Tag Archives: Martin Luther King Jr

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.

 

5 Takeaways from #Selma @SelmaMovie

This past Friday, in spite of no showings of Ava Duvernay’s Selma (2015) being shown in Fort Worth theaters, a friend and I were able to see the film in Grand Prairie. We had to endure being in line where there was only one cashier at the box office, but once we were in the theater, there weren’t even ten other viewers who showed up. Able to choose where I sat, I picked the usual: middle aisle, middle seats. Movie theaters are the only place where I choose “the Middle Way.” After we the audience got through twenty minutes of previews, the actual movie started. Throughout the film, my mind was racing with thoughts, being reminded of the current issues of today and how injustice functions and what role religion plays in society. I told a number of friends I had gone to see the movie, and a few of them requested that I write out my thoughts. So here, without further ado, are five takeaways from my viewing of SELMA. Oh and yes, general Spoiler Alert

1. Selma is an example of exactly what a “Christian” or faith film should look like. In the recent decade, Evangelical Christian culture has struggled to get a presence in Hollywood, offering movies from Fireproof to Courageous to even my favorite of that group One Night With The King.  Selma is a film that portrayed both the piety of clergy and lay people not as some awkward conversionism, but something to be embodied and portrayed everyday. When King is in jail, his friends are citing the words of Jesus to calm him down.  When King needs to hear the voice of God, he calls Mahalia Jackson to soothe his fear of death. More importantly, Christianity is depicted as more diverse than the run-of-the-mill nondenominational Bible church evangelicalism of the aforementioned films. When King decides to march across the bridge to Montgomery, he is greeted by an Eastern Orthodox priest. An almost perfect picture of ecumenism at work.

2. If it wasn’t for the women, would there be a Civil Rights Movement? Not enough work has been done on the importance of women, especially Black women’s roles during the Civil Rights Movement. We are given the opportunity to empathize with the struggle of Anna Cooper who is denied her basic right to vote. We are given a small glimpse of Diane Nash’s influence in Reverend Dr. King’s inner circle. We see just how essential Coretta Scott King was to MLK’s ministry. Her encounter with Malcolm X was symbolic of the real philosophical differences between Martin’s side and Malcolm’s side.

3. Selma’s representation of debates about how to go about dismantling White Supremacy only scratched the surface. As I mentioned above, Malcolm according to the film Selma, chose to use himself as a foil to Martin, so that MLK could be seen as the “more respectable” of the two.  Yet while these disagreements continue to be debated, I don’t think that Malcolm is portrayed as anti-thetical to the cause of Black civil rights. Malcolm’s and Martin’s goal are the same (the eradication of legal Jim Crow racial segregation) and on that front, they have common ground. The other debate, between SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (the SCLC), the typology of the young disgruntled radicals facing up against their more experienced, more powerful elders, rings true in the Internet Age. For what its worth (and I admit, I may be a part of the problem), it seems that many youthful, energetic communities that rely on digital media are playing the trope of SNCC while there is no SCLC really around.  What are the ways that contemporary movements for social justice can work against ageism? As I heard someone say before, I don’t wanna be in a revolution that my mother cannot partake.

4. The Social Justice Film Genre Is In Right Now. 12 Years A Slave. Fruitvale Station. The Help. Lee Daniels The Butler.  Beasts Of The Southern Wild. You hear about them every year now. Each year, there are those two are three independent films which center around social issues. They are for the most part, well acted. There are cameos by big name celebrities who have invested money in the film (think Oprah Winfrey in Selma, Brad Pitt in 12 Years, for example). These celebrities may even get too much camera time in this author’s opinion. Part of the experience also involves a lot of emotional investment on the part of the audience. There is a general expectation that there will either be tears or anger. It’s no laughing matter to see enslaved Black persons being beaten on the big screen. These social justice films are enjoyable, but I would not say that they are entirely pleasant experiences. We’re not talking about rom-coms here.

5. Historical accuracy can be offensive. A number of white liberals were outraged at the portrayal of President Lyndon Baines Johnson. From what we know, LBJ was a political pragmatist seeking a “third way” to calm down both sides who were “extremists.”  There’s a difference between being an extremist for love and justice, and being hate-mongering murderous White supremacists, wouldn’t you agree? LBJ and the Brogressive logic of “both sides as equally bad” is actually a form of linguistic violence, where there is a lack of nuance as well as no understanding of differences between the two parties.  Artful truth does damage to the psyche of many within the dominant culture, which would rather believe and live in the fantasy of the happy Negro rather than the real struggles of human being nonviolently revolting for political freedom. 

 

side noteTim Roth’s performance as Governor George Wallace was an Abomination. Props if you get that reference.**

So what do you think? Did I leave out anything about Selma? Are you more likely to go see it?

(Photo Description: Taken March 1965 Alabama civil rights movement: Selma to Montgomery march: Iakovos, Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ralph Abernathy (Monday, March 15, 1965)Preferred Citation: Jack Rabin collection on Alabama civil rights and southern activists, 1941-2004 (bulk 1956-1974) , Historical Collections and Labor Archives, Eberly Family Special Collections Library, University Libraries, Pennsylvania State University. Repository: Penn State Special Collections, University Park, PA, Flickr/Creative Commons)

 

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.

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