a hand or with a pen change things instantly ( we had Bush/Cheney acting like tyrants, so expecting Obama to do the same was always crazy). MLK knew that Religion itself is useful- regardless if it was Christianity, Islam, Judaism, etc. There was no one faith superior to another, just as Blackness or White Power wasn’t better than the other.

    Far too many lost sight of his radical nature in the face of his charm and deep roots in the church- he was smart and knew how to communicate, even when he had is own personal and individual frustrating thoughts and doubts. He was Human, yet one of the Few Great Humans in his time. We don’t have any MLKs, Malcolms, Harriet Tubmans, or other icons like that today; Heck, we aren’t really willing to get Arrested multiple times, support those who are arrested a ton, Boycot to the point of Losing Employment, and so on. We Aren’t……

    Politicis is a n environment of Real-Life Poker and Chess- a multitude of Games with numbers, dollars, and gambling with both and lives of constituents UNTIL it is changed. It’s not a career or business to take lightly but Black Folks NEED People to get in and a lot to Change it. I’m Not looking to Serve a Madman and go Kill/Die in Iran, Syria or somewhere based off of Ignorance, Stupidity of Ego like the Iraq War was a mistake.

    • MLK on guns was a bit all over the place. It’s a bit unfair based on his actions to assume he was pro or anti-gun. For one, Bayard Rustin had to talk him out of giving up his guns, including one prominently stored over his fireplace. Two, he quietly encouraged armed men to act as security for his various movements and made arrangements for guns. Based on the evidence, there isn’t enough to say for certain what he was on gun control.

      But the whole redistrubution of wealth thing? Yeah, he was all over that. And he comes off as a bit of a Luddite. To wit:

      Labor
      today faces a grave crisis, perhaps the most calamitous since it
      began its march from the shadows of want and insecurity. In the
      next ten to twenty years automation will grind jobs into dust as
      it grinds out unbelievable volumes of production. This period is
      made to order for those who would seek to drive labor into
      impotency by viciously attacking it at every point of weakness.
      Hard core unemployment is now an ugly and unavoidable fact of
      life. Like malignant cancer, it has grown year by year and
      continues its spread. But automation can be used to generate an
      abundance of wealth for people or an abundance of poverty for
      millions as its human-like machines turn out human scrap along
      with the machine scrap as a by-product of production. Our
      society, with its ability to perform miracles with machinery has
      the capacity to make some miracles for men–if it values men as
      highly as it values machines.

      Source: http://www.nathanielturner.com/martinlutherking.htm “King Addresses
      the AFL-CIO Fourth Constitutional Convention (1961)”

      • TheOtherJerome

        Gun control is a relatively recent thing for black folks no? Black people seem to be gun owners in my experience. Just not fetishists. I don’t own one. But for the older generation it was definitely part of life.

        As for luddite on wealth redistribution. I don’t see it? In what you’ve cited he was making what was a common prediction about automation at the time (and one that’s made now for that matter)

        But of course automation isn’t what destroyed the Labor movement. It was/ is pulled apart by tribalism.

        • I was thinking in terms of technology. As someone who works in STEM and a son of a system administrator, reading sentiments from people like Martin and Malcolm was a head trip. The technology they criticized paid for me to go to private school, ya know? This isn’t to knock them, but it’s one of those moments where you grow up about your icons.

          • TheOtherJerome

            That i understand. However labor and tech were going through that dance all the way up through the late 80’s. And they did lose jobs. Just not the dire amounts that were being predicted. Automation didn’t lead to the collapse of Labor to where it is today.

            I just think Dr King wasn’t espousing anything different then what the rest of Labor and its friends were preaching.

          • Oluseyi

            I also work in STEM, and am the son of a scientist and two university professors (the other is a linguist); I don’t see it as a knock. There’s nothing about STEM that deserves to be above criticism or analysis, and the unavoidable fact that automation displaces labor, and that how that automation is consequently deployed can create great wealth either for all or for only a few, is simply a truism.

        • “But of course automation isn’t what destroyed the Labor movement. It was/ is pulled apart by tribalism.”

          Isn’t that inevitable though (tribalism)?

          The only nation or group that has achieved a collective unity that was able not to decline into tribalism over a period of less than 100 years, was Germany under Bizmarck (2nd Reich). Two generations later, Hitler tried to do the same thing, but for Europe (3rd Reich)…yeah, that did not end well.

        • “Black people seem to be gun owners in my experience. Just not fetishists.”

          He shoots

          • Yea its me

            Lmao

      • Oluseyi

        This doesn’t read as Luddite:

        But automation can be used to generate anabundance of wealth for people or an abundance of poverty for
        millions as its human-like machines turn out human scrap along
        with the machine scrap as a by-product of production. Our
        society, with its ability to perform miracles with machinery has
        the capacity to make some miracles for men–if it values men as
        highly as it values machines.

        It is precisely the argument I use to argue that capitalism itself faces numbered days, and humanity will be forced to devise a non-market, post-scarcity-based model of aggregate societal interaction. Automation is a tool, and Dr. King argues it can be used for good or ill. I argue that it will inevitably result in good, simply because the ill use (displacing labor) has the long-term effect of diminishing the value of markets, yet capitalists will be unable to resist the greed-based allure of fatter margins, until they completely erode markets and all we’re left with is automatons that produce goods and services and nobody to sell them to.

        Only time will tell, I suppose.

        • But this whole way of thinking falls apart, when you consider the third party in the equation: the consumer.

          As long as people want computers, and want them faster than they were before, then yeah, automation is going to continue. I mean, if people want to go back in time to 10 years ago with $1000 for 40 gb hard drives and 256 mb ram running XP, more power to them.

          • Oluseyi

            Consumers are labor, though. Yes, there are multipliers and fractions in the mapping, where one (skilled) laborer’s outfit serves multiple consumers while another consumer is served by multiple laborers, but as automation continues to move up the value chain and displace more and more skilled, cognitive, high-value labor, more and more individuals fall out of consumption due to loss of income. Capitalists will be unable to help themselves, because the short-term allure of “growth” will continue to drive deployment of automation until it can no longer be reared in, and eventually nearly all labor will be displaced.

            Typically, here, I get pushback insisting that “some jobs” will be needed: engineers to service automation robots, and to write the programs that will control them. Not surprisingly, this argument is typically made by engineers, and particularly software developers. The problem is that robots can be built to service other robots; robots can be built to build new robots; and techniques like deep learning can allow software to design robots (physical or electronic) to meet “new” performance criteria. Bluntly, no job is intrinsically safe.

            • So “capitalists” don’t consume anything then?

              • Oluseyi

                Of course they do, but the bulk of their consumption is not tied to labor-based income, nor do the bulk of them consume a sufficient quantity or variety of goods and services to single-handedly buoy an economy devoid of lower- and middle-class consumers. As a result, we can consider their impact on the consumption-based economy marginal at best. It won’t be sufficient to prevent the eventual market collapse.

                This isn’t a bad thing. Capitalism is merely the best solution we’ve found yet, but the underlying assumptions are changing. Better information and manufacturing techniques allow us to improve efficiencies to the point of possibly out-producing the threshold of scarcity, and scarcity is essential to capitalism. The question is what a post-scarcity economy looks like.

                This transition may take several decades to fully play out, but I suspect we will see it in our lifespans. May we live in interesting times, indeed!

      • Well, AFL-CIO kind of tells you what to expect.

        There’s a great series by the filmmaker Adam Curtis, on how this approach was put into practice in the 20th Century, called Pandora’s Box. The attempts at such organized societies were a failure, which is self-evident, but the documentary goes into the reason why.

        You could say, it’s the whole Hayek’s Fatal Conceit thing, but I think it’s even simpler than that: such a theory has no way of dealing with failure. It is based on a belief that intent, will lead to correct execution. So lets say for instance the entire society is organized in such a way that poverty is aimed to be eliminated, and then failure occurs, and it doesn’t work…what’s to be done? Well, when it didn’t work in the 20th Century, tyranny was what occurred, and logically speaking, it is the only thing that can occur afterwards.

  • Jaris Cole

    “Muttonheaded xenophobe”

    This insult will be put to good use. Thank you Damon!

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