I was shooting the shit with my Dad.
We were just talking, trying solve world issues over a 30 minute phone conversation. Anyway, we got on the subject of the most shocking events that happened during his lifetime. He’s 81 years old, so his lifetime is legit, ya know? Anyway, he listed a couple of events, including the murders of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner in Neshoba County, Mississippi.
In my head, I was like yeah, that makes sense. He was heavy in the Movement at that time, trying to register Black folks to vote up and down the state of Jim Crow Mississippi, so to him, it was probably a bit of a wake up call that he could’ve been Chaney, Goodman or Schwerener. But also, just how violent white folks were becoming. So violent, they would kill other white folks in order to protect their tyrannic way of life.
But then, I was like, “So what about Martin Luther King’s assassination?” “Oh, nah. That didn’t shock me,” he replied. This shocked me that it didn’t shock him, at the time. I was slightly taken aback. But then, he explained it. It didn’t shock him, because he knew “they” would eventually “get” him. That it was only a matter of time. He noted the sad reality Dr. King lived with for most of his adult life.
Think about it.
Here was Dr. King, a man. An imperfect man, who tried his best to further not his self interest, but the universal interest of black folks. Dr. King’s struggles were many. He struggled against the forces of racism and struggles within himself. He questioned his own methods; Some black folks questioned his methods; All while America was actively trying to murder him, both physically and emotionally.
According to a 1968 Harris Poll, Dr. King had a disapproval rating of nearly 75% when he was assassinated. This disapproval rating was actually up 25% from 1963, when he made his famous “I have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. I keep harking back to Dr. King not reaching his 40th birthday, because it reminds me that he was still evolving.
He practiced both the idea of black revolution and self evolution.
For me, Dr. King’s evolution was a natural occurrence for any black leader as thoughtful and passionate as he was about the progression of the black populace. His evolution, or natural progression, went from trying to fit into/join the status quo, to rebelling against the status quo. He went from seeking black revolution in the form of robust legislation on a macro level, to seeking black revolution through the intersection of black and poor folks on a micro level. Dr. King’s evolution went from fighting the obvious racist white folks in white bed sheets with eye holes poked through them to fighting the silent white “allies” who knew inwardly of the disenfranchised black plight but outwardly seemed oblivious to the black struggle.
Both fights were needed.
And he fought more battles for Black equity in his 39 years than most of us will fight in 39 lifetimes. BUT, he was just a man. Simply, a man. A man who hadn’t reached his 40’s by the time America finally killed him. You know, the same America who whitewashes him. The same America who quotes him whenever clear, overt racism is afoot. The same America who reluctantly gave him this holiday we are currently celebrating. And that’s something I can’t forget, nor forgive. I can’t forget how America treated this imperfect man, because even though he was imperfect, he was our ideal of Black perfection. He was our deity. And not surprisingly, they took him from us.
But we knew they would.
Hell, he knew they would.
Leslie McLemore writes about a lot of different shit for Black With No Chaser. He is also the Takeaway Kang and is the father of two beautiful girls, one of which gets on every nerve he has. The other one is sweet. So, you know, balance.
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