I remember learning about Martin Luther King Jr. in first grade. I don’t remember very much of substance, but I remember everybody from my class and the classroom next door holding hands and moving around in a circle while singing songs about his life. When I was a little bit older, old enough to start to understand, I was taught about his philosophy of nonviolent protest, his I Have a Dream speech, and the “colorblind” world he envisioned.
I was taught the polite, sanitized, appropriate white mass-consumption version of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
It wasn’t until much later in my life that I learned that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a radical (in a good way). In addition to combating racism, Dr. King was outspoken against the Vietnam war and what he saw as the systemic evils of capitalism. At the time of his assassination, he was under secret FBI surveillance and had been publicly on the Bureau’s radar since at least 1964. There were ongoing efforts to labor him a Communist to discredit him in the eyes of the public. Not that it was a difficult thing to do — in the mid-1960s 63% of Americans had an unfavorable opinion of him.
Read some of these articles and Op-Eds about the full extent of his views (from the Washington Post today, and from earlier here, here. and here). Pull up the original, full text of his speeches and read them yourself in their entirety. Don’t be misled by people cherry-picking quotes and sharing them out of context.
I write this at a time when the sport that brings this community (TSF) together, Premier League football, is still seeing its players, coaches, and officials take the knee as a reminder of the pernicious effects and continuing existence of racism and systemic inequality in society. There is still plenty of work for us to do to better society and to further the lessons Dr. King shared decades ago.