The Education of the Negro
By Laura Major
This year marks the 41th anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The recognition of this dark event in history is remembered amidst a series of potential political firsts. Both sides speak to the transformation King's fight has created which brings us to this juncture. Only Rev. King had the foresight to believe that Blacks, Whites, men, women, young and old would be working toward a common good. In today's political climate each category previously mentioned was represented in three candidates: Barrack Obama (now President Obama), Hillary Clinton, and John McCain.
Each of these candidates speaks to the influences of MLK and Ronald Reagan. Although political and social activism was marked by the assassinations of JFK, Malcolm X, and Medgar Evans, not until MLK was gunned down and much later when The Gipper lost his senses, have we looked to resurrect a leader to carry on those values. Undeniably, every legacy is sustained in how it is remembered.
Reagan is remembered for his tough stance on drugs and his conservative political theory. While MLK is remembered for his utopian view of society's future where we as a people would be respected for our differences and united by our longer list of similarities.
Getting there requires the honest education of society and all of its members, not a candy-coated education that makes history easier to swallow, but an unbiased history reflecting every participant's strengths and weaknesses.
I can recall the uneasiness in the eyes of my Caucasian high school social studies teacher when he spotted the Autobiography of Malcolm X on my desk. Or later, the curiosity of my Caucasian coworkers during a lunch break when I pulled out a book entitled Martin, Malcolm & America: A Dream or a Nightmare which compared and contrasted the doctrines of Dr. King and Malcolm X. Education is so powerful, that a search to educate oneself about his or her own culture and the contributions from members of that culture raises the eyebrow of the collective majority. Shouldn't the minority just accept what is said about them and their culture by the white majority?
If so, what this amounts to is a lot of rosy colored reflections about history and about some of our most respected leaders. It is easier to remember MLK for his eloquent speeches and his nonviolent protests. It's interesting how the most referenced words of Dr. King come from his "I Have Dream" and his "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speeches. Little reference is made about the disappointment MLK felt toward America for its involvement in the Vietnam War as expressed in his "Beyond Vietnam" speech. King's nonviolent stance was not restricted to the black community's response to racial oppression. King recognized the hypocrisy of fighting oppression and violence with more oppression and violence. No disappointment could exist where there was not once pride.
King's legacy, much like history, should not be picked apart and misquoted to suit the purpose for the moment. To carry on the vision is to understand the whole man behind that vision. Not doing so is to leave very little hope in sustaining a successor for the cause. Who would dare take the charge of the demigod we have created. One that is selfless and without flaws. No one could succeed by that standard. The history of one and his contributions must be remembered in its entirety in order to do the most good.
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