I found this chapter of Zinn’s book and the little excerpt about Dr. King one of the most important things we’ve done so far. I have recently been learning about the truth of the Civil Rights Movement in my other leadership class, so I was really excited to learn more and to reinforce what I have been learning. All of this information has shifted my perspective of the movement and also has given me a new perspective on the current civil unrest in the US. In the history books and history classes, we are taught that the Civil Rights Era was an unprecedented time for change and that the whole nation came together to listen to Martin Luther King Jr. and immediately put an end to racism once and for all. However, only now I am realizing that the movement was actually a time of disappointment for many African Americans. It wasn’t an instant and revolutionary change that occurred overnight. We are still facing these problems today because of the lack of success of the Civil Rights Movement. History books want us to believe that one day, all of a sudden, Martin Luther King Jr. said “I have a dream” and that all the racists in America disappeared and changed their ways. Further, history wants to reinforce how peaceful all the protesting was and idolize King’s love instead of Malcolm X’s rage. This view of history is honestly incorrect and it only tells one side of the story. This history doesn’t depict how the Supreme Court rulings were passed but were never enforced or taken seriously.
I honestly think that the idolization of Dr. King and him becoming a martyr and a myth was a deliberate action by white people in power to suppress racial unrest. I think that it was on purpose that his birthday is given a national holiday and not the more radical Malcolm X. Using what I know now, I think historians and people in power chose King to immortalize and turn into a larger than life entity because he enforced nonviolence and love. Nonviolence obviously has its advantages, however when problems escalate to the point where there is no other option than complete upheaval, this course of action loses any efficiency or power. However, I think this may be the point. It is very possible that King was chosen to represent this movement to show future oppressed generations that nonviolence is the way to go because it is easier to suppress and subdue. This is honestly a manipulation tactic, instilling in our national history a lesson of how to approach oppression. If our nation had a national holiday for Malcolm X, then his wishes and views would be spoken more and would be more likely to be used by future generations. However, his ideas of radicalism and revolutionism are the last thing people in power want to instill in the public because it would jeopardize their power standing. It would lead to more oppressed groups taking control of their oppression in a way that would make people in power feel uncomfortable. This blatant misconception of the past is why we are still experiencing civil unrest and racism today and is also why the riots were being condemned, even though the riots were the only thing that actually persuaded the government to enforce the rulings they passed in the Civil Rights Era.