Why Our Rulers Killed MLK, Jr. And Malcolm X
26 August, 2013
(Originally published in Countercurrents.org)
Remember This As We Commemorate the 1963 March on Washington
There are a lot of radio/t.v. commemorations of the famous March on Washington held 50 years ago this August 28. These commemorations give us (and especially the younger generation born long after Martin Luther King, Jr.'s death) a "safe" (for the ruling class) understanding of the Civil Rights Movement and MLK, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" vision.
Despite the fact that we have streets named after MLK, Jr. and postage stamps honoring him, I believe that if he were alive today that Obama would have him assassinated, just as "governmental agencies" (as determined by a jury verdict, by the way) did in 1968.
The ruling class assassinated King because he led the Civil Rights Movement to oppose the Vietnam war as well as Jim Crow, and because he rejected his initial racial analysis and adopted a class analysis. The latter fact is less well known than the former. Here are some King quotations that tell the story.
In an Ebony Magazine article in 1966, King defended nonviolence with these words:
"In violent warfare, one must be prepared to face ruthlessly the fact that there will be casualties by the thousands. [He refers to the U.S. government killing millions in Vietnam] ...Anyone leading a violent conflict must be willing to make a similar assessment regarding the possible casualties to a minority population confronting a well-armed, wealthy majority with a fanatical right wing that is capable of exterminating the entire black population and which would not hesitate such an attempt if the survival of white Western materialism were at stake."
King clearly saw the conflict in racial terms: a minority of blacks against a majority of whites. But the year before, in 1965, in his Selma, Alabama, speech (read it and listen to it here), King explained how Jim Crow was used by the upper class in the South to oppress not only blacks but the poor whites too. This insight was the basis for King developing a more explicitly class, rather than race, analysis of, and strategy for ending, systemic racial discrimination.
Fast forward to February 4, 1968, when King gave a sermon at the Ebenezer Baptist Church a month before he was assassinated, in which he said:
"I always try to do a little converting when I'm in jail. And when we were in jail in Birmingham the other day, the white wardens all enjoyed coming around to the cell to talk about the race problem...And when those brothers told me what they were earning, I said, now, 'You know what? You ought to be marching with us. You're just as poor as Negroes.' And I said, 'You are put in the position of supporting your oppressor. Because through prejudice and blindness, you fail to see that the same forces that oppress Negroes in American society oppress poor white people. And all you are living on is the satisfaction of your skin being white, and the drum major instinct of thinking that you are somebody big because you are white. And you're so poor you can't send your children to school. You ought to be out here marching with every one of us every time we have a march.' Now that's a fact. That the poor white has been put into this position--where through blindness and prejudice, he is forced to support his oppressors, and the only thing he has going for him is the false sense that he is superior because his skin is white." [These quotations are from the book, Martin Luther King, Jr., I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches that Changed the World, HarperSanFrancisco, 1986]
Clearly King was now preaching that class, not racial, conflict is the story; he even was referring to whites as "those brothers." This is a 180 degree change from perceiving ordinary whites as a "well-armed, wealthy majority" defending "white Western materialism."
King had to die, just as Malcolm X had to die (new evidence has emerged that the NYPD and FBI conspired to kill him) after he returned from Egypt where he learned that Islam was not about race, had his epiphany, and started appealing to whites as well as blacks to fight against racial discrimination. I was in the audience when Malcolm X addressed an assembly of almost all white students at Dartmouth College and received a standing ovation, just months before he was killed.
Today, the insights learned by these two charismatic leaders--that the oppressed are the vast majority regardless of race, and the oppressors are a small minority that can be defeated--continue to threaten the power of the ruling class. So much so that the ruling class has launched a propaganda campaign to make people forget these class insights and revert back to racialist thinking. The ruling class strategy is, as always, divide and conquer the working class by creating resentment and hostility between different races and ethnic groups.
Thus Big Money promotes "White Privilege" rhetoric (as leftist "political correctness") designed to make it seem that ordinary white people benefit from the oppression of blacks. It uses Affirmative Action to foment white resentment of blacks. And whenever the opportunity arises, it uses leftist "political correctness" to ascribes racist motives to ordinary white people when their motives are not racist. One example of this is labeling whites who want job hiring and school admission requirements to be the same for all races* as "racists" even though this view is exactly what MLK, Jr. called for in his I Have a Dream speech when he famously said, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Another example is claiming that the Zimmerman jurors acquitted because of racism and not reasonable doubt of guilt.
We need to recall, teach the younger generation, and never forget the insights that King and Malcolm X died for.
*If the corporate/government elite who promote Affirmative Action (Richard Nixon initiated it) truly wanted to end discrimination against racial minorities, who are disproportionately working class, and do it in a way that would have promoted solidarity between the different races, then they would have ended the use of job hiring and school admission requirements whose only real purpose is to discriminate against working class individuals. The SAT test does this, so it should not be used. Furthermore, working class schools are notoriously worse than the private elementary and secondary schools that wealthy people send their children to. Working class schools are standardized test-prep centers designed to teach working class children that they are not deserving of good jobs and respect (the standardized tests are "norm referenced," which means that the failure rate is determined in advance by the test designers, not by how well students have learned their lessons.) In contrast, the private schools for children of the wealthy don't use the standardized tests, and teach their students that they deserve and can expect "leadership" jobs and respect when they grow up. The same corporate elite that endorses Affirmative Action also leads the way in making working class schools worse and worse. Why? Because both things serve the same purpose: maintaining class inequality.