month marks the 90th birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr the iconic
American civil rights and human
leader who forced America to live up to its rhetorical ideals of
freedom, democracy and equality. For his efforts, he was assassinated
fallen Nobel laureate and "drum major for justice" -
vilified, ostracised and loathed in life, monitored and hunted by the
government - was honoured posthumously with a federal holiday in the
Yet, as that holiday has been diluted and repositioned into a
national day of service, and Dr King's character has been neutered
and rendered a passive, innocuous and idealistic dreamer who gave
rousing speeches, Americans have lost sight of the man's
decades ago, Martin Luther King warned of America's triple
racism, economic exploitation and militarism. These evils continue to
plague the country to this day, necessitating the radical
restructuring of society the black leader so urgently promoted.
am convinced that if we are to get on to the right side of the world
revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of
values," King said in his "Beyond
speech. "We must rapidly begin … the shift from a
thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines
and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered
more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme
materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered."
the original American sin born from the enslavement of Africans and
the genocide of indigenous peoples, has not abated. In his 1963 "I
Have A Dream" speech,
King said as far
people were concerned, the US had failed to honor its promises
written in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
"Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given
the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked
'insufficient funds'. But we refuse to believe that bank of justice
is bankrupt," he said.
the US has yet to address reparations to African Americans to repair
the damage of enslavement and the continuing legacy of institutional
including both de jure and de facto racial and economic
and avowed white supremacists operate in the government, engaging in
whites-only policies based on a false racist theory of white
with an immigration policy of ethnic cleansing, separation of migrant
families and imprisonment of 15,000 children - all designed to keep
whites in the majority. Meanwhile, white supremacist hate groups are
thriving in the streets, with a sharp increase in hate crimes and
school bullying in the era of Trump.
US is a "flawed
according to the Economist's 2018 Democracy index, ranking only 25th
globally in terms of political participation and culture,
governmental functions, electoral process, civil liberties and
pluralism. In states such as Georgia and North Carolina, white
conservatives of the Republican Party employ segregation-era voter
suppression tactics against people
of colour and the poor,
including restrictive and unjust voter ID laws, voter purges, rigged
elections and votes stolen, and gerrymandered legislative districts.
professing to be the self-proclaimed "land of opportunity",
the US maintains a predatory capitalist system with pathological
levels of economic inequality. In a land of abundance, only a handful
enjoy its wealth. With 40 million people in poverty, the US is the
most unequal advanced nation, with the least social and economic
mobility in the developed world. The US profits from misery through
and a for-profit healthcare
system that forces people to go bankrupt and into poverty while
paying for medical bills.
wealthiest one percent owns 40 percent of the nation's wealth, while
the top 10 percent controls 77 percent of the wealth. While working
Americans are drowning in nearly $1.5 trillion student loan debt they
are unable to pay off. And as conservatives shake their heads and
proclaim nothing can be done, the nation engages in policies of
plunder of poor and working people, such as a $1.5
trillion tax cut
almost entirely for the benefit of the top one percent.
Trump forces a government shutdown over his vanity border wall that
without pay, and he advises furloughed workers to make adjustments
and, barter with their landlords and hire an attorney.
culture of corruption
precludes the US from solving its problems. Politicians are beholden
to moneyed interests rather than held accountable to the public, a
Harvard Business School report
suggests. Laws promoting gun proliferation, environmental degradation
"loyalty oaths" to other nations reflect the largesse
bestowed upon these politicians by lobbyists who seek to enact them.
Luther King, aware of the connections between injustice at home and
abroad, spoke out against US proclivity for war. "As I have
walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have
told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their
problems," King said. "I knew that I could never again
raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos
without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of
violence in the world today: my own government."
the US meddles in the affairs of other nations, waging drone wars and
killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in the name of
the "war on terror", assassinating people and engaging in
regime change. Decades of US intervention in Central America caused
skyrocketing levels of corruption and violence that fuelled a migrant
King predicted "spiritual
for an America that continues to spend more on war than on social
uplift. Today, a nation which claims it must cut social welfare
spending and cannot afford free universal healthcare or college
spends trillions of dollars on defence - 37 percent of world military
spending and more than the next seven highest spenders combined - and
yet cannot account for how the military allocates that money.
than heed his message, America killed King, the messenger. Then, it
watered down his message to render it more palatable and digestible
to the "white
who is "more devoted to order than to justice", and prefers
that we wait for a "more convenient season" for freedom
rather than take direct action now. If America hopes to redeem
itself, it must change now.
commentary was originally published by Aljazeera.com