Yesterday was MLK Day, and I was thinking about that means to me for a few days now. My first thoughts were of how learning about Martin Luther King, Jr. life, and the thoughts he shared with others — with us, help me to confront how my fear of others fed my unwarranted racial prejudices, most of which I had no idea how deeply lay within me. Trust me on that. Which is why I posted this entry on MLK day last year.
But after having a conversation with someone who I know doesn’t share those same impressions about MLK, Jr. that I do, I realized that those positive feelings were only possible after I was repeatedly exposed to images and stories of people who had such different lives than both myself and my friend as we grew up in this country. Because he and I are “white” and they were “black”.
Frankly, I hate those terms now. Not because there is no racism in people’s hearts. I am not that naive. But because I believe we are all simply humans who happen to have different color skin. And because I know how deeply my own bias against others different from me, and in particular “blacks”, has been. Even though I never wished for it to be.
With that thought in mind, I sometimes compel myself to watch what others less fortunate than me had to endure simply to gain the same measure of civl rights in my country that I “earned” simply by being born in a “white” family. And that Martin Luther King, Jr. help them achieve. Even though he somehow knew it would prematurely cost him his own mortal life.
With that goal in mind, I searched for videos on YouTube to watch, but specifically avoided polished documentaries one could readily find on the major media outlets (e.g. public television) or streaming commercial movie sites (e.g. Netflix). Here is what I found interesting enough to want to share here:
A) Two student-produced video projects created for their history classes:
B) A 14-minute screen-captured Powerpoint presentation from a course covering the American civil rights movement. CAUTION: Some of the images are graphic and disturbing, but ones that all who want to understand the impact of brutal means to enforce unequal rights in a culture and society:
C) About 10 minutes long, this video focuses on key points and actions of an ardent defender of Jim Crow policies in the South whose actions actually spurred the American people and government to confront the inhumanity of such policies:
D) MLK, Jr. not only struggled to organize civil rights protests, he challenged other African-American Christian ministers who strongly preferred a non-confrontational approach towards whites regarding the civil rights of African-Americans. This video contains an audio recording of a letter Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote to those ministers while serving time in jail in Birmingham following a non-violent protest there:
E) Here is a clip showing the most memorable portion of MLK, Jr.’s now-famous “I Have a Dream” speech from the podium at Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. at the civil rights rally there during the summer of 1963. While I did not intend to find one with subtitles in another language (in this case, Dutch, I think), that I found one so easily with subtitles demonstrates how this portion of that speech has spoken to so many people around the world:
F) MLK, Jr. also faced criticism from members of the black nationalist movement, including its most dynamic public spokesman during that time, Malcolm X. This video contains clips from interviews with MLK, Jr. and Malcolm X stitched together in the form of a “debate” the two were indirectly engaged with each other through the press before Malcolm X was gunned down:
G) MLK, Jr. is sometimes criticized for advocating “black pride” based on the video I mention here. But in truth, he was advocating that African-Americans develop ENOUGH ethnic/cultural pride to simply gather the emotional strength to fight for EQUAL rights with other Americans. And to encourage that — because his fellow “black” Americans had been fed so many lies about there worth as human beings by the degrading racial language and laws in our country, MLK, Jr. gave this speech to a group of his fellow African-Americans:
H) While the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 changed key aspects of civil rights for African-Americans in the US, deep racism against blacks regarding economic opportunities was still endemic in American society in the latter half of the 1960’s. In his ongoing struggle to address this issue, MLK, Jr. gave what is now known as the “We Shall Overcome” speech during his last sermon on Sunday, March 31, 1968. This video contains the most memorable and stirring portions of that speech:
I) A few days after he gave the “We Shall Overcome” sermon, MLK, Jr. gave his last public speech on April 3, 1968 that prophetically predicted his untimely death by assasination the following day. This video contains the most memorable portion of that speech:
J) On the evening that MLK, Jr. was assassinated, Robert F. Kennedy gave a speech to a crowd of mostly poor African-American supporters in inner city Indianapolis in which he announced King’s death, the manner of the death, and counseled his about how to react to this news as King would like want them to. Of the major cities in the US with large black populations, only Indianapolis was spared from the riots that ensued in the days following news of MLK’s death. This video contains that speech with a montage of memorable photos from the period:
To close this stream of thought for this entry, I leave you with a chance to hear a song that often brings cleansing tears streaming down my face when I listened to it — several times, in fact. Because it reminds me of how my fears for too long kept me from seeing the humanity in others beyond what they looked like, what community or country they came from, what religion or none that they declare themselves members of. Or simply what opinions they had.
But also because Dr. King’s life example and words, driven by his deeply passionate belief in the humanity of all of us, is referenced in this rendition of that song. Which helped me so much to realize this about myself, as well as spur me on to grow beyond it. For which I am ever so grateful. And will be for the remainder of my own days.
So give a listen to a song that speaks to the heart of the issue for all of us, as human beings:
We Shall OvercomeAnd thank you for taking the time to so.
The Tightwire Guy