As we prepare for an open racist to ascend to the never more aptly-named White House, we need to remember, as this blog does every Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, that King wasn't a conservative, as Republicans and, weirdly, the Washington Post assert. No, King was a radical who made it his job to fuck up the nice little world that whites had constructed. So forget all that bullshit trying to make King into Fuzzy Marty, the Dream Hatchanimal, all ready to cuddle you with his non-violence. And, instead, let King's strength, power, and lack of fucks to give guide you as we head into the Trump era.
For instance, back in July 1966, a little over 50 years ago, King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference led a march and held a rally in support of the Chicago Freedom Movement, which asked that blacks and whites be treated equally when it came to housing in the city. (The play Raisin in the Sun was based in the housing discrimination endemic to the Windy City.) King had moved into a slum in January of 1966, where he lived several days a week, to shed light on the conditions there. He threatened to lead rent strikes if things weren't improved. "We don't have wall-to-wall carpeting to worry about," King said of his apartment. "But we have wall-to-wall rats and roaches."
On July 10, in the midst of a savage heat wave, King held a rally at Soldier Field, followed by a march to city hall to demand that blacks be allowed to rent and buy apartments in white neighborhoods. Only 30,000 of the expected 100,000 came out to see him in the nearly 100 degree temperature, but King gave a rousing and curiously little-quoted speech about the need for fairness in housing as being one more part of the road to a free and equal United States.
King started, "We are here today because we are tired. We are tired of being seared in the withering flames of injustice. We are tired of paying more for less. We are tired of living in rat-infested slums and in the Chicago Housing Authority's cement reservations. We are tired of having to pay a median rent of $97 a month in Lawndale for 4 rooms while whites in South Deering pay $73 a month for 5 rooms." People forget that King could be incredibly specific and localized in his demands, that he wasn't just seeking blanket "rights." No, he wanted definite wrongs corrected.
He continued further in the speech, "Let me say, here and now, that we are not going to tolerate moves that are now being made in subtle manners to intimidate, harass, and penalize Negro landlords who may own one or two buildings while ignoring the fact that slums are really perpetuated by the huge real estate agencies, mortgage and banking institutions, and city, state, and federal governments. This day we must decide that we will no longer use our dollars to perpetuate segregation and discrimination. We must make clear that we will withdraw our money en masse from any bank that not have a non-discriminatory lending policy. We must affirm that we will withdraw economic support from any company that will not provide on-the-job training, and employ an adequate number of Negroes, Puerto Ricans, and other ethnic minorities in higher paying jobs."
Does that sound fuckin' conservative? Does that sound like someone who is kissing the ass of tradition and power structures? How about this: "This day we must decide to give greater support to Negro-owned businesses which will aid in building our economic strength." He implored non-violence. He said that there were whites that supported the cause. But, ultimately, he said that non-whites shouldn't participate in an economic system that dicked them over.
Then King led people to city hall where, among other things, he demanded an end to police brutality in Chicago. We see how that turned out today. Back in 1966, he was mocked by the Chicago Tribune, which said that King's marches and sermons had become "tiresome" and "stale." A march in Marquette Park in August turned violent, with white onlookers hurling rocks and bottles at the marchers, and King was injured. He said later that he had never seen mobs of whites "as hateful" as he saw in Chicago, not even in Mississippi or Alabama.
King always believed that he had failed in Chicago, especially since Mayor Daley didn't abide by promises he made to King about open housing. But his assassination in 1968 was followed almost immediately by President Lyndon Johnson signing the Fair Housing Act, which prohibited housing discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, and sex. And this is where we get to Donald Trump.
Five years after King's death, in 1973, Trump Management was accused by the Justice Department of violating the civil rights of blacks and Puerto Ricans under the Fair Housing Act. Fred Trump and his son, Donald, were specifically named as defendants. And while the case was settled without an admission of guilt, well, c'mon, the evidence was pretty damning that Trump rental agents deliberately steered non-white clients away from all-white apartment buildings. Trump Management agreed not to discriminate and to advertise that all buildings were open to everyone.
So, remember, on this MLK Day, that when Trump attacks Rep. John Lewis, one of King's closest associates, the President-Elect is also going after the man and the group that fucked his shit up early in his career. That King continues to do so to this day speaks to how much he will always be far more powerful than Trump ever could hope to be.