King, Obama and Freire

by Bo Sanders

Today is the 43 year anniversary of the assassination of Dr. King.  As I was driving to work this morning I was listening to a show asking if President Obama is living up to the high rhetoric of the elections and if he is living up to the legacy of Dr. King that he drew on so often.

That is not what my note is about.  It is simply background.  The main focus of the conversation was what they called Dr. King’s terrible trifecta: Racism, Militarism, and Poverty. When they looked at the difference of President Obama vs. candidate Obama in this regard, the contrast was stark.

I have spent the day thinking about this terrible trifecta – Militarism, Racism, and Poverty.  Part of why this has grabbed me is that I have been reading a lot of Paulo Freire for class.  I wanted to pass along a section of an article from 1970.

So then, the more we get involved in action programs based on that illusory dream, the more we are playing the game of the power elites. Everything we do will be paternalistic. We will tend to promote assistential projects, to be “falsely generous,”… instead of working with men to transform the social reality that blocks them from being fully human, we will co-operate in maintaining that unjust reality by ineffectual actions that are no more helpful than aspirin pills. Obviously, the power elites will love us and praise us for doing what they want – and we will sleep on blithely, perhaps after having taken our little nip of Scotch whisky.

I look at our current budget process and wonder about our militarism and its odd connection to poverty.

I watch the news and listen to my neighbors and wince at race in America and our consumer culture’s odd fascination with charitable causes.

Dr. King was in Memphis when he was shot working on behalf of Sanitation Worker’s rights.  He had begun speaking about America’s military and wars. 43 years later I am in Los Angeles wondering how long a nation can take aspirin to dull the pain before we have to confront agian the terrible trifecta of militarism, race, and poverty.

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2 Responses to King, Obama and Freire

  1. Sam says:

    I’m not always convinced on this trifecta, specifically racism. To be perfectly honest, a better substitution maybe “prejudice,” including racial prejudice. I think prejudice is an extremely powerful force not limited to race, but issues of gender, sexuality, religion, income, political opinions, etc. I think when you take into account that a large part of the American populous had moved past race, at least cognitively (not everyone has, obviously), and yet we still see the same problems, that there has to be more going on. One of the most telltale signs of prejudice is the blame game, using ethnicity or religion as a scapegoat. In some ways, I think socially we struggle with some forms of prejudice even more so than racism. I have several homosexual friends who have felt genuinely persecuted for their lifestyle, to the point where I’d almost say that homosexual men are the new “niggers” of society. It’s not that I don’t think racism is relevant anymore, I think there are a LOT of other things going as well.

  2. Daniel Lowe says:

    @Sam…I agree that there is a lot more going on; however, I wouldn’t be so quick to disregard racism. Though racism may not be as obviously visible, it’s always a subtle creature ready to pounce right underneath the surface. The governmental debacle with Hurricane Katrina and relief proved that to be true. Racism is in the very roots of U.S. history; having the desire to eradicate an entire people group doesn’t get “cleaned up” after a few hundred years or so. And humans utilizing humans as work animals doesn’t go away with the rub of a governmental promise brush for improvement either. Racism and its effects are still definitely alive and well in the U.S.

    @Bo…It may be a little ironic that taking too many aspirin will actually make the stomach bleed. Now, I don’t know where the stomach of the U.S. is, but I think it’s a pretty safe bet that the U.S. is bleeding internally. I don’t know if you’d consider revamping, or expanding this post, but it might be interesting to do a little research on the effects of aspirin in the body and compare it to the present state of goings on in the U.S. Might add a little more “oomph” to the article.

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