The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose legacy has been celebrated this weekend in Memphis by National Conference for Media Reform speakers such as Bill Moyers, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, actor Danny Glover and Democracy Now's Amy Goodman, often prodded the U.S. media to do a better job of covering the civil rights movement that he championed in the 195Os and 196Os.
Geov Parrish, "We could each be Dr. King":
TV whitewashes King's legacy; work is not over
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., would have been 78 on Monday. He has been dead for 39 years, as long as he was alive. As his living memory fades, replaced by a feel-good "I have a dream" whitewash that ignores much of what he stood for and fought against, it's more important than ever to recapture the true history of Dr. King -- because much of what he fought against is resurfacing or still with us today.
King, the man, was, along with Mohandas Gandhi, one of the two most internationally revered symbols of nonviolence in the 20th century. He spent his too-brief adult life defying authority and convention, citing a higher moral authority, and gave hope and inspiration for the liberation of people of color on six continents. MLK Day, the holiday, has devolved into the Mississippi Burning of third Mondays. What started out as gratitude, that they made a movie about it, gradually becomes revulsion at how new generations of Euro-Americans mislearn the story.
The saddest loss in the modern narrative of Dr. King's career is the story of who he was: a man without wealth, without elected office, who managed as a single individual to change the world simply through the strength of his moral convictions. His power came from his faith, and his willingness to act on what he knew to be right. That story could inspire many millions to similar action -- if only it were told. We could each be Dr. King.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., nonviolent martyr to reconciliation and justice, has become a Hallmark Card, a warm, fuzzy, feel-good invocation of neighborliness, a file photo for sneakers or soda commercials, a reprieve for post-holiday shoppers, an excuse for a three-day weekend, a cardboard cutout used for photo ops by dissembling Cabinet members and ungrateful Supreme Court justices. Be sure to check out the Three-Day-Only White Sale at WalMart. Always a better price. Always.
Dr. King deserves better. We all do.