Per a widely read thread on Twitter (see below), posted yesterday by scholar, journalist, and activist Nikole Hannah-Jones, Martin Luther King Jr. had an awful lot to say about the origins of systemic racism in America, much of which would be banned at the institutions that superficially honor him on MLK Day.
According to Hannah-Jones, upon reading some leaked emails between organizers of an MLK event at which she was scheduled to speak, describing her as a “discredited activist” who was “unworthy of such association with King,” she decided to switch things up. She “scrapped” her original speech and substituted it with lengthy quotations from Dr. King who, despite being a radical activist devoted to racial and social justice, has been airbrushed into a harmless, peace-loving, secular American saint, quoted annually by institutions who would have seen him destroyed when he was alive (hi there, FBI! Hello racist governor of Texas Greg Abbott!).
As you can see from the thread below, Dr. King felt strongly about the origins of American racism, and believed that its deeply corrosive legacy could only be mitigated by radical change at the deepest levels of society. It’s almost as if he had a broader critical theory about the origins and impact of anti-Black racism in America… Of course, most of what Hannah-Jones quoted would be banned from schools in over a third of the states in the union.
If you ever feel the need to quote Martin Luther King Jr. on Twitter, or on a t-shirt, or a poster, please consider choosing your quotation from the thread below (and don’t just do it in January).
I was invited to give an MLK speech today and a small number of members of the group hosting me wrote and then leaked emails opposing my giving this speech, as it dishonored Dr. King for me to do so. They called me a “discredited activist” “unworthy of such association with King”
— Ida Bae Wells (@nhannahjones) January 17, 2022