POSTED BY MARTIN KICH
This is an excerpt from the essay “Most of You Have No Idea What Martin Luther King Actually Did,” by Hamden Rice. It was originally published in 2011, and it has been reprinted by Daily Kos:
The [source of]main suffering in the South . . . was that white people, mostly white men, occasionally went berserk, and grabbed random black people, usually men, and lynched them. You all know about lynching. But you may forget or not know that white people also randomly beat black people, and the black people could not fight back, for fear of even worse punishment.
This constant low level dread of atavistic violence is what kept the system running. It made life miserable, stressful and terrifying for black people. . . .
This is the climate of fear that Dr. King ended.
[He and other Civil Rights leaders] made black people experience the worst of the worst, collectively, that white people could dish out, and discover that it wasn’t that bad. They taught black people how to take a beating—from the Southern cops, from police dogs, from fire department hoses. They actually coached young people how to crouch, cover their heads with their arms and take the beating. They taught people how to go to jail, which terrified most decent people. . . .
That, my friends, is what ended the terrorism of the South. Confronting your worst fears, living through it, and breaking out in a deep throated freedom song. The jailers knew they had lost when they beat the crap out of these young Negroes and the jailed, beaten young people began to sing joyously, first in one town then in another. This is what the writer, James Baldwin, captured like no other writer of the era.
Please let this sink in. It wasn’t marches or speeches. . . . [MLK’s] main accomplishment was ending 200 years of racial terrorism, by getting black people to confront their fears. . . .
He crisscrossed the south organizing people, helping them not be afraid, and encouraging them, like Gandhi did in India, to take the beating that they had been trying to avoid all their lives. . . .
It wasn’t the Civil Rights Act, or the Voting Rights Act or the Fair Housing Act that freed us. It was taking the beating and thereafter not being afraid. . . . Our people freed ourselves and those Acts, as important as they were, were only white people officially recognizing what we had done.
Hamden Rice’s complete essay is available at: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2011/08/29/1011562/-Most-of-you-have-no-idea-what-Martin-Luther-King-actually-did?detail=emailclassic