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Opinion: A Whitewashed Dream of MLK’s Forgotten Legacy

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Photo from the City of Albuquerque.


“One hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later the life of the Negro is still badly crippled by the manacles of segregations and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land.”

– Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Aug. 28, 1963

These words were spoken at a time when Black Americans were considered second-class citizens in a nation they were forced to build. Unfortunately, this sentiment is still prevalent
in contemporary society.

On Aug. 28, 1963, over 260,000 people came to hear Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. speech and to protest the racial war that was occurring in the country. Not long afterwards, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and later the National Voting Rights Act of 1965.

From a critical perspective, if one looks into the history of the Civil Rights Movement, the progressive legislation was a matter of maintaining America’s status as a democratic pillar in global society. The political move was not as altruistic as some would perceive. Additionally, racial and civil rights halted because citizens adopted this colorblind ideology post-Civil Rights Movement. This whitewashed ideology diluted the true meaning of what Dr. King envisioned for society.

The Forgotten Legacy

I choose the opening quote from Dr. King’s speech for a reason. Black Americans are being murdered for protecting their families after play video games (Atatiana Jefferson), eating ice cream in their apartment (Botham Jean) or even walking from the 7-Eleven with a hoodie on (Trayvon Martin). White folks are calling the police on Black families for having a barbecue, a mom using a neighborhood pool and a Yale graduate student for falling asleep in her dorm common room. We are strangers in our own land.

Athletes are considered un-American or too radical for peacefully protesting police brutality. Not only that, but athletes are banned from a game the love or engaging in political demonstrations on a global level. I think it is obvious that the negative racial ideologies adopted in America spread like a disease around the globe. To be honest, Black Americans are still treated like second-class citizens in the U.S. They have been denied to exist since our ancestors were stolen from our homeland.

We celebrate Dr. King’s legacy the third Monday of every January. This is usually the day when people tweet harmony, diversity, inclusion, civility, and act like we are in a post-racial society. However, it is a farce because Black people do not benefit from these attitudes.

People tend to focus on the romanticized whitewashed legacy of Dr. King, which preaches equality, finding common ground, forgiveness, singing “kumbaya” and other things. Contrary to the whitewashing of Dr. King’s legacy, the revolutionary leader battled capitalism, disapproved of the Vietnam War, poverty, imperialism, and so on. Dr. King was powerful to the point where he was assassinated April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee at The Lorraine Motel. He was murder because Dr. King was a Black man with too much power and could not be controlled.

The Statistics

Word Cloud

The total post volume from Jan. 20-21 was 625,000 social media posts with 603,800 from Twitter. The sentiment score was 64.7 percent positive. These statistics were calculated when searching the keyword “Martin Luther King, Jr.” However, after combining keywords “MLK” and “legacy” on the same day, the total post volume was 73,000 with a sentiment score of 51.9 percent. The top words vary with each keywords as well.

The above image (below) of top words presents the Sunday School version of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, while the below image briefly mentions issues of systemic racism, White supremacy, disenfranchisement and foundational issues. The image below represents what Dr. King was battling until his death.

Unfortunate Inspiration

This article was unfortunately inspired by Donald Trump’s Twitter. To commemorate Dr. King’s legacy, Trump tweeted:

There are a few things wrong here: 1.) he implied a comparison to Dr. King, 2.) he used this day to brag about his accomplishments, and 3.) he wrote “MLK jr DAY.” News flash, it is not about you Mr. President.

Then on the same day, The Hill published a video of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway stating:

“I don’t think it was within Dr. King’s vision to have Americans dragged through a process where the president is not going to be removed from office, is not being charged with bribery, extortion, high crimes or misdemeanors.”

As many news outlets such as The Washington Post have reported, Conway believes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would not have approved of Trump’s impeachment. She might as well of said, “Dr. King would have approved of being assassinated.” Yes, that is reaching, but this is an opinion piece. Her comment is an insult to Dr. King’s legacy.

This president has spewed racist, sexist, ableist, classist and bigot rhetoric even before he was president. He is the current epicenter of hostility in America. Vox provided receipts chronicling Trump’s racist history from 1973-2019. This person changes the narrative for his own selfish gain to avoid impeachment. Thus, Donald Trump is the opposite of Dr. King.

Dr. King was a true American patriot because he criticized a nation’s government for their crimes against economic and racial marginalized people. Additionally, he did not spew out hollow promises (none of which benefit marginalized groups) and fatal words. Dr. King knew someone had to take action to help those who could not use their voice due to a broken system that thrives on oppression. Based on the current political climate, this is not the world Dr. King envisioned. In reality, we are a regression of his dream.