There were a lot of tributes to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the last celebration of his birth but one of the finest programs on television was one that presented Dr. King on camera making speech after speech with no outside commentary. The beauty of the man and the mission in the frame of history was clearly and succinctly excited by the inspiration of his poetic forensic.
One interesting idea he raised was the claim — remember this was nearly 40 years ago, though the thought still rings true today “that some people were still living in colonies in America.” Modern day colonies, Dr. King argued, were really prisons where people did not possess free will and they were actually indentured servants to masters who lived in faraway lands. Dr. King went on to link up the argument that major modern American urban cores like Philadelphia, Atlanta, New York City, Los Angeles, and Detroit were not cities in their own right but were really modern day Urban Colonies where inhabitants were still beholden to slavery and who were still manipulated by masters far from their neighborhoods.
On stronger note, Dr. King brought up the thought that, like the historical form of Colonization where people were forged into behaviors and economies they did not own was still alive, so too was the idea of a “plantation mentality” though the plantations were in the city core and not in the rural fields. Dr. King called those places”Paved Plantations” and he specifically mentioned Atlanta, Detroit and New York as prime examples of this embodiment of modern day slavery where people were persecuted and divided merely because of their minority status.
Dr. King went on to construct an argument that an invisible wall separates the Urban Colony and the Paved Plantation from the rest of the city-suburb and the unlikely and most powerful tenders of this form of segregation and economic and political and social slavery were — the audio feed was a bit garbled so please correct me if I am wrong — White Women who claimed good intentions but hidden in their stated desire to help was the obvious message that they were not really ready to help because helping would destroy the status quo and disrupt their slot in the social strata. As Dr. King suggested, “The Negro is asked to wait, be calm, and to know their place.”
While I agree with Dr. King about a wall between ghetto and prosperity I also hope later in his speech that was not broadcast on television he began to mention how the wall needed to be beaten down from both sides and not just from the side of the oppressor. To wait for one side act before acting yourself is the same as never acting at all. While the wall may be invisible in Dr. King’s vision of the Paved Plantation in the Urban Colony, I claim the wall is visible and built on the shattered corpus and hollow visage of those who are toiling in poverty and who have been crushed by an educational and political system that abstracts their specific suffering while actively and deliberately beating them into pre-defined minority niches for control and convenience of the majority power.
The only way to destroy the wall is to actively remove oneself from its concrete constraints and to do that one must seek help from those beyond the wall who may not know how to help and that is how the everlasting example Dr. King’s life can serve as a blueprint for shared extraction and for the continued belief in the goodness of humanity.