Happy MLK Day, y’all!
So, I’m reading the “Black Power” chapter from Dr. King’s Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?, which was released a month after his murder. I came across this paragraph, which is his critique of the Black Power movement, but I think it has relevance to some other things that have been on my mind. First, the paragraph:
But revolution, though born of despair, cannot long be sustained by despair. This is the ultimate contradiction of the Black Power movement. It claims to be the most revolutionary wing of the social revolution taking place in the United States. Yet it rejects the one thing that keeps the fire of revolutions burning: the ever-present flame of hope. When hope dies, a revolution degenerates into an undiscriminating catch-all for evanescent and futile gestures. The Negro cannot entrust his destiny to a philosophy nourished solely on despair, to a slogan that cannot be implemented into a program.
What we need more of are personal revolutions. As many of you know, I’ve been thinking about the N-word lately. Here’s the thing that struck me about this quote: In many ways it’s relevant to the whole effort to “reclaim” the N-word. Nigger (and all of its derivations) is a word that is inherently devoid of hope. So, we’re setting ourselves up for failure by continuing to embrace and ingest a word that is, at its core, soul-and psyche-destroying.
The 21st century needs to be the age in which we fiercely embrace hope, and drop the all unnecessary baggage of the past, and move forward towards greater love, equity and justice. As long as black folks hold onto the N-word, we’re hedging our bets against the future.