On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his infamous “I Have a Dream” speech in front of Lincoln Memorial in Kentucky to call an end to racism in the United States. This speech was incredibly profound, asking Americans to envision racial solidarity and inclusivity in all types of social and political settings.
Most Americans are taught about this historical moment in the Civil Rights Movement in elementary school social studies classes, and understand some of the realities of racial segregation in the United States; the separation of “white” restaurants, banks, schools, water fountains, public bathrooms, etc; from those that are “colored”, as well as the harassment, brutality, and even death many black citizens faced in the post-American slavery era.
The idea of “equality” is more complex than a majority of people think – the idea that people understand from King Jr.’s speech, the idea of “seeing everyone the same” is not actually what King preaches.
What our education system fails to present to the American people is King’s critique on U.S. military relations and poverty that not only affected American people of color, but also the war on Vietnam at the time.
“… [the Vietnamese people] watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for the one Vietcong-inflicted injury.” (‘Beyond Vietnam’ speech, 1967)
Why isn’t this discussed in our educational system? Why are King’s critiques on military erased when we discussed racial equality? Because it criticizes the motives of our government.
A few weeks ago, Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize. She was a young girl in Pakistan who was shot in the head by the terrorist group, the Taliban, when she advocated for educational rights for young girls. She became a renowned spokesperson for the rights and education of young girls around the world, and a face for intersectional feminism.
Our nation commodifies Malala as a brave, young girl who only wants to do good in the world. She has had a global impact in human rights and women’s rights. However, once again, her message is not fully represented through our nation’s media.
Malala actually actively critiques US drones in Pakistan and the Middle East, US funding in Israel, and also capitalism as a whole – she believes in socialism.
“It is true that when there’s a drone attack the terrorists are killed, it’s true,” she said. “But 500 and 5,000 more people rise against it and more terrorism occurs, and more — more bomb blasts occurs. … I think the best way to fight against terrorism is to do it through [a] peaceful way, not through war. Because I believe that a war can never be ended by a war.” (Huffington Post, 2013)
Although, yes, awareness of Malala’s views and critiques on US war relations and economic theory have spread due to social media, this was not something we had during King’s time. So the question still remains – why are histories that support criticism on the US military and economy continuously silenced?
I think this says a lot about the motives and values of those in high political power in our nation, as well as questions power dynamics in our nation altogether.