Monday was the day we, as a nation, observe the birthday of Civil Rights Icon Martin Luther King, Jr. (who was born on January 15, 1929). It was also the day lots of white people with selective memories shapeshift like Decepticons into progressive, social justice allies. History, their voting patterns, and their comment sections indicate that they probably loved the good Reverend Doctor then about as much as they love Colin Kaepernick now. But once a year, to show how much they’ve always stood for equality and justice for “The Blacks,” they will trot out some of MLK’s more famous quotes and plaster them on their social media pages, complete with fancy filters and fonts. If they’re feeling particularly introspective, they may mention something contained in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” circa 1963. Most times they stick to excerpts from King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, (which even he decried as superficial “optimism” that needed to be “tempered with solid realism” later in life). Rarely do they venture into the world of King from 1965-1968.
(Wait…y’all do know King didn’t get assassinated right after the Lincoln Memorial speech, right? I mean, I realize history conveniently leaves out MOST of his orations and writings in order to paint a defanged picture of him—especially the ones with stern language condemning America for its continued economic injustice toward minorities and poor whites, after Civil Rights Legislation had been signed into law. History would also LOVE for you to believe that this speech was the end of his social justice career…but nah. His vision advanced beyond the “dream” to his involvement in the Poor People’s Campaign…which ultimately got him murdered by a lone racist named James *cough* the government *cough* Earl Ray.)
When trying to convince people to do something, using the words of a prominent historical figure has been known to influence the masses and drive the point home. No matter the context of the original quote, if just one sentence fits a particular situation it will get chopped and screwed into a remix of “wise words.” King’s words are no exception to this rule, suffering an ironic twist of fate: the ones on tolerance and non-violence are often the tools white people use to try and silence the cries of injustice and intolerance from the very people King was fighting for.
On Sunday, during his vacation from the Hollow Tree Factory, Keebler Elf Mike Pence was the latest abuser of King’s Dream speech. During a “Face the Nation” interview with Margaret Brennan, Pence had the unmitigated gall to not only misrepresent Martin Luther King’s words, he compared King to the bloated Big Mac with sentience currently running our country, Donald Trump. (If you would like to take a second to rinse out your mouth, go right ahead. I threw up a little when I heard it too.)
Michael Pence, the sitting Vice-President of the United States of America, decided that the best way to make a point about the need for a xenophobic wall—which his party is currently holding the country hostage over (the government has been shut down 31 days and counting), was to quote a man who stood for equality among races. WHUT?
I don’t know what kind of product Mike uses to keep that dusty white hair helmet in place, but it must have toxins that are seeping into his pores, through his skull and affecting his brain. Pixie cut Pence stated, with a straight face mind you: “Honestly, you know, the hearts and minds of the American people today are thinking a lot about it being the weekend we are remembering the life and the work of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. One of my favorite quotes from Dr. King was, ‘Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy…’ You think of how he changed America, he inspired us to change through the legislative process, to become a more perfect union, that’s exactly what President Trump is calling on the Congress to do, come to the table in a spirit of good faith.”
If you don’t get your intellectually dishonest ass up out of here, Michael.
To start, when people talk about “One of my favorite quotes”, they usually don’t have to stare down at a piece of paper to repeat it. If it’s a “favorite,” you can usually recite it from memory, no? Yet in the video, you notice Pence looks down to READ his favorite MLK quote off of a document in front of him. Interesting. Maybe he had a memory lapse because the quote is so out of context. You see, when Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of the promises of democracy, he was speaking about giving people equal rights. Here is the full text:
“We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”
Yet y’all want us to detach from reality and common sense…to the extent of believing…MARTIN LUTHER KING, JUNIOR would have DESIRED us to perpetuate the current RACIAL DISCRIMINATION toward Latino/Latina peoples through the democratic action of…FUNDING A COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY WALL TO SHOW HOW MUCH THEY ARE NOT WELCOME…IN THIS COUNTRY OF IMMIGRANTS? Ok.
While true that King inspired us to “change through the legislative process,” the change he sought is one that today’s Republican party actively fights against. We are nowhere near a more perfect union, and this administration is currently flying a raggedy looking Trump plane in the complete opposite direction. What Pence and his ilk are doing is completely adverse what King wanted, needed, or instructed us to do…yet they invoke his name in an attempt to get people on board with their bigotry and hatred. This commonplace perversion of his words is exactly the reason why lauded Chicago writer and public servant Leslé Honoré wrote the poem “my king” in 2017 (her entire book is amazing and poignant in our current social climate, and can be purchased here):
Get yo hands off my King
Get yo white washing
Lie telling hands off my King
Get yo hands off his legacy
Get yo hands off my King
Get yo misquoting
Hiding a knife behind yo back
Get yo hands off my King
Get yo wire tappin
White hood wearing
Hands off my King
He wasn’t a pacifist
He was a Man Marching
Black woman loving
Black Children Raising
Get His name out yo mouth
No He is NOT rolling over in his grave
When we scream
BLACK LIVES MATTER
When we flood the streets in protest
When we shut down your highways
And Your stores on Black Fridays
When we organize and fight against
Your pseudo liberalism
That likes its kneegrows
Touch down making
Shucking and jiving
HE ISN’T ROLLING OVER
SO GET YO HANDS OFF MY KING
Somebody needs to tell Pence and those like him to get their hands and minds right… right off of the words and legacy of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. They didn’t respect their magnitude and meaning then, and they surely don’t now. If you’re not about his mission? Keep his name out your mouth.