Lots of Media for Martin Luther King Day, ‘Racism’s Still Alive…’

January 20th, 2014 · No Comments · By

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, celebrating the birthday of a powerful Aquarian seer. Above is a video piece from video artist Kit Fitzgerald based on the Max Roach’s ‘duet’ version of King’s most famous speech.

Our culture’s story of Martin Luther King has changed much over time. In the late fifties and sixties, King was considered a treasonous threat to America by the federal government. J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI labeled King and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference as a “hate group” and worked hard to discredit King during his lifetime. Most awfully, the FBI sent a letter to King blackmailing him with illegally obtained surveillance tapes and urged him to kill himself rather than accept the Nobel Peace Prize. This is a far cry from establishing a federal holiday in his name.

White America’s understanding of racism has undergone a similar rebranding. The dominant narrative portrays Civil Rights as being fought and won in the 1960s, the final death blows coming with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. We are more concerned today with entrepreneurship turning the tables on income inequality than speaking frankly about the inherent oppression forever necessary for the functioning of our America.

Embedded below is a Democracy Now! broadcast from last year’s 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, talking about King: A Filmed Record, a documentary recently re-released that contextualizes King in his time and political atmosphere. (The segment starts around 42:30)

Important in helping to understand King’s legacy, I think, is to understand the political climate at the time, how other people around him were speaking about racism and systemic oppression. Below is a great clip of Malcolm X speaking at Oxford Union in December 1964:

Here’s a fantastic clip of James Baldwin speaking in London in 1969:

Here’s an interview with Black Panther party member Angela Davis (who spoke at UVA a few years back) speaking while she was being held in California for trumped-up murder charges, of which she was later acquitted. She has held the torch intellectually for many liberation movements throughout time. Here she speaks poignantly about the legacy of violence in America: (This is from a movie that has a bunch of great archival footage, The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975)

This is a Richard Pryor comedy bit called “Bicentennial Nigger” off his album of the same name. It’s absolutely haunting.

I feel as though it’s so important to remember the absolute depth of slavery and racism in our society, particularly on days like today. It’s very easy to forget racism never went away, it’s simply been reshaped. This stand-up routine made the meme rounds a few weeks back but I thought it encapsulated so much so well. It’s the Australian comic Aamer Rahman who performs the show Fear of a Brown Planet explaining reverse racism:


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