I bet you thought I forgot all about January, right? Well, there's more holidays in this month than New Year's. Today we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, which is separate from both Martin Luther Day, Lex Luthor Day and Luther Vandross Day. MLK, Jr. is an important holiday to remember, however, and even if all it means to some people these days is an irritating Bank Closure, it's good to remember the struggles the country and its minorities have had (really not that long ago). Nonetheless, there are some good things to watch today.
Stereotype Busting TV:
There's only one episode that comes to mind to properly treat this holiday. That's of course "Return of the King" from The Boondocks (S1;E9). The episode is one of the best of the series and despite its controversy has some good things to say about Black Culture and the Legacy of Dr. King. It implies that tho Dr. King's ideas were vitally important to the Civil Rights Movement, the respect he enjoys today is due only because of his death. Creator Aaron McGruder presents an alternate reality where Dr. King is just another Black Leader who makes some gaffs on National Television, loses his well earned respect and bounces back angrily against a culture of accepted ignorance he didn't die to create.
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The episode walks a fine line between critiquing actual Black Culture vs. media depictions of contemporary African-Americans. It's difficult to weed between truth of culture and appearance of culture, and if there is even a difference between them at all. Regardless, Black Culture as depicted in the episode (and hell, BET, Tyler Perry, etc) does not agree with the intelligent, peaceful, honorific and forgiving philosophy of Dr. King.
It also speaks to short-sighted conservative propaganda that labels intelligent criticism of this nation's policies, open expression and ironically in this case, Christian Love as Un-American. Basically while King is a struggling Badger in the River in a society now filled with New Media outlets (tho this episode predates the Social Networking Movement) he appears aloof and out of touch. It's only through great controversy (A truthful repeated use of the word "nigga," the ugliest word in the English Language) that he's able to finally catch his people's attention and inspire them for some change for the better. It's important to shock people through some harsh truth because there's no other way serious issues, especially those concerning race (implicit and explicit, de jure and de facto). No show does this better than The Boondocks.
There's no real definitive King Flick to rally behind so why not switch over to the Magneto to King's Professor Xavier, Malcolm X (1992) with Denzel. It's a fantastic movie with some insight into another great Civil Rights Leader (How insane were the 60s, by the way? Everyone got shot all the time. We're in shock over Congresswoman Gifford's near assassination in a monstrous Tucson Massacre, imagine losing JFK, X, MLK and RFK within five years). It's pretty chilling stuff.
Hopefully there is still much to learn from both MLK and Malcolm "In the Middle" X. We can reach some unity in a nation that still very divided despite its Black President and large strides forward for Black Culture and Transparency in the past forty years. We need to keep a keen eye though on when this Transparency leads to more mockery, judgment and ultimately division that prevents true healing to take place. On both sides. I'm mostly talking about stuff like this. C'mon.
Oh snap! No they didn't! A Boneless Rib Sandwich! What will they think of next?