On this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, this MLK quote feels relevant:
At Move to Amend, we've never shied away from the labels "radical" (which means exposing and changing the root/core/foundation of problems) or "extremist." Why? Because we are already living under extreme conditions.
What other choice do we have but to be extremists and radicals when corporate rule is widening and deepening, the climate is collapsing, far-right and hate-based authoritarian ideology is becoming more acceptable, and our government isn’t doing enough to address our acute crises?
Let’s not forget that Martin Luther King, Jr. was hated and demonized by the power structure in the 1950’s and 1960’s as being an “extremist” and “radical” for working for racial and economic justice. He called for unity of all races; for love, not hate. Yet, he asserted that:
What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.
King was a threat to the political, economic and military power structure because he understood the need to build power -- people power through independent organizations based on love working for justice in many forms.
That’s what the civil rights and voting rights movements were all about.
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When the power structure and the dominant culture could no longer demonize MLK, they began to sanitize, minimize and commercialize his legacy and movements he was a part of -- that continues to this day...
…Sanitize by over-emphasizing that King’s sole cause was racial justice while ignoring his work for ending poverty (including advocating for an Economic Bill of Rights constitutional amendment), militarism and capitalism.
...Minimize his legacy via the Federal Government’s annual MLK Day of Service sponsored by AmeriCorp. Providing social service in one’s community is fine, but the movements for justice King and others worked on centered on social change – i.e. changing unjust laws, rules and institutions.
…Commercialize the National Holiday by, what else, shopping. Among these MLK Day sales and deals are mattresses – to, one wonders, have one’s own nightly “I have a Dream” experience!
We must always remember not only King and the hundreds of thousands of others who during the civil rights era sacrificed their time, energy, bodies and in some cases, lives for their "extremist" beliefs. We must also remember that they created powerful people’s organizations, based on love, working for system change for justice.
These are lessons for us to remember on this day and to commit to supporting every day.