Martin Luther King Day 2021
“Property is intended to serve life, and no matter how much we surround it with rights and respect, it has no personal being. It is part of the earth man walks on. It his not man.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Nonviolence and Social Change: Massy Lecture Four 1967.
If this quote is to be true. If we affirm its meaning. We must, accept that this is the rationale that white people have used to subjugate black people for centuries. If you deny my humanity and reject the incantation performed by President Lincoln that transmogrified chattel into humanity you still view all descendants of slaves as property. Property that you are free to do with as you please. Property that you can cheat, murder, rape, abuse, steal from, and maim because those black bodes are “intended to serve life,” white life.
The lie that has been told and accepted, without interrogation and inspection, is that black people were/are property. The lie is Lincoln granted our freedom, but Lincoln had no power to grant something that we were already imbued with simply by being. Just like Jackie Robinson did not break the color barrier, Jackie Robinson was the first black player that white owners allowed to play with white players. It is a lie to say that Jackie Robinson was the first black player with the skill set to play, many more talented black players languished in the Negro League. The slaves that Lincoln emancipated were not the first group of black people deserving of freedom, they all were. This lie has festered and fomented the enabling of violence and sedition. It is not the searing lens of history that rebukes this denial of humanity, but the perpetrators of the lie knew it was a lie while it was enriching them. Thomas Jefferson, a slaveowner, called slavery a “moral depravity.”
When police kill unarmed black people there is little to no recourse, because the life extinguished is deemed to only have monetary value not intrinsic value. When city governments zoned black people into areas full of pollutants and waste, it was accepted because tools of commerce and productivity are not stored in the home, but in the shed, barn or garage. 50% of medical students, currently, believe that black people have different physiology that causes them to feel less pain; because beast of burden were not seen by doctors but by veterinarians.
The uprisings that dotted this past summer were condemned in the name of property. A child, illegally-armed with an assault rifle and drunk from a toxic elixir of bluster, self-importance, and cowardice crossed state-lines to intimidate people protesting the attempted homicide of an unarmed black man by police. This child claims he came to defend the property of strangers in a community where he does not live and whose social contract he is not in privy. In the name of property he took two men’s lives. Men who had a Constitutional right to life. Yet, this child took their lives because he was taught that property is more important than the lives of black people and those who support them.
Too many Americans were more outraged about buildings being plundered than the unrequited pleas for justice and accountability. They were more disturbed by images of black, brown, indigenous, Asian, and, yes, white bodies flooding our streets yelling for a reckoning than white men dressed in paramilitary fatigues armed with weapons of war laying siege on state-capitols. All of this anger, because Governors enacted protections intended to stop the spread of a deadly pandemic.
Many white Republican politicians slander and libel the Movement for Black Lives Matter for hating police. These same Republicans are silent in the wake of police officers murdered by white supremacist terrorist organizations like the Boogaloo Bois. These white nationalists were responsible for the the deaths of at least two law enforcement officers during the summer of Black Lives Matter. The same Republican politicians who ginned up votes by whipping their base into a frenzy by declaring BLM a terrorist organization, are the same ones who courted and indulged militias, conspiracy theorists, and white nationalists. The very people who were responsible for the murder of a Capitol Police Officer during their failed coup.
In America, a child was celebrated for killing two supporters of BLM. Yet, people of all colors, creeds, genders, sexual orientations, national origins, educational levels, economic levels, and locales were reviled for demanding justice.
When Americans took to the streets to demand justice and then to the ballot box to vote out the most odious President of our recent history, we were heard. Perhaps, that is why President Trump and his supporters feel this election was stolen from him: because the votes of black Americans in Milwaukee, Atlanta, Detroit, Flint, Phoenix, Philadelphia, and Pittsburg do not count in their worldview. When white Republican politicians attempted to negate the votes of those Americans, it was a throwback to the original language of the Constitution that counted black bodies as 3/5ths of a person.
King would never support violence and the destruction of property, but he would denounce all those who value property over the lives and treatment of their neighbors. He would reprimand those who engage in riots, but he would censure those who deprive others of just existing. He would castigate those who loot, but he would denounce those who hoard resources and refuse to share their bounty with those who have less. Dr. King would would have viewed with disgust and horror the attempted coup of our Nation, because a President believed that the votes of blacks should not be counted in our elections. He would convict those who attempt to usurp his words to provide cover for the harm they cause.
It is this respect for property over the maltreatment of black bodies that we all should find abhorrent. It is the defense of property over the fidelity of our Constitutional charge to form a more perfect union that we should condemn. It is the false equivalency that all violence born of frustration with our treatment is equal and proportional. It is the failure to confront the lie that has rotted America.
In the memory of Dr. King, let us work together to fulfill our charge: to form a more perfect union.