Kenneth L. Hardin: I’m skipping the MLK Day sideshow
Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 15, 2023
I miss going to the movies. I used to go every Friday, but COVID stole that happiness from me years ago. I found excitement walking into the movie theater and nestling down into the comfortable padded chairs with a tub of hot buttered popcorn in anticipation of the performances on the screen. I even enjoy going to see live theater, born from my first time seeing “The Wiz” on stage as a little wide eyed 8-year-old. But that too is a memory now.
What performances I can’t stomach are the annual theater of insincerity, hypocrisy, and obvious pandering by elected officials and other people who don’t look like me at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day events in this little slice of crime ridden and gun violent marginal heaven. Even more sickening is the sad display of the leaders, who do look like me, fawning all over these actors. For 364 other days a year, little to no respect or concern for the Black community is shown, but tomorrow everyone will have a quote about the importance of brotherhood and driving out racial hate. It turns my stomach to see some of our colored men of the cloth and do-nothing civil rights organizational leaders jump around these politicians like the little dog in the old Looney Tunes cartoon begging for acceptance and approval.
I can imagine a room full of people who will come to the event in their segregated cars from their segregated communities. When their performance is over, they will go back to their segregated communities in those same non variegated cars. They will join hands, sway back and forth and sing that ridiculous song of how we shall overcome one day while never thinking of Dr. King’s “fierce urgency of now” belief. How much longer, after seven decades of singing it, are we supposed to wait to finally overcome? Can we at least make our progress like a game of horseshoes and call it a win if we just get close?
The hypocrisy of people who now revere King is as stifling and uncomfortable as wearing a winter coat, gloves, and scarf, while vacationing in the hottest recesses of Satan’s lair in mid-July. But those Stepford-like attendees will smile through the pain and discomfort for a few hours to assuage guilt while trying to curry favor with a people they routinely ignore.
According to a Gallup poll taken two years before his death, Dr. King had a 63% negative rating. In early 1968, a Harris Poll revealed that the man, who dedicated his life to peace and brotherhood, died with a public disapproval rating of nearly 75%. Nothing much has changed in the decades since, except like with Muhammad Ali, people now use King to absolve themselves of the hate they internalized and either overtly displayed or quietly allowed.
In his 2014 book, “Death Of A King,” Tavis Smiley wrote of how King was despised by middle class Blacks and revolutionaries, denounced by the White House and the press, and routinely hated by the majority of the white population. The nation even recoiled in horror and held tightly to the pearls around its collective neck back in 1983 when it became an official holiday.
Opponents argued that a paid holiday for federal employees would be too expensive and a holiday to honor a private citizen would be contrary to tradition. Lest we forget that every October we celebrate Columbus, a pedophile, enslaver, rapist, and murderer who discovered nothing. It took 15 years of fighting for it to be declared a national holiday. One of many who opposed was the good ‘ol staunch defender of racial inequality and disunity, N.C. Senator Jesse Helms. He even sank low enough to introduce erroneous FBI surveillance material that painted Dr. King as a Communist and threat to the U.S. He tried to filibuster but the bill passed easily by a 78-22 vote and President Reagan quickly signed the legislation.
Several states like New Hampshire and Arizona tried hard to show how much disregard for Black people and unity they held after the signing. New Hampshire refused to call it what it was and instead deemed it “Civil Rights Day. “ It took Arizona three years and severe economic loss through boycotts to finally act like they could tolerate people of color by officially acknowledging the day
Fear not, the feel good MLK events are upon us. I won’t be attending any. Politicians and translucent leaders of color will put on their costumes and head out to the community theaters to perform at events, but within a week, they’ll go back to ignoring the shootings, and the people in marginalized areas. Black History month will be here soon, so everyone will be getting ready for the next show. I’ll pass on those performances too.
Kenneth L. (Kenny) Hardin is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists.