Saturday, January 15, 2022

Thoughts on Dr. King, So Young, Not Long Ago

Today is the 93rd birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. 

As a number of people pointed out on social media, his age this year would have been the reverse of what it was on the day he was murdered in 1968. It's entirely possible he could have lived to this age, as have his near-age fellows like Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte. 

Activist Leslie Mac put a different spin on this idea of King's recency in her Twitter feed:

I really implore folks to share color photos of Dr. King this weekend and all the time. White supremacy has for far too long solely presented black and white images of a man who lived in modern times to trick us into thinking the Civil Rights Movement was eons ago. It was not.

It's become commonplace for the Right to try to co-opt King's legacy, particularly his "content of their character" phrase, as if it were the only thing he ever said. They pretend they have (and had) no problem with the "correct" kind of civil rights, but anyone who looks at even a bit of history knows that isn't true. King was disliked, if not hated, by most white people at the time, as surveys showed. So it stands to reason that conservative white people would have been the most likely to have hated and feared him.

For instance, if you ever wondered how Fox News would have portrayed the 1963 March for Jobs and Freedom in Washington, you don't even have to wonder, because there was roughly equivalent coverage in newspapers like the Shreveport (Louisiana) Times:

Click to enlarge; it should be minimally readable.

The person who was source for this article reported that there couldn't have been more than 80,000 people present and that anyone who said otherwise was wrong. He thought it was worth noting that "...many of the white demonstrators looked like 'beatniks.'" Many of them were bearded, he added." In fact, the beatnik description was important enough to warrant a subhead, as was his awareness that there were some "Negroes Shabbily Dressed." Goodness, people from rural areas were wearing overalls!

Washington residents were reported to have disliked the event, finding it inconvenient. Which is odd, since the majority of Washington residents were Black. I wonder if the observer talked to anyone but white residents?

Segregationist Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina is quoted as saying the pending civil rights legislation is unconstitutional and that he would filibuster it it. And here we are, once again, with the filibuster being used to enforce white supremacy.

Note that the source for the Shreveport Times article was that city's Public Safety Commissioner, who at the time was leading his own anti-civil rights actions at home in the name "law and order."

I'm a fan of a type of fiction called alternate history, but articles like this are essentially creating an alternate present. They're also fictional, but not in a good sense.

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