America is a settler colonial state. It was created based on the evil triplets of racism, poverty and war, as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, and it is hard to shake it off. On this 56th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination - right off the heels of the 59th anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X - we need to lean in on the reasons why he was murdered, and why the slave master must prevent the oppressed from taking over the Big House.

Martin was a threat to the status quo, to the systems of oppression that have kept people down by race, gender, class, and other classifications. J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI chief, most certainly thought King was a threat. Hoover - who was allegedly a Black man passing for white, at least according to Black folks who say they are his relatives - established COINTELPRO to monitor, infiltrate and erase Black leadership and Black organizations. Hoover’s goal was to “Prevent the RISE OF A ‘MESSIAH’ who could unify, and electrify, the militant black nationalist movement,” a person such as King or Malcolm. Those men were annihilated. So, too were others such as Fred Hampton, leader of the Chicago Black Panther Party, and Medgar Evers of the Mississippi NAACP. Many others were imprisoned, and civil rights and Black Power organizations were undermined and declawed.

Looking at King, we must remember what he was doing when he was assassinated. Dr. King was in Memphis, standing with the striking Black sanitation workers who were fighting for their humanity, dignity, and a living wage. He was even planning a Poor People’s Campaign in Washington.

And let’s not forget that King was highly unpopular when he died. The civil rights leader was veering away from the traditional civil rights approach of fighting only against racism in the South. After all, he called for a radical redistribution of political and economic power. And he broke his silence and made a declaration against the war in Vietnam, and called the U.S. government “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” Able to connect the dots between the oppression at home and the war abroad, the inability to fight poverty at home when resources were being drained and wasted on the military.

“We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem,” King said. “And so we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools.” Many in the civil rights establishment and polite society turned their backs on MLK because civil rights leaders were supposed to know their place and not stray away from the script and into the uncharted territory of international relations and human rights. Forming alliances around the world is dangerous business. And King was, after all, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient. And Malcolm was going to file charges against the U.S. at the United Nations, which would’ve been a sight to see.

Troublemakers such as Dr. King - making good trouble and waging nonviolent revolution - were upsetting to the establishment. This is why the government had to neutralize Black leaders such as Martin. Because in a settler colonial state, there are two things the settlers fear - Black folks overthrowing the plantation state, and Black folks joining forces with the poor White folks. And they just can’t have that.

David A. Love, JD - Serves

BlackCommentator.com as Executive

Editor. He is a journalist, commentator,

human rights advocate, a Professor at

the Rutgers University School of

Communication and Information based in

Philadelphia, a contributor to Four

Hundred Souls: A Community History of

African America, 1619-2019, The

Washington Post, theGrio,

AtlantaBlackStar, The Progressive,

CNN.com, Morpheus, NewsWorks and

The Huffington Post. He also blogs at

davidalove.com. Contact Mr. Love and


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