Martin Luther King knew what oppression was. He knew what it looked like, what it acted like, what it tasted and smelled like. He knew its deception so well, and he loved humanity and truth so deeply, that he was willing to educate, and die for, a nation that was killing itself based on a lie it was telling itself.
The lie Dr. King was referring to was a belief that black people are inferior to white people. In order for a lie to live, it has to get bigger and more sophisticated. It has to be nurtured. Gift wrap and bows may need to be applied.
Further, it has to be believed, even by the people it is being perpetuated against. Black people are only partially human. Black people are not as intelligent as white people. Black people are ruled by devils. The lies are malignant. They spread and they metastasize. Black people are lazy. Black people are criminals. Lies.
Dr. King stated:
'I plead with you. Believe in yourself and believe that you are somebody….Nobody else can do this for us. No document can do this for us. No...Emancipation Proclamation can do this for us….If the negro is to be free, he must move down into the inner resources of his own soul and sign with the pen and ink of self-asserted manhood his own Emancipation Proclamation.
Be proud of our heritage….we don't have anything to be ashamed of. Somebody told a lie one day. They couched it in language. They made everything black ugly and evil…..I want to get the language right….I want to get the language so right that everyone….will cry out, 'Yes, I am black, I'm proud....I am black and beautiful.'
Dr. King is not asking what is on the surface our minds. He is asking us what beliefs are running through our veins. What is operating deep in our souls. We all live in a country where lies about black people live on, where lies about LGBT people are raging, where all of us have learned some portion of these lies from birth.
We believe the lies but we don't know we believe them. However, the facts tells us we do. The continued economic disparities suffered by the black community, the disproportionate number of black men incarcerated. Violence against gay men outnumbers violence against every other group. Legislation advocating for continued discrimination against LGBT people, schools not including LGBT people in curricula, LGBT couples being excluded from adopting children. These facts tell us that we continue to nurture the lies deep within us.
The movement for black civil rights and the LGBT rights movements are different. The oppression experienced by the black community is different than that felt by the LGBT community. However, the oppression of a group of people is always based on lies. Taking away someone's human rights must be rationalized and excused. No matter the rationale and how many excuses can be made for it, the roots of oppression are lies.
Today, almost 45 years after his death, Dr. King still speaks to us. He tells us to believe in ourselves, to liberate ourselves from the lies buried deep within us. We must, and we will, replace the lies with truth, and confidence in that truth. We are equal, we are worthy.
The LGBT community extends its gratitude to Dr. King, and to all who have suffered from oppression and stood for truth.