Arizona State’s Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) racist Martin Luther King Day party has caused a recent backlash–and rightfully so, as it is offensive and ignorant. However, it was far from the greatest of tragedies committed on MLK Day 2014 in America. Truthfully, our entire society and culture dishonors MLK with passive responses to injustice everyday. In MLK’s last speech before his death, he argued for social and economic justice for all. In case you missed it, 95% of income gains since 2009 went to the top 1% of earners. Basically, while the masses are groveling for relative pennies and living check to check, the ruling elites add to their coffers in huge doses. We’ve got just enough mindless entertainment, religious fanaticism, and distorted sexual images to keep us distracted en masse from the truth. Of course, racism is a problem that plagues society and here in Memphis I am constantly reminded of how much blood, sweat, and soul went into giving us all the opportunities we have to thrive. That said, dissecting MLK’s last public words lets me know he understood to sit idle while your people lay disenfranchised, powerless, and most importantly, poor–without resources in a capital-rich and dependent society is equally as heinous. I refuse to focus on ignorant frat boys throw a party with Black people drinking watermelon–that ignores the larger problems, and misdirects our anger and energy away from the institutions that inhibit justice for all.
MLK’s last words urged us not to simply pray or ask God for miracles tomorrow, but demand economic justice and empowerment on this Earth, today. Racism as we know it was created to justify the economic exploitation of African slave labor. Today, it is a tool designed to pit one economically disenfranchised group against a much larger and even moreso economically disenfranchised population. I’ve done a lot of traveling over the past few years and gotten to see Blacks vs. Whites, Blacks vs. Mexicans, etc… Truly, the majority of the foot soldiers fighting along racial lines are not the empowered elites, but the poor and vulnerable, for instance in the South, Southern Whites who have been tricked into supporting racist ideals in order to prevent them from realizing the Aristocracy and ruling elite class is really preventing their economic empowerment. I’m pretty sure MLK was killed in order to prevent the unification of poor Southern Whites with Blacks. If you can imagine a world today, where the masses of all races did not get distracted from the fact that each other appears differently, we might see MLK’s dream fulfilled. If we can work for a world today where we don’t get distracted from the fact that others pray differently, pee differently, sin differently, and sleep differently, perhaps MLK’s dream will become a reality. Again, I’m pretty sure many Civil Rights leaders all across the world were killed at the point in which their reforms unified the masses and speaking truth to power involved economic justice. However when I critically examine MLK’s last words, I understand he knew this type of society was worth dying for, and to stand idle and let the people starve while so few control wealth and power, would be the greatest of tragedies. Confident we will get there–only takes a few of us to lead all of us toward the mountaintop.