Politeness of Blackness on “MLK Day” despite centuries of the same

Some of you see this piece posted on January 20 and say “MLK Day was January 17…you waited too late.”

That illustrates my point.

As a Black woman born and raised in Richmond, VA — the second capital of the confederacy — I am among many Black people not celebrating “MLK Day.”

Instead, I am among many Black people celebrating Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Throughout the year.

By the way, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15.

I am among many Black people celebrating real Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. the same as we celebrate five centuries of Black people on Western Hemisphere and hundreds of thousands of years of Black people on African continent and around the world.

What we celebrate daily is not based on white people’s and white-accommodating people’s interest, permission, and approval.

We celebrate real Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. whose words and actions have often been familiar to Black people and misrepresented by the majority of white people and white-accommodating people through a span of sociopolitical affiliations — white liberals, white conservatives, white moderates, white Democrats, white Republicans, white Libertarians, white anti-capitalists, and white antifascists.

We celebrate real Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as we celebrate Black people who risk their lives, their families, and their careers to provide racial equity teachings and trainings, meetings and presentations, protests and outrage for more than a century.

One form is Black activists and Black scholars conducting racial justice teachings and trainings for white people since the 1960s-1970s. Please note that giving people an antiracism training with a reading list is not a new idea even if new terminologies and new acronyms are applied.

Also, antiracism role playing/scenarios in training is not a new idea. Enslaved Africans around the world and on Western Hemisphere did role plays/scenarios to practice escapes and responses if caught. The Freedom Riders role plays/scenarios are among role plays/scenarios over the generations to teach realistic scenarios and appropriate actions for Black people and collaborative non-Black people. Most Black families and Black collectives do some type of role play/scenario to provide examples of overt and covert mistreatment from overall white people; and overt and covert mistreatment from anti-Black teachers, police, medical and health professionals, and other methods of excluding and abusing Black people.

To further illustrate celebrating real Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I grew up celebrating Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Arthur Ashe Center in Richmond, VA. I learned to stand up, put my hand on my heart, close my eyes, and sing every verse of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” To this day, and I am 44 years old, this is my only Anthem and I only stand and sing this Anthem.

Celebrating Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Arthur Ashe Center was a decade before Arthur Ashe had a monument on Monument Avenue. Now that Monument Avenue has changed, as have some confederate statues and some names on buildings in some states across the nation, Black people must remain aware of certain visible changes used for centuries to hide or falsely explain issues.

To require transparency and factual information: Black people (and non-Black collaborators) need to require an annual financial statement with details of funds. This is important because, over the generations, (mostly white) decision makers tell Black people that funds needed to remove statues and remove names from buildings will reduce funds from schools and from city resources used by Black people. This (in addition to funders/donors/sponsors, board of directors, board of trustees, politicians, and other methods of white dominance) is among the excuses to keep white abuser images and names visible in cities and states.

Transparency and factual information must be consistently requested — and demanded — because Black people are traditionally told to celebrate changes and pretend to be too busy partying-in-celebration instead of noticing realities. Historical example — Black people expected to celebrate Abraham Lincoln and Emancipation Proclamation without realizing Lincoln did not support Black people, did not care if Black people went back to Africa (the land from which we were stolen for centuries), Emancipation Proclamation did not pertain to every state, and Emancipation Proclamation happened because white people found other sources of capitalism-profit that still perpetuated white dominance and controlling and harming Black people.

Two current examples of Black people expected to celebrate rather than challenge — Black people told to support a President of the United States and pretend what is debated in political meetings and signed on paper always results in measurable and lasting changes; and people pretend some K-12 schools and colleges-universities are invested in racial equity despite the white-dominance in accreditation requirements, curriculum, national and global publishers, course materials, and library content.

In addition, most white liberals and most white progressives have not realistically-sacrificed anything in their personal life and professional life to demand changes and have deal breakers when changes are not made.

Instead, in January 2022, many Black people are asked by white people (at work, at school, at the grocery store….) the same basic questions we are asked for centuries such as “what is the racism problem,” “what can be changed,” “how can I help,” and the colorblind racism (sociological term) approach of “I don’t see race/we are all human race/you’re racist for bringing up race/race doesn’t matter/why did you bring up race.”

This is furthered when Black voices and Black demands are limited to famous Black people, wealthy Black people, bestselling Black authors, make-white-people-smile antiracism training, “trust Black women” bumper sticker, social media hashtags, and other trendy announcements and awards. This is centuries of tokenism and white comfort that change with news outlets, technology, and communication methods.

This is where Black people are left alone and blamed for taking white support too literal and assuming a substantial amount of white people will be consistent and realistically-sacrifice for racial justice.

As Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. challenged “polite white people,” I encourage Black people to challenge polite white people (and non-Black people) who became outspoken only after this became a “hot topic” on social media, news stories, and meaningless statements from schools, organizations, and businesses.

Black people have centuries of hoping for the best and being disappointed every time we are told “vote or die,” “trust and pray,” changes take time so be patient,” and other excuses we are told (and sold) by politicians and political parties, school officials and school decision makers, employers and HR, medical and health professionals, and other people whose social capital, cultural capital, and salary are based in silencing Black people and forcing Black people to seem “content” in every space.

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is among centuries of Black people whose knowledge and voices encourage Black people and remind Black people to not apologize for Black identity, not apologize for Black pride, not apologize for Black intelligence, not apologize for Black knowledge, not apologize for Black consciousness, not apologize for Black independence, and not apologize for Black people demanding justice in family services, economics, medical and health, education, employment, laws and law enforcement.

For Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and every Black person invested in contributing to changes: Contributing to changes is within our lifetime and leaving resources for future generations. This is done by every generation of Black people. Racism is among the stolen and abused powers and injustices that persist as long as humans exist. This is a local reality, national reality, and international reality no matter the differences is terminologies and meanings.

I support all Black people. We support each other. We protect each other. We defend each other. Our voices reflect the span of Our People with varying identities and varying experiences. Unsilenced.

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Community advocate, sociologist and criminologist, educator, researcher, founder & CEO of www.365Diversity.com

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Dr. Kimya Nuru Dennis

Dr. Kimya Nuru Dennis

Community advocate, sociologist and criminologist, educator, researcher, founder & CEO of www.365Diversity.com

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