Black History

Battle Fatigue

...and we're tired. Really tired...

…and we’re tired. Really tired…

On May 24th, I turned 50.

While it was a milestone birthday, it wasn’t really all that big a deal. It felt like 30 with a few extra gray hairs. I still ran around and did things; saw concerts, hung out until the wee hours, all the stuff I did when I was younger.

I’ve been 50 for eight months. I’ve largely enjoyed it.

But I’ve never felt it.

That is, until about 2p.m. Tuesday afternoon.

When the alert went off from the ABC News app on my phone informing me that a Grand Jury in New York City had decided not to indict police officer Daniel Panteleo for the death of Eric Garner, that all changed.

I felt old.

And I felt tired.

Really tired.

I’ve kind of had enough of the reality show version of “How To Get Away With Murder” that seems to have become the relationship between Black men and police.

It was bad enough when Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis got killed by civilians and the police officer who shot Oscar Grant got little more than a slap on the wrist for shooting him.

But in the case of Garner, who was one of five unarmed Black men killed by police in the month of August, a list that included Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, there was a video that not only showed what happened, but showed everyone because it went viral.

(Can we talk about how the guy who shot that video, Ramsey Orta, is on his way to jail? Let me get this straight: You can’t get an indictment for PUTTING someone in a chokehold, but you can get an indictment for someone FILMING you putting someone in a chokehold? Okay…)

The fatigue actually started after spending all night last Monday watching St. Louis County District Attorney Robert McCullough blame social media and the 24-hour news cycle for why he couldn’t get an indictment of Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson for shooting Brown, and the ensuing protest, burning and looting that it caused,

It continued when I read about the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland while holding a toy gun, being mistaken for a grownup, and coming across a trigger-happy cop who shows that the Cleveland Police Department might want to tighten up its hiring procedures.

Spending time on social media with people who think me so stupid that there’s no way I can focus on obtaining justice and improvement on two simultaneous tracks, meaning that they don’t think that I can concentrate on so-called Black on Black crime while demanding that the police stop shooting my unarmed loved ones, was another source of pounding that my psyche was growing weary of.

By the time I added the fact that we never discuss White on White crime or even acknowledge that it exists by talking about the intra-racial nature or crime, that “thug” has become the new “nigger” and the barrage of non-fact connected bullshit that comes from people intent on excusing the murders of Black men, especially from Black men like NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley and Dr. Ben Carson, the neurosurgeon and future Republican presidential candidate that I’m convinced is operating on himself, I felt like I was in my late, late 40s.

When the Garner decision was announced, I sat at my desk and had trouble keeping my head from just falling down. I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I felt weighed down.

I felt every minute of 50.

As I stared at the New York Times story on my computer, I could feel myself tearing up. Not in a sad way. Or a happy or angry way.

In a weary way.

Because if you ask anyone who is Black people, or loves Black people, we’re tired.

We’re tired of seeing our loved ones shot.

We’re tired of burying our loved ones after they’ve been shot.

We’re tired of hearing that our loved ones somehow deserve to have been shot, even if they’re doing totally normal things like going to the store for candy, walking home with a friend, listening to music at a gas station, or just standing around.

We’re tired of hearing the words “thug”, “demon”, “Hulk” and “scumbag” being thrown at our loved ones, especially if they’re on the end of the gun where the bullets are coming from.

We’re tired of the dehumanization that those buzzwords imply.

in other words, we’re tired of THIS.

This. Shit. Here.

This “We can kill you with impunity and no one, especially the system that we’ve spent years telling you to trust despite the fact that it hasn’t done right by you yet, is going to stop us from doing it,” shit.

Around the country, folks took to the streets after the Garner decision was announced. Some of them, like the folks here in Philadelphia that had a Die-In at our 30th Street Station, had planned these demonstrations to protest the Grand Jury’s decision in Ferguson. They marched, blocked highways (the Schuylkill Expressway was a little more clogged than usual near the 30th Street on-ramp) and disrupted some Christmas Tree lightings, which led to some clutched pearls and complaints of “wrong place, wrong time”.

I’m sorry for your inconvenience. But considering that what folks were protesting was the fact that there are several families that will have one less seat at the Christmas dinner table due to losing a loved one to a police bullet…or a chokehold…you’re gonna have to forgive me for having run out of damns to give.

Once upon a time, I’d have been right out there with the protestors. And maybe I will be again soon.

But right now, my 50-year-old self is too tired to pick up a sign, walk a block, or shout “No justice, no peace”.

Right now, I want to grab all of my male relatives, my Significant Other, and every other Black man , heck, man of color, who has a place in my heart and round them up, put them in a very large room, large enough to do everything they need to do with their lives, and lock the door behind me because if nothing else, I know they’re not safe.

I want to sit down with a cup of hot tea with a shot of brandy in it.

But mostly, I want to cry.

That’s all I really have the energy to do.

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“Lawd Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus…

"Someone's showing some love to their Lord and Savior!"

“Someone’s showing some love to their Lord and Savior!”

On Thursday night, I made it a point to be at home and in front of my television set so that I could watch the newest contribution to Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim lineup, “Black Jesus”. In this show, Jesus has returned to Earth, is living in Compton, California, and is drinking 40s, smoking weed, and otherwise “keepin’ it real!”

Now because I was a big fan of “The Boondocks” and the humor of creator Aaron McGruder, I was interested in seeing how a show called “Black Jesus” would turn out under his watch. It had some funny moments, but it’s got a lot of room for improvement.

I’ll probably tune in to this week’s show because I usually give shows a three-episode tryout before I just write them off.

But what I’ve found even more interesting than the concept of “Black Jesus” is how people, particularly Black people, have reacted to the concept of “Black Jesus”.

As I sat in front of my computer and took notes on the show for this blog posting, my brother Dennis came into the room and saw what I was watching. His response to me was “Denise, turn that blasphemous mess off!”

Blasphemous.

He wasn’t the first person to say that to me, by the way. I had a lot of Christian friends who refused to even look at the trailer for “Black Jesus” because they felt that it defamed their Lord and Savior by its very existence.

Heck, One Million Moms even called for a boycott.

Now I understand that to a lot of people combining “Jesus” and “Irreverent humor” might be a bit much.

But experience has taught me that this isn’t about the humor as much as it is about something else.

What is that something else, you might ask?

The Blackness.

If you want to start a fight with Black folks, and you’ve grown tired of touching the Third Rail of Black Entertainment that is Beyonce’, inferring that Jesus may have been Black will do it. Guaranteed.

I know this from experience….

When I was a student at Temple University, I took a course in the African American Studies department called “The Black Church”. My professor, Dr. Daudi Azibo, taught us about the connection between Black folks and religion. It wasn’t a class for the faint of heart…especially since among the things he taught us was that Jesus was Black.

Since most of the pictures I had seen of Jesus before that class were pictures that showed him as not only White, but as a strawberry blond, I found it kind of interesting.

Especially since I still remembered the time that someone brought a painting of Jesus that had him looking less like Max Von Sydow and more like Marvin Gaye into the house.

My Dad was not amused. If I remember correctly, it spent maybe two weeks hanging on the living room wall before it was relegated to the basement. I believe the words “that mess” were used to describe it.

So when I came home talking about Jesus being Black, well, I got the usual reactions that people get when you put “Black” and “Jesus” together.

  • You’re relying too much on education and not enough on faith when you say stuff like that.
  • Jesus doesn’t have a color. He loves us all.

And my personal favorite…

  • It doesn’t matter…

Okay…

Now let’s be honest here. When you look at the part of the world that Jesus is said to have come from, there’s no way He could resemble Sean Penn as Jeff Spicoli in “Fast Times At Ridgemont High”

Whether you like it or not, the Middle East is a part of the African Continent. And guess what the African continent is filled with…?

You guessed it! Africans!

So logic would tell you that Jesus was….Black…

(By the way Aaron McGruder, putting your Black Jesus in a straight, light brown wig is just one of the things that kinda made folks give your show the side-eye. Thought you might want to know that…)

So if we’re looking at this logically, or with any kind of knowledge of anthropology or geography, why is it that Black folks have an issue with Jesus being Black?

I kinda have an idea…

It’s a self-esteem issue.

Christianity may not be exactly the same everywhere in the world, but it has one very important thing in common: It was brought to people by the same people who write history books; the Victors. If you’ve been colonized, you don’t get to decide what your deities look like.

The deities are gonna look like the Victors.

And so is just about everything else.

That includes your political leaders, or has everyone forgotten how Political Blackworld looked at early supporters of President Barack Obama like they had two heads…and how it required the approval of Whites to get them on board?

If you don’t, I can remind you…I still have the stories…

Now if you’re a people that has been taught that everyone who has dominion over you, including your deities, looks a certain way, someone suggesting that this isn’t the case is going to lead to some cognitive dissonance…Your belief, and this new knowledge are going to fight.

Which is why I say that introducing the concept of a Black Jesus is a sure-fire argument starter. The cognitive dissonance it creates makes the whole “Black President’ concept look like a walk in the park.

Now I don’t know how this gets resolved. Or even if it can.

But if you want to call “Black Jesus” blasphemous, ask yourself this question: Is it the fact that Jesus is sitting around drinking 40s of Malt Liquor that’s making you feel that way or is it that Jesus is Black?

I’m hoping that McGruder addresses this question in a future episode…and that I remain interested enough to see how he does it…

Of Slavery, Affordable Health Care, and Crazy Talk…

“I know that getting raped every night by Massa and getting beaten by his wife really stinks, but it could be worse…you could have to sign up for Obamacare!

Because I write about politics, I try to find stuff that takes me away from that topic on my downtime, something that’s become harder to do of late.

Since we have become such a strictly divided populace, everything, even going to a movie, can lead to a political discussion. Last year, the movie The Help angered people because folks found it far too simplistic when it comes to the Civil Rights Movement. George Clooney has made a name for himself producing movies with a political bent including last year’s Best Picture winner Argo.

On Tuesday night, I managed to get a ticket to a movie that is probably going to be much too much for some of you to look at.

The movie was Steve McQueen’s adaptation of Solomon Northrup’s book 12 Years a Slave. 

Now in case you haven’t heard about this picture yet, here’s a little info. The movie stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as Northrup, a free Black man living in Saratoga, N.Y. who makes his living as a musician. He’s hired to play for a circus in Washington, D.C., goes out for dinner and drinks with his co-workers…and wakes up the next morning in shackles, gets beaten when he tries to explain that he’s a free man, and winds up in the hull of a ship with, of all people, Omar from The Wire.

(Actually, Michael K. Williams isn’t in the film that long…but I admit that I did find myself wishing that Omar would show up at various times during this film…)

Throughout the movie, you see the indignities that Northrup and his fellow slaves, especially the women, have to face as part of their servitude. One female slave, Patsey, portrayed by Lupita Nyong’o gets it coming and going between being raped nightly by Master Epps (portrayed by Michael Fassbender) and being abused by his jealous wife.

(Think of the triangle of Olivia, Fitz and Mellie on Scandal, with Mellie being allowed to beat Liv whenever she wants to…)

Most of the movies that have been done about slavery have either featured comedic violence (Django Unchained) or have otherwise glossed over the subject. Until 12 Years a Slave, Roots was about as realistic as we got when it came to the issue of slavery.

This movie is Roots On Steroids. 

When Master Epps takes his whip to Patsey because he feels she’s been “unfaithful” (and because of his wife’s prodding…) it’s with a graphic brutality that made me cover my eyes a couple of times. As blood flew into the air and skin on Patsey’s back was ripped open by the whip, many folks in the audience cringed.

Some walked out.

Others were crying.

Many of us didn’t have the words to describe what we’d seen.

But because I’m a political writer, one of things I thought as I walked out of 12 Years a Slave was “This is one group of folks who could have really used the Affordable Care Act!”

Now what did I mean by that? 

Dr. Ben Carson, a guy that until recently was better known for his accomplishments as a neurosurgeon and for the fact that Cuba Gooding Jr. portrayed him in a movie, spoke to the Values Voters Coalition in Washington, DC.

Because he’s a doctor, the subject of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as ObamaCare, came up. To most of the folks he was speaking to, this law, which is designed to give people access to health insurance, and thus better care, is the most horrible law ever passed…which is really saying something for a country that can count Jim Crow and the USA PATRIOT Act among its laws.

But while the sentence above might make you scratch your head, Dr. Carson topped it…

“Obamacare is really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery,” he said. “And it is, in a way, it is slavery.”

O-Tay…

Now last I looked, no one has been so oppressed by the prospect of going on the Healthcare.gov website and trying to acquire health insurance that they’ve asked someone to help them commit suicide, but slavery? Well, slavery might make you want to do that…

While Dr. Carson’s bon mot is the most recent…and the most ridiculous…example, there’s been this trend over the last six years to compare things and people to some of the most heinous events in world history. 

There are signs that feature President Barack Obama dressed in Nazi garb and wearing a Adolph Hitler-esque mustache. To be fair, President George W. Bush was featured in similar signs. The Confederate Flag is being waved in front of the White House by groups that have been led there by current Congressmen and former Vice Presidential Candidates…

And then there’s the whole health care as slavery thing…

Well at least we all know what “socialism” is…

(Probably not…)

As I was walking out of the Ritz Five theater with my Significant Other and an Old Friend discussing 12 Years a Slave, I came up with a list of observations:

  1. Slavery is in a class all by itself when it comes to brutality. Any circumstance where being Shark Bait is preferable to getting to your destination is a special brand of harsh.
  2. Solomon Northrup could have been spared 12 years of hell if someone had told him what freshmen co-eds in colleges and universities around the country are told every Fall: Watch who you’re drinking around…and always know where your drink is. If you walk away from it, it’s no longer your drink.
  3. Whomever is announcing the Academy Award nominations in March had better learn how to pronounce Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong’o because it’s gonna be important….And…
  4. The next person stupid enough to try and equate anything that doesn’t include brutalizing people for fun and profit to slavery in my presence is gonna get dropped like a bad habit with a right hook. 

  

I especially mean that last one…My ancestors kind of demand it…




Hey Sucka Nigga…

You know Tribe, I love you , but you made matters worse…
The piece of music above is a clip of my least favorite song by one of my favorite hip-hop collectives, A Tribe Called Quest.
It’s called Sucka Nigga and by the end of this post, you’ll understand why I’m leading with it because for the next few minutes, or in my case, the next few paragraphs, we’re gonna talk about words, context, race, music and First Amendment rights.
No word combines all of these issues quite like nigger. 
Now I know that’s a word that’s gotten a few folks in trouble over the last couple of weeks. Paula Deen is real, real out of work because she admitted to using it. There’s a Philly chick that’s a contestant on Fox’s “Master Chef” whom National Basketball Commissioner David Stern would probably like to have a talk with because he doesn’t like it when folks refer to his league as Niggers Bouncing Around. 
Hell, CNN has become the “Let’s Talk About Nigger Network” in light of the Deen incident and the George Zimmerman trial. My personal favorite CNN moment was the discussion that anchor Don Lemon had about it that featured the best imitation of the flash card scene from Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues I’ve ever seen done by a news anchor. They even devoted an hour to a special on the word.
To many folks, it’s just a word. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me and stuff.
And I get that. I believe that the First Amendment came down from Mount Sinai on stone tablets, so I respect free speech. I can even respect the premise that since some Blacks see it as a term of endearment (which I still don’t get), that it can’t be that bad, right? I had a former student walk up to me every morning for four months with the same greeting: “Good mornin’…my nigga…”
Okay. Like I said, I get all that. But that said, I’ve also been known to tell people “If you want to call me a nigger, fine. That’s your Constitutional right. I’d never take that away from you. But when I exercise my right to knock the shit out of you for it, you were warned. Fair?
But while some of the stuff mentioned above has been floating around in my head for a bit especially lately, that’s not what’s inspired this post.
What’s inspired this post is: (a) the perception I’m starting to get that there are White folks out there that want to use the word nigger really badly and are angry that they can’t and (b) the fact that these same White folks have decided that I can no longer get mad when it comes flying out of some racist’s mouth because of what I like to call the “Hip-Hop Exemption” or the previously mentioned “term of endearment” thing.
I’m sorry kids, but on that I’ve gotta call Shenanigans!
You see, while I understand that a lot of the White folks that read The Mad (political) Scientist are going to think that I’m being unfair when I say this, the word not only sounds different, but has a different context depending on who says it. I don’t think it’s right under any circumstance, but…
Well, I’m gonna let author, anti-racism activist and Professor Tim Wise explain it because he does a much better job at it than I do…

In other words, while you might think that it’s hip, cool and trendy to be able to throw around any word you want, until you can find a racial slur connected to white folks that has ever been uttered as someone is being dragged through the street, tied to a rope, and hung from the neck until dead, you, my well-meaning White friends, do not have a leg to stand on when it comes to the whole “Hip-Hop Exception” for the word nigger. You just don’t. I don’t care if Kendrick Lamar or Meek Mill or Nas or Jay-Z or even A Tribe Called Quest stand in front of a mic and do nothing but say nigger for 10 minutes on a record, you’re not allowed to use that word. You’re just not.

And I guess I have another question: What is it about the word nigger that is so intriguing, so powerful, so awesome to you that it’s prohibition from your list of words tends to piss you off so much?

Wanna know where I was the first time I was ever called a nigger? Church. Nope, I’m not kidding.

I was in the 7th grade and me and my friends had just finished Sunday School at Calvary Baptist Church in Pemberton where I grew up. We were sitting in a pew waiting for church to begin when a girl named Patty Laine walked up to me and told me to get out of the seat I was sitting in because she wanted to sit there.

I told her that there was no reserved seating and because my friends and I were there first, we were going to stay. There were plenty of other places to sit, so go find one, I said.

Well, I guess a combination of being the daughter of one of the founders of the church and White Privilege hit her because she not only grabbed me, but told me to “get my nigger ass out of her seat.”

I hit her as hard as I could…just as the minister was walking by…so naturally, my Dad had to take me home because Pastor Goodhart couldn’t allow me to stay after trying to bash in the head of a fellow parishioner.

But we talked afterward. And after I told him what she said to me, he let Patty…and the people who taught her to say stuff like that, otherwise known as her parents, know that if anything like that happened again, founders or not, they were out.

Because he understood that while it’s misguided for Blacks to use nigger as a term of endearment, the only way that Whites can possibly use it is as a term of disparagement. Of dehumanization. Of harm.

And that’s why, my White friends, nigger cannot be a part of your list of words. The only way it could be is if you somehow went back more than 400 years, kept the Middle Passage from happening, and disconnected it from its associations.

I’d like to leave you with a classic from the late Richard Pryor and Chevy Chase. This is from the days when Saturday Night Live was actually funny…

Getting the Point

Hope she made her point…

Arizona Gov, Jan Brewer has probably been interviewed more by the national media today than she has been since Arizona became the only state in the Union where I could be asked for a copy of my birth certificate if I find myself looking too Dominican while in Phoenix.

That’s because she decided to do something that you shouldn’t do to anyone: she decided to stick her finger in someone’s face. That this face was attached to the President of the United States was what made it news.

Otherwise, it’s just another white woman trying to put a black man in check.

Now I know that some of you are going to look at that last sentence and say “Why must you make everything racial? That wasn’t about race. Why is it that every perceived disrespect when it comes to this President gets looked at through the prism of race?”

Because when it comes to a lot of the things that Republicans do and say to this particular president, the prism of race is the most obvious one through which it can be viewed. Don’t shoot the messenger. It is what it is…at least it is what it is in this case…

Now why do I say that? Well, let’s look at it in another direction and you’ll see why.

Suppose the positions in this picture were reversed? Let’s just say that this wasn’t President Barack Obama, but Gov. Barack Obama. And let’s pretend that Gov. Brewer was the President instead. Now let’s further extend this scenario and have Gov. Obama confront President Brewer as she came off of Air Force One and stuck his finger in her face.

Before you could say “angry black man”, people would be calling for his head. How dare he disrespect the President like that…and a white woman to boot? You’re sticking your finger in this white woman’s face? Are you nuts boy?! Better get your nigga ass back in its place…!

(Now if you don’t think that’s how it would have gone down, I have the deed to the Ben Franklin Bridge. I’ll sell it to you if you want….)

But here’s the part of this that kinda cracks me up. When Gov. Brewer made the television talk show rounds today, she said that she felt “intimidated” by the President.

On one hand, I guess I can understand that. If I had done something stupid enough to possibly lead to my ending up face down on the tarmac or looking down the barrel of a Secret Service gun, I might feel intimidated.

But because America is possibly the only place in the world where a white woman can put her finger in a black man’s face and then claim that HE’S intimidating HER, she’s been hailed as a hero on Fox News.

If that’s not proof that we’re deep into the Silly Season of American Politics, you tell me what is.

It is dynamics like this that made me decide that I’d like to know more about political speech…and the coded messages connected to it. It is these codes that have given us such things as “food stamp president”, “welfare queen” “socialism” and other things that seem to act as dog whistles to the people to whom they’re directed.

I started noticing coded speech when I was working for the Reading Eagle-Times in Reading, Pennsylvania. Because I can be a little nuts at times, I found myself covering organized hate groups.

(Yeah, yeah, I know. I’m black. I’m talking to Klansmen. Not the safest gig. Mom got on me about it a lot. Even told the paper that if anything happened to me, they’d have a new owner…)

But while the rank and file of these groups weren’t made up of the brightest bulbs in the lamp, their leadership, the ones that recruited them, were pretty intelligent. They knew what to say to get these folks into the fold. They knew that these folks were looking for someone to blame for the fact that they didn’t have a job, or food for their families and they also knew that they weren’t quite smart enough to say, “Hey! What about the greedy bastards that laid me off?!”

Thus, they were able to say, “It’s the blacks fault!” or “It’s the immigrant’s fault!”…and these folks bought it because it was easier than trying to understand the inner workings of multinational corporations.

It’s almost the same in politics. In 2004, President George W. Bush got a second term because he was able to distract people from the war by keeping their eyes on “gay marriage”. Because bills codifying marriage as an institution exclusive to straight couples were on the ballot, and the anti-“gay marriage” forces were largely Republican and largely religious, he rode to victory.

(Here’s where I say what I usually say when I write about gays and legal matrimony: I still don’t understand what gay folks can do to ruin the institution of marriage that straight folks haven’t already done. I mean hey, we’ve got a guy currently running for president who asked his second wife to consider an open marriage so that he could continue screwing the woman who would later go on to become his third wife. If that’s not proof of my contention, nothing is. Not even Elizabeth Taylor tried anything like that…)

Now coded speech in politics has always been with us. These dog whistles get blown no matter who is in charge.

But when you have an African American incumbent in the White House, and a segment of the population that’s still pissed off about this, the code words come flying fast and furious. In the last few months alone, we’ve heard that Spanish is “a language of the ghetto”, black kids “need to work as janitors in their schools so that they acquire a work ethic” blacks should “demand paychecks instead of food stamps” and that “I don’t want to make life better for black people by giving them your money”.

It’s annoying. It’s grotesque. It’s disrespectful. But it works.

But because it’s appearing in 2012 that people of color have no rights that anyone is required to respect all over again, it makes sense that a woman who tends to make up stories about Mexican cartels killing people in the Arizona desert (something that has been proven false time and time again) feels that she has the right to put her finger in the face of the President of the United States.

However, Gov. Brewer should be really, really glad that President Obama was alone when she wagged her finger at him because my guess is that this picture would have looked a whole lot different if First Lady Michelle Obama were present.

If she’s at all like most of the women I know, you’d have learned the definition of “intimidated”…

"I have a dream…." and I got it for half off!

Right now as I’m writing this, folks around the country are participating in service projects, going to ecumenical services, or doing other things to benefit their communities as part of the observance of the 83rd birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Here in Philly, the folks at Global Citizen put together a series of projects that gave just about every community in the Delaware Valley some needed assistance that it probably wouldn’t have gotten due to budgetary constraints.

 Just what Dr. King would have wanted.

When the King Holiday became reality 25 years ago, and folks were trying to figure out how to celebrate it, the one concern that everyone had about it was that it might become just like every other holiday: a day off and not much else.

To try and counteract that, former Pennsylvania Sen. Harris Wofford, a man who was a contemporary of Dr. King’s and had worked with him during the Civil Rights Movement, suggested that the holiday become “a day on, not a day off”, a day of service, not a day at the mall.

And for the first 10 or so years, that’s exactly how it worked. People took to the streets to plant gardens, build playgrounds, paint school buildings, cook and deliver food to the hungry, and perform other kinds of service to mankind. Interfaith ecumenical services (because you can’t honor a minister without having some sort of church service), luncheons honoring those who work toward King’s “beloved community” and educational activities have also been a part of the observation of the King Holiday.

(There is also a full slate of NBA basketball games to commemorate the King Holiday because after a long day of giving back to the community, catching a game with your buds is a great way to unwind..)

But over the last few years, I’ve started to see something connected to the King Holiday that I was really hoping it could avoid.

What might that be, you might ask?

Well, it’s this…

Why Sears and KMart are losing market share…

This, in case the caption isn’t clear, is an ad from KMart for an MLK Day sale. I went looking for (and asked my Facebook friends to send me) ads like this after seeing Sears MLK Day appliance sale ad on television.

It’s not the only one that I saw. Everyone from clothing retailers like Betsey Johnson to car dealerships, to even the Home Shopping Network has a slew of discounts connected to the birthday of a man who would have reacted to it in much the same way that Jesus reacted to the moneychangers in the temple during Passover.

And, and I’m saying this because I’m starting to think that we can’t help ourselves, the more heinous damage from a retail perspective being done to the King Holiday, a holiday that African Americans worked hard to make possible, is, of course, self-inflicted.

Observe:

The levels on which this is wrong defy description. This is for a party in Miami. There were others, including, and this was my personal favorite, a nightclub in Washington, DC offering the “I have a dream” cocktail.

(God, do I wish I was kidding!)

Now don’t get me wrong. I know that I live in a nation where “Cash Rules Everything Around Me” is the law of the land, something that was codified when the Supreme Court decided to give corporations personhood through the Citizens United decision.

Because of this, I also know that no holiday is safe from crass commercialization. Don’t believe me? Go to any CVS pharmacy the day after Halloween. You’ll see that in one day it’s changed from spooky ghosts and witches hats to a winter wonderland, complete with motorized Dancing Santas.

I also realize that there are folks out there, many of whom are ensconced on the boards of the very corporations responsible for most of the crass commercialization of our holidays, who are still pissed off that King has a federal holiday because they saw him as a Communist agitator. Wanting to see such things as  humane treatment for workers, people being able to support themselves by making a living wage, and true equality for everyone, and being willing to take it to the streets to make it a reality, can make you unpopular in some quarters.

But I thought that we could, as a nation, at least let the King Holiday maintain the significance its supposed to have for at least a little while longer. There’s still too much that needs to be done in our communities for the holiday to become just another opportunity to hit the mall.

So what do we do? Good question.

Maybe someone can get Sen. Harris Wofford back on camera to remind us of why the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King deserved a holiday in the first place…

Me and my bud Brian Marcus at the King Memorial