Scrubbing Out King's Radicalism, The Corporate Hijacking of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial


Barack Obama we knew about.

If you are disappointed in Obama, shame on you.

He was right up front.

He told us from the beginning he was the corporations’ man.

During the campaign, he promised opposition to single payer health care for all.

Promise fulfilled.

He promised war in Afghanistan.

Promise fulfilled.

He promised to promote nuclear power.

Promise fulfilled.

So, shame on you if you were deceived.

It’s not Obama’s fault.

It’s your fault.

Corporations latched on to the great black hope.

And now they won’t let go.

If you were disappointed in the Congressional Black Caucus, shame on you.

It’s not the Congressional Black Caucus fault.

It’s your fault.

For years, we have known that the Congressional Black Caucus was a wholly owned subsidiary of corporate America.

An article in the New York Times last week detailed the millions in corporate dollars flooding into the Black Caucus and its corporate shells – from cigarette, alcohol, internet gambling corporations – among others.

“Black people gamble. Black people smoke. Black people drink,” Elsie L. Scott, chief executive of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, told the Times.“And so if these companies want to take some of the money they’ve earned off of our people and give it to us to support good causes, then we take it.”

Of course, the Congressional Black Caucus won’t side with the American people – black or white – on single payer health care, on cutting the bloated, wasteful military budget, on cracking down on corporate and white collar crime, on battling the junk food corporations.

Because they are bought and paid for.

Obama is a living breathing human being.

He was taken over by corporate America.

And he is doing its bidding.

The members of Congressional Black Caucus are living, breathing human beings.

They were taken over by corporate America.

And they are doing its bidding.

But Martin Luther King is dead and gone.

Who is going to stand up and fight back for Martin?

Who is going to give voice to his concerns about the military industrial complex?

Who is going to give voice to his concerns about the injustice of the health care system?

Surely not Obama.

Surely not the Congressional Black Caucus.

In December, construction began near the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. – across from the Jefferson Memorial – for a memorial for King.

It’s scheduled to open in the fall of 2011.

It will include a giant statue of the civil rights leader — now being shipped in from China.

And an inscription wall with fourteen sayings from King.

So, who decides which sayings from Martin Luther King go on the wall?

The memorial foundation says its a council of historians – made up of among others – Maya Angelou, Cornel West, John Hope Franklin, and Henry Louis Gates Jr.

And they have decided on fourteen quotations from Martin.

The money for the memorial – more than $100 million – was raised primarily from big corporations or big corporate foundations.

But apparently, the council of historians excised King’s most biting critique of corporate America.

Missing from the wall will be this:

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.”

Among the donors to the King Memorial Project Foundation — some of the biggest health insurance corporations.

Corporations that would be put out of business by a single payer – health care for all – reform.

Corporations like UnitedHealth and CIGNA – which each gave $1 million – and Aetna – which gave $100,000.

Or companies whose profits would be crimped by single payer – like Pfizer – whose foundation gave $1 million.

Junk food makers – the purveyors of diabetes and high blood pressure in the African American community – gave generously – Coca-Cola Foundation $2 million, McDonald’s $1 million, PepsiCo Foundation $1 million.

This quote also didn’t make it onto the Martin Luther King Memorial wall:

“This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

Neither did this one:

“I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today – my own government – There is something strangely inconsistent about a nation and a press that would praise you when you say, ‘Be nonviolent toward Jim Clark,’ but will curse and damn you when you say, ‘Be nonviolent toward little brown Vietnamese children!’ There is something wrong with that.”

Corporations that continue to profit from war gave significantly to the Memorial Foundation.

Boeing gave $1 million.

(Boeing has no shame. The military giant is even running television ads promoting the memorial.)

General Motors gave $10 million.

General Electric gave $1.2 million.

Northrop Grumman gave $100,000.

This quote also didn’t make it onto the wall:

“I’m convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. . . .When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, militarism and economic exploitation are incapable of being conquered. A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our present policies.. . .True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth with righteous indignation.”

Those big corporations that are really good at economic exploitation gave generously to the foundation.

BP America, the ExxonMobil Foundation, Shell Oil each gave $1 million.

The foundation for Exelon – the nuclear power company with close ties to Obama – gave $1 million.

Corporate monopolists like Wal-Mart gave $1 million.

Which raises a couple of questions:

Was the radical Martin Luther King scrubbed from his own memorial?

Was his memorial hijacked by the same corporations that hijacked Obama and the Congressional Black Caucus?

Russell Mokhiber is editor of Single Payer Action.

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