The Myth of Martin

Sometimes, it feels as though I know too much about Martin Luther King Jr.. I first learned about him in kindergarten after watching Our Friend, Martin. The movie frames Martin Luther King Jr. as the sole reason why segregation ended and why racism stopped existing in America. It is an interesting take. But it is also a movie that came out in 1999. In that time, little was really known about Martin Luther King Jr.. However, it was 1999 that the trial where the United States of America that was put on trial for the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. where it was ruled that our government had coordinated the assassination.

It is so interesting to think about the way Martin Luther King Jr. is talked about today. He was a martyr. He was lovely. He was perfect. Yet, he continually cheated on his wife and allowed someone to push Bayard Rustin out of the movement because Bayard Rustin was gay. The man was essentially hated by the end of his life. As he began to speak out about poverty and the Vietnam war, his approval rating dropped. I believe this was prime time for the US to assassinate him. However, I doubt the US completely thought out the impact Martin Luther King Jr.’s death would have on the movement. In fact, they probably did not predict the riots that would break out after his assassination.

I guess that is part of the reason the US pretends to love Martin Luther King Jr.. It is almost funny how Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated by the same state that pretends to venerate him and drags his corpse and name through the mud in an attempt to quell Black discontent. It is almost funny that a car company sampled part of one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches to sell a truck. At this point in time, Martin Luther King Jr. no longer represents the people. He has become a part of the American imagination and has been run through the propaganda machine that so many go through.

2 thoughts on “The Myth of Martin”

  1. Woah! That was the first thing I said after I read this. Honestly, I had never been told that MLK’s assassination was coordinated by the government. I mean it makes sense, but I’m still in shock right now. I felt this way when I found out that MLK was almost killed by a black woman while reading ” The Dangerous Road Before Martin Luther King”. It angers me because I feel like I should know everything about this man. After all, he’s the one the educational system continues to teach us about in February year after year. If the educational system is going to teach us about the same people over and over again, they can at least tell us everything about these people. Instead, they teach us not only the same people, but the same events. I’m looking forward to watching MLK/FBI, but I’m also kind of nervous. I’ve always looked up to MLK, but it seems that his story was sanitized as well.

  2. I really appreciated this post both because I also watched Our Friend, Martin in school and was taught a similar history of segregation, and because I feel like our country has a tendency to commercialize historical figures to the point where we lose much of the accuracy of the history of those figures and we are left with perfect martyrs. I wonder if Catholicism may also have a role in this process of historical commercialization and the search for a martyr figure, as the religion itself which is centered around a single perfect martyr has been commercialized to the point where there are Catholic billboards throughout much of America. Essentially, martyrs sell, whereas accurate historical depictions may not.

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