Martin Luther King Jr. Unsanitized: confronting the triple evils of capitalism, militarism and racism

If I didn’t already know better, I’d be tempted to think that Martin Luther King Jr. Day is either a day in which large retailers offer items to consumers at discounted prices, or a federal holiday named in honor of the man who delivered the famous “I have a Dream” speech in Washington D.C. back in August, 1963. Fortunately, I’m aware that this was neither his greatest nor final speech.

Dr. King attends a Harlem rally protesting the Vietnam War. The child's sign read "Children are not born to burn", in reference to the napalm being used against Vietnamese children
Dr. King attends a Harlem rally protesting the Vietnam War. The child’s sign reads “Children are not born to burn”, in reference to the napalm being used against Vietnamese children

When the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about his Dream for America and the entire world, the Dream was not simply for a time and place in which people “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” although this was certainly a big part of it. The reason this line is so often quoted and misused, however, is because, taken by itself, the line doesn’t sound all that threatening to the capitalism or the imperialism that the United States of America thrives on. In his death, Martin Luther King has been sanitized, whitewashed, and then held up as a banner by the very same forces that worked so tirelessly to silence the man during his lifetime. As Mumia Abu Jamal put it, “The system used the main nonviolent themes of Martin Luther King’s life to present a strategy designed to protect its own interests – imagine the most violent nation on earth, the heir of Indian and African genocide, the only nation ever to drop an atomic bomb on a civilian population, the world’s biggest arms dealer, the country that napalmed over 10 million people in Vietnam (to “save” it from communism), the world’s biggest jailer, waving the corpse of King, calling for nonviolence!

King is arguably the most often-quoted man in the entire world, but how many times have you heard or read the following lines from his great many speeches? Of capitalism, he said:

“There is something wrong with the economic system in this country… Something is wrong with capitalism.”

“The problems we are dealing with are not going to be solved until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power.”

“The evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and racism.”

“All I have been doing in trying to correct this system in America has been in vain. The whole [system] will have to be done away with.”

On militarism:

King faced intense opposition for his stance against the Vietnam War at a time it was considered "unpatriotic" to do so.
King faced intense opposition for his stance against the Vietnam War at a time it was considered “unpatriotic” to do so.

“I knew I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today, my own government.”

“The United States of America is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”

“God didn’t call on America to engage in a senseless, unjust war in Vietnam. And we are criminals in that War. We’ve committed more war crimes almost than any other nation in the world, and I’m going to continue to say it. And we won’t stop it because of our pride and arrogance as a nation.”

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

“To pursue endless war is to worship the god of hate and bow before the altar of retaliation.”

“How can they [America’s enemies] trust us when we… charge them with violence while we pour every new weapon of death into their land? Surely we must understand their feelings even if we do not condone their actions.”

“We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy…”

On racism:

“[Black Americans] ought to come to Washington, sit down if necessary in the middle of the street and say ‘We are here, we are poor, we don’t have any money. You have made us this way, you keep us down and we’ve come to stay until you do something about it.’”

“Many people would like to have a nation which is a democracy for white Americans but simultaneously a dictatorship over Black Americans.”

“Even though we’ve gained legislative and judicial victories, they did very little to improve the lot of millions of Negroes in the teeming ghettoes of the North. Changes were at best surface change.”

Americans supportive of Lyndon Johnson's bombing campaign against Vietnam protest Dr. King for his brave stance.
Americans supportive of Lyndon Johnson’s bombing campaign against Vietnam protest Dr. King for his brave stance.

Precisely a year ago, upon this web-blog’s launch, one of the initial posts to appear was titled The King That Was and the King That Wasn’t: Martin Luther King Jr. vs. capitalism, militarism and racism – then and now. It was the 1st in a 3-part series dealing with the real Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as he was without the whitewashing of the mainstream corporate media. Drawing from statements he himself made during his final years of life, it was surprisingly easy to imagine what his thoughts likely would have been concerning the most pressing issues of today. This is largely because the very issues he was addressing at the time have not only not improved, but have gotten substantially worse. All of this is laid out in great detail in the articles which follow. As you read them and take into account the radical vision of universal justice Dr. King championed, ask yourself whether or not it would even be possible for someone to publicly advocate these views today without being labeled as “anti-American”, or worse, a “terrorist.” Public officials and politicians on every side of the aisle today claim to adhere to the values of Dr. King. However, if he were to be somehow resurrected and say openly the very same things he said in 1966-1968, the Powers that Be would just as assuredly do everything in their power to return him to his grave.

Martin Luther King Jr. vs. Capitalism, Militarism and Racism:

  • The King That Was and the King That Wasn’t: part one – The image that America and much of the world has today of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has been thoroughly softened and sanitized as to ensure that King does not threaten or challenge the interests of either capitalism or imperialism. In reality his thoughts about war, the economy and racism would prove controversial even today.
  • The King That Was and the King That Wasn’t: part two – Having reviewed his actual commentary on America’s imperialistic role in the world in part one, as well as his thoughts about income inequality, it isn’t hard to imagine what his thoughts would have been concerning the world’s most critical issues of today.
  • Civil Rights in the United States Post-Martin Luther King and the Creation of the Prison Industrial Complex – Had he not been assassinated in 1968, King would’ve been forced to confront what has become the most devastating human rights atrocity of our time, the rise of America’s prison economy and the mass incarceration of millions of people in what purports to be the “land of the free.”

21 thoughts

    1. Hello Glenn. Thank you for stopping by. And the quote about the napalming of “ten million people” is actually a direct quote from Mumia Abu Jamal in an essay included in his 1990 book, “Live From Death Row”. The passage is on page 134. I don’t know if his 10 million number is or is not 100% accurate but I mainly included the quote because of the way Mumia points to the hypocrisy of the U.S. “waving the corpse of King, calling for nonviolence!”

    1. Thank you Jeff. You are too kind. I’m sure you are well aware of most of these quotes already, but I remember when I first came upon them in around 2010 I think I was shocked that I had never heard that Dr. King had said these things, because in school I never heard anything more than he wanted to end Southern segregation and nothing more. It was very eye-opening for me as I learned why it is that this side of him is not so widely known.

      1. That’s part of why I started blogging. After being raised on a steady diet of myths, fabrications and half-truths by the media, education and entertainment industries I realized I needed to stop being so passive in my learning. Or as Mark Twain put it, “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

        Public figures like Dr. King, Mandela, et al., are always multi-faceted and when the media de-fangs their radicalism, it lessens us all.

        1. You know, for myself I never really set out with the specific intention of learning things about historical figures and icons that I felt I wasn’t getting the full scope of. I would just take an interest in one thing, like say politics or an election, and then one thing would lead to another. To understand why one thing was one way, I’d start looking into another subject and from there I just keep having to learn as much as possible about these things. It’s like this line from the movie “Hurricane” with Denzel Washington, “Sometimes we don’t choose the books we read, the books choose us.” Lol. It’s kind of corny sounding but so true!

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