Tag Archives: Martin Luther King Day

MLK and Fanon #ReclaimMLK

If one were to say that the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the late Frantz Fanon were two of the greatest intellectuals ever to walk among the  populace of the African diaspora, that would be an understatement. These two Black men were such a threat to White Supremacy, it was no wonder that the government conspired to have both killed. The white racist establishment desires for blacks and others among the oppressed to see the goals and aspirations of MLK Jr. and Fanon as diametrically opposed, and seeks to divide us between the “good, peaceable” (read: acceptable) Negroes and the angry, violent Black bucks prone to criminality (read: disposable).  Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, inspired the Black Power movement of the late 1960’s as well as Black Liberation theologies, and his labor in the Algerian revolution gave life to anti-colonial struggles world wide.  In the minds of mainstream academia and media, Fanon is portrayed as a dangerous revolutionary much like a Che Guevara.  Martin Luther King, Jr. is adored by people around the world (supposedly), with statues made after his likeness and streets and buildings named after him.  MLK Jr. was a prophet of love, preaching a message of nonviolence, racial equality, and economic justice.

If these two persons were indeed so radically different, it would seem quite strange that King Jr. gave Fanon a sympathetic yet critical reading of WOTE.  But this is exactly what he did in the second chapter of Where Do We Go From Here?.  MLK recognized the urgency of the moment, and the impact that Fanon’s words were having on young Black women and men in his day.  King, Jr. was a committed Christian, and dismissed WOTE‘s conclusion as being bent towards materialism and violence.  This is a rather peculiar and unfair assessment of Fanon’s own words. I think in a way, MLK, Jr. was reading WOTE’s opening chapter “On Violence,” as prescriptive rather than descriptive, and there’s a nuanced difference here. See, it was colonial domination that placed the Algerian people (and other colonized people groups) into a predicament and cycle of violence. Fanon was observing that colonized subjects, victims of violence, experienced an emotional release through revolutionary activity.

Frantz Fanon was far more graphic at depicting specific instances of structural violence: White supremacy, antiBlackness, and settler colonialism.  Martin Luther King Jr. envisioned the rise of the nonviolent person to overcome the violent history of modernity.  MLK believed that nonviolent individuals could come together to promote a nonviolent moral order.  Nonviolence, a practice out of Christ’s call to love our enemies, was a duty placed upon the marginalized.  “With every once of our energy we must continue to rid our nation of the incubus of racial injustice. But we need not in the process relinquish our privilege and obligation to love.” And yet Fanon argued in the same concluding chapter that MLK Jr. cited, “Europe has taken over leadership of the world with fervor, cynicism, and violence. [……] Europe has denied itself not only humility and modesty but also solicitude and tenderness. […] Let us decide not to imitate Europe and let us tense our muscles and our brains in a new direction.” In Fanon’s thought, there is space for an ethic of love and tenderness, but it must be a free choice that the oppressed must make for themselves. The problem with the colonial situation is that it is dehumanizing in its limitations of choices for colonized persons (see WOTE chapter 1).  Furthermore, we see in Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks that his view of freedom is far more essential to his ethics of liberation, since there is “one duty: the duty never to let my decisions renounce my freedom.”  Black people (in Fanon’s view) needed to recognize our natural capacity for self-determination over and against a White Supremacist/ antiBlack society where racial violence was the over-determining factor.

In so far as Fanon participated in the creation a nation-state, that of Algeria, Fanon’s praxis of a “new humanity” apart from Europe was merely a reflection of European, Western modern nation-state, which is built upon violence. Nation-states are formed through middle class hegemony, crony capitalism, and nationalist hymns. Liberation movements should lead us away from the war-mongering model of the nation-state, not sustain its mirror image. This is where we can look to MLK Jr.’s call to love although his message of blacks immediately integrating into a white supremacist society is somewhat questionable. MLK Jr.’s politics, much like his ethics, was built on love.

Unlike many con artists today who claim to be leading a “revolution,” Dr. King (and Fanon, for that matter), had  specific plans with details about how to go about real change. Rather than the nation-state, the U.S.A. would become part of what King called “the World-House” with a guaranteed income for every family, federal funding for local school buildings, and educational parks as well as a national affordable housing plan that consisted of low-cost rehabilitation loans and new public funded, racially integrated housing (think the inverse of gentrification).

Dr. King’s political model of Black citizens joining in loose alliances with either the Democratic Party or the GOP, along with “Puerto Ricans, labor, liberals, certain church and middle class elements” is pretty much outdated. It was a highly optimistic approach to electoral politics that correctly diagnosed Blacks potential as a voting bloc yet it was one that ignored the history of trade unions and racial resentment, and that perhaps overemphasized national politics over local.  Fanon’s program emphasized local municipalities governing themselves all the while maintaining an eye on the lumpenproleteriat (WOTE), the jobless and criminalized of the world.  We need to re-imagine a post-colonial politics that is glocal, that is global in outlook and at the same time prioritizing local issues.   The best way forward is to practice a politics of love and freedom.   It is possible for one to affirm Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s  nonviolent Christian realism as well as Frantz Fanon’s humanism simultaneously. Even with the installation of a tyrannical regime taking place later today, it’s not too late. It’s not the end of the world. In fact, the call to love and liberation is only the beginning.

 

Political Jesus has moved. Welcome to the #ResistDaily

Greetings fam!

For the past three years, I (Rod) had contemplated moving the blog once known as Political Jesus and shifting its focus. After months of discernment, late last year I decided after the Charisma magazine debacle, that this city deserves a better class of Christian magazines.  I imagined the possibility of a magazine to serve both the Church and the World in a forward-thinking faithfulness committed to: Christian Nonviolence, Cultural Intelligence, Interdenominational Dialogue, and Gender Equity. What if rather than news stories centered on cults of celebrity,  or which U.S American political party is doing it wrong this week, there was a Christian publication with a Christ-centered approach, with an eye for the margins?

Thus was born The Resist Daily: The Everyday Politics of Jesus for the Global Neighborhood. You can read more about our mission on our Start Here page.  Over the years, I had a lot of help bringing relevant essays each month at what was Political Jesus. Over the next few days, I will be asking for more help to make The Resist Daily a successful publication. I would like to take the time to thank my friends T.C. Moore for the Logo and the banner, and Alan Noble of Christ and Pop Culture for responding and giving advice about how we should move forward.

Lastly, I recognize the significance of the day of this launching. While the launch date was more of a coincidence, we were inspired by Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s use of the idea of a “global neighborhood.” In his Where Do We Go From Here?, MLK discussed the uses of technology, the hidden dangers and promises of scientific “progress” and how the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. became recognized worldwide. It is the hope of the staff and writers at the The Resist Daily that this publication will be as committed to peacemaking, the liberation of the poor, and human diversity as leaders such as Rev. Dr. King Jr. and others were.

And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and/or Twitter !

dreams not drones #MLKDay2014

“It’s ideas that change people over times.”- Melissa Harris-Perry

If there is one thing that I can’t stand more than anything in January, it’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day on social media. I’ve grown tired and sick of being tired of people who normally STAN for white supremacist practices, dole out quotes by MLK Jr. to make themselves feel better.  When I was in seminary, one of the bitter experiences that will always stick with me was a chapel service where then-Senator Obama was praised as the culmination and fulfillment of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.‘s work.  In fact, I do recall a friend was wearing a shirt that suggested just that!

 

In a recent lecture and subsequent q & a session with students at the University of Rochester, political studies professor and MSNBC analyst Melissa Harris-Perry talked about how a more human, less divinized, messier approach to King Jr.’s legacy should be the key to winning a more progressive future. Ideas are what matters, they are what last and change the world.

MLK Jr. wasn’t shot down for his beliefs. MLK Jr.’s and the women, the other adult men, and children who marched with him, their bodies were not tortured because of their abstract notions of equality, their patriotic love for the U.S. Constitution, or their religious fervor. Bodily encounters are what change the world through praxis. Liberating Praxis changes things. Battles of ideas are waged through the mediation of human anatomy.

We should stop looking at how Martin Luther King Jr. changed the world; let us ponder what changes he fought for, and how this world has remained stubbornly the same. What we should do, on this day, and maybe every day, is look at the values he embodied, and the places where he placed his body. Why was he joining janitors in Tennessee for a protest in his last days? Why did the White Supremacist media in the days of old (I’m looking at you, New York Times), condemn MLK Jr. for opposing the Vietnam War? You see, the Civil Rights movement was and still is a peace movement. One cannot separate the white supremacist logic behind domestic policies and neatly divide them from the Military-Industrial-Complex. War means an evaluation of which bodies matter, which bodies are to be valued over all others. Any military policy that kills indiscriminately, and disproportionately against one people group, is racist. This is why I don’t divorce my anti-racism from my pacifism, I never have, and I never will.

Harris Perry and other black academic elites have supported President Obama’s drone policy uncritically, and I think it is time for them to reassess their values. Reverend Jeremiah Wright is right, MLK Jr. had a dream, Nobel Peace Prize winner President Obama has a drone. I am under no illusions about how imperfect MLK Jr. was, but I do have a good grasp on what he stood for, and no matter how murky you try to make his figure, a tool for militaristic neoliberalism he certainly was not.

Now, more than ever, the Church, and the United States do not really even need MLK Jr.’s ideas (ahem, uncritical commitment to the state via the Constitution is problematic); what we need is his model of practices for peacemaking.

You might also like:

Cornel West on the legacy of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

and

How Lupe Fiasco Honors MLK’s Legacy and HOw President Obama Doesn’t

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