Martin Luther King, Jr. is recognized during January because he stood for nonviolence, making him relatively innocuous for most of the population to digest. However, Martin Luther King was assassinated because he posed a viable threat to the perception of the United States when he was alive. “Threats” to the projected façade are usually executed in a very public manner to discourage follow up by others in the future. When most people think of lynching, they think of a very specific act: hanging somebody from a tree and setting the person on fire. The purpose of a lynching is to instill fear and communicate a specific message, particularly to Black people: we can be murdered where we stand, wherever we might be, for no reason whatsoever if we do not adhere to the dominant narrative. Therefore, Martin Luther King, Jr. is recognized in January on a national scale because the very public lynching showed the monstrosity of the United States. Basically, not even a nonviolent person who appealed to many was allowed to survive if he offered any other option than the dominant narrative.
Lynching is defined as the mob killing of a person suspected of crime, especially by hanging. The problem with this definition is that it negates the whole point of the act, which is fear. I call the era between 1865 to 1929 the “Reign of White Terror”—after the Reign of Terror in France—for two reasons. First, lynching and other violence occurred during that time due to the idea of Black people no longer being slaves. Secondly and perhaps most importantly, Black people forged a number of communities that were self-sufficient, not demanding any excessive interaction with a White population. Thereby, White supremacy was concretely disproven, showing the White population that Black people never needed to be subjugated and were more than capable of survival—even within the context of capitalism.
It is interesting to note that the violence slightly dissipated after the Standard City Planning Enabling Act and the Standard Zoning Enabling Act were enacted, which allowed the White population to put Black and brown people in specific areas to “neutralize the threats.” It is also interesting to note that after those policies were enacted, the stock market crashed. Learning about independent Black communities—of which there were several—is a task within a task. There are very few opportunities to see all of the Black settlements that were in existence between 1865 and 1929. However, the violence has been cataloged in newspapers, and one group put together a map of lynching in the state of Texas. For more information on lynching throughout the United States, one can refer to the map produced by the Equal Justice Initiative.
The death of Martin Luther King, Jr. further demonstrated the complicity of law enforcement in maintaining the dominant narrative. A lot of people feel safer because the Capitol is now swarming with National Guards, glossing over the fact that there were police officers involved in the destruction at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. Law enforcement was involved in the lynching and violence during the Reign of White Terror because dictators need law enforcement. People rarely consider life without law enforcement because the populace has all been trained to believe that the presence of law enforcement is always a good thing. Lynching is an execution largely sanctioned by law enforcement because there were several superiors within law enforcement who turned a blind eye to the reality that the terror was focused on Black and brown people.
Finally, Martin Luther King, Jr. understood in his later years that oppressed people avoided instigating violence, which is why he was lynched. Honestly, most oppressed people rarely commit violence because they are presumed to be guilty before being innocent of anything, regardless of age. Consequently, it is prudent for people to understand that someone wanted violence to restrain societal evolution. Since 2008, the wealthy have been showing their hand: they want nothing but money, regardless of the pain inflicted on everyone else. They are willing to make everybody homeless and hungry if it means they get one more dollar. The elite have been shocked to discover that most people do not like them, and that everyone has been much more suspicious of people in power. Therefore, the dominant narrative allowed Barack Obama to become president. While many people saw that as a beacon of hope, more people recognized 1) that racist people would begin to feel emboldened; and 2) there was going to be retribution from people in power, just in case any other Black or brown people got any ideas. Thus, in the year, 2016, a known White supremacist was elected as president.
Traumatization was greatly publicized under the reign of Cult45; many Black and brown people were visibly aware of the terror that could exist. Police brutality increased, the homeless population has increased, and Black and brown people are dying at greater rates during a global pandemic. The Capitol was stormed to honor a White supremacist, as sanctioned by the dominant narrative. Because Black and brown people are considered threats by merely existing, the majority of the United States believes that it would be better if we were all wiped out and killed. Martin Luther King was lynched. People will truly believe that justice will overcome when everyone recognizes that it is a bad thing for Black and brown people to be murdered by the country and to do something about it.