Date: Tue, 8 Feb 2000 20:54:20 -0600 (CST)
From: Mark Clement <MClement@bruderhof.com>
By Mumia Abu-Jamal, 8 February 2000
On the day I received the kind invitation from SCLC Board/King Planning Committee Member, Maureen Flynn-Hart, the news media announced that the Catholic church hierarchy was considering naming the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a Baptist, Protestant minister, as a Christian Martyr; an extraordinary honor to a non-Catholic.
As I thought of this honor, I was also reminded of how political conservatives have appropriated the name, image, and selected texts of the late Dr. King to further their right-wing, white supremacist agenda. A prime example, of course, is the anti-affirmative-action initiatives that have been placed on the ballot in California and other places, actions that would've sickened the heart of King if he was among the living.
It is the nature of the state to co-opt movements to further their own interests. That's the nature of capitalism, isn't it?
A deep reading of King, however, shows, not so much Christian Martyr as Social Reformer - someone deeply concerned about economic and social justice, as well as American militarism. Consider this: When Dr. King was cruelly martyred, was he assassinated while working for the church, or while working for a decent wage and dignity for striking garbage workers in Memphis?
It's easy for us, the living, to forge Dr. King into an icon; it's safe. It's much harder to do the work that Dr. King would be doing today. How would he look at a president like Clinton's dark, pragmatic embrace of the death penalty? What would he say about two million people in prison? How would he address homelessness in the richest nation on earth? What would be his response to injustice in the so-called halls of justice?
I hazard a prediction that, health permitting, the good Rev. Dr. would be passionately protesting these, and other, injustices -- just as we should do!