No One Likes Activists

By | Wednesday, June 03, 2020 Leave a Comment
It shouldn't come as any great surprise that many people are quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. over the past week or so. His name has become synonymous with fighting for racial equality, and a lot of people have been doing a lot of that very publicly over the past week.

One issue with citing Dr. King is, though, people are cherry picking quotes of his to suggest he wouldn't approve of the protests going on today. As if all he did was make some pretty speeches about his dream. He earned his reputation practicing civil disobedience. He was literally breaking the law on a frequent basis because he saw that the laws were unjust. He was beaten. He was jailed. J. Edgar Hoover worked for years to use every FBI resource available to discredit him at every opportunity. He was eventually assassinated. He was one of the most hated men in America in the year or two before he was murdered. A 1963 Gallup poll showed that 37% of Americans had a negative view of him; a number that increased each year as he became more prominent in his objecting to the status quo. The year before King died, Gallup polls showed 63% of Americans had a negative view of him!

America has never liked activists. Particularly those promoting racial equity. An easy way to see that is by looking at period editorial cartoons. A professional cartoonist, if they're to be successful, needs to have their finger on the pulse of the nation, so any cartoons they create speak to the current thinking about the day's events. I did a little searching and came up with the following cartoons, mostly from 1966-1968, that feature Dr. King. Most of those I found weren't particularly kind, but the three that appeared shortly after his death were respectful at least. (The one with the hand-writing was sent to King himself, and remains in his archives.)
Remember this if you think about quoting Dr. King. He challenged the status quo on a daily basis. He caused lots of problems for lots of people in high places. The riots that broke out in the week after his assassination helped convince President Johnson to sign The Civil Rights Act of 1968.

Two more things to keep in mind...
  1. Those riots broke out while King was hugely unpopular, as I noted above. Massive riots just among the few who liked him.
  2. You think things are bad now? Wait until George Floyd's murderer is acquitted because of the pass that's almost always given to police officers. Picture the LA riots in the aftermath of the Rodney King trial... but over the entire United States.
Stay safe, everybody!
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