Black History Month

Black History Month Would Ridicule Martin Luther King if He were Alive Today: Dr. Boyce

Would Ridicule Martin Luther King if He were Alive Today: Dr. Boyce

By Boyce Watkins, PhD
Posted Jan 14th 2011 2:07PM

I love the cute Dr. Martin Luther King Day celebrations that are done all across America. On his birthday every year, we all get together to sing, "We shall overcome," and talk about holding hands and judging each other by the content of our character. We have commercialized Dr. King in the same way we all decided that Christmas celebrations should begin in Wal-Mart. Our nation talks about Dr. King as if we've all been down with his beliefs from the beginning and that if King were alive today, we'd love him like no other.

As my daughter sometimes says to me when I force her to keep studying, "That's a buncha bull."

Here are some quick thoughts on Dr. Martin Luther King:

America was not down with Dr. King from the beginning: When Martin L. King died, he was very unpopular. By speaking out against the Vietnam War, he was declared to be unpatriotic. History was on his side, but America was not, at least in the 1960s. Many of the men and women who pay for King Day celebrations today resisted Dr. King's efforts 40 years ago. America did not love Dr. King the way we say we did, and the same can be said for Muhammad Ali. Don't believe the hype, it's simply not true.

Leaders who fight for African-American causes are typically ridiculed by the media: Think about this for one second: Can you think of a single prominent African-American leader who speaks unapologetically about black issues who is not made into some kind of clown by the media? When I bring up Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton (two very intelligent men who I speak with regularly), the first thing that people want to do is make fun of them. The same thing goes for Louis Farrakhan, a man with more discipline than 99.9% of all the people I meet. These guys may be controversial, but they are not clowns - being on the front lines of civil rights has always been a difficult and dangerous job.

The point is simple: America has a history of making a mockery of African Americans who speak out against the existing power structure. Even President Barack Obama has been ridiculed more and more, especially when he takes a stand on issues related to race (which is why he almost never does it). If Dr. King were alive today and chose to continue to attack the existing power structure, you'd be making jokes about him too. We cannot let the media tell us what to think about prominent African-American figures who take stands on issues that relate to race. If we are not happy with their approach, then we should simply do something different, without going out of our way to criticize. If you're doing nothing, then you have no right to sit to the side and heckle those who are trying to make a difference.--By Dr. Boyce Watkins, PhD

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