Several Americans were guilty of Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year by not honoring the values he stood for.
Trigger Warning: Anti-Black Racism, Racist Microaggressions Against Black Folks
Every year, Martin Luther King Jr. day is celebrated on the third Monday of January to mark the civil rights pioneer's birthday. While Dr. King's birthday actually falls on January 15, the United States celebrates the occasion as a federal holiday under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. Across the country this year, folks paid tribute to the beacon of racial equality with heartfelt tributes. However, some people—and corporations in particular—were completely off the mark. From controversial sales and discounts to misinformed pundits, some just did not do justice to Dr. King's legacy. In a segment on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Roy Wood Jr. highlighted three of the most misguided celebrations on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
1. This will be a thread of corporations that are "honoring" MLK Jr on Twitter today but donated to the @NRSC in the last year, supporting a caucus that is filibustering voting rights and a chair (@SenRickScott) who voted to overturn the last election— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) January 17, 2022
Follow along if interested
First, he took a look at a discount sale organized by the business owner of a clothing store. In honor of the holiday, Rachel Mock, the proprietor of Global Village in Minnesota, offered a 25 percent discount—on only black apparel. "He was Black, he was proud, he looked good," she stated in her defense during an interview with a local news outlet. "We were celebrating that." She claimed the intentions behind the promotion were simply "misinterpreted." Wood Jr. was shocked by the sale. Humorously, he said in response, "Are you serious? For MLK Day, 25 percent off for black clothes? What it should be is 100 percent off for Black people." According to the talk show host, the sale was particularly egregious as Dr. King stood in fierce opposition to consumerism and what Noah referred to as "wasteful capitalism."
"The trouble is that we live in a failed system. Capitalism does not permit an even flow of economic resources...That’s the way the system works. And since we know that the system will not change the rules, we’re going to have to change the system" MLK Jr. pic.twitter.com/SN9GoW1jew— Marxist-Leninist Reading Hub (@MLReadingHub) January 17, 2022
Furthermore, while many may believe such inappropriate celebrations were limited to white folks, Wood Jr.'s second example displayed how Black communities too had perhaps misunderstood the purpose of the holiday. In Michigan, a flier bearing Dr. King's image promoted a party titled "Freedom 2 Twerk" to be held by a Black-majority neighborhood. On the poster, the civil rights icon was photoshopped, showing him wearing a gold chain and using his hand to form what many may consider a gang sign. As a result of backlash from local residents, nonetheless, the event was canceled. The owner of the club where the party was scheduled to take place affirmed, "There will be no twerking here." Wood Jr. criticized the photoshopped image in particular. "How you gonna photoshop Dr. King with gold chains to make him look cool?" He asked. "He was already cool!" The talk show host proceeded to present a series of images wherein the leader was indeed cool, personified.
MLK Jr in a pool— Clayton Cubitt (@claytoncubitt) January 17, 2022
MLK Jr playing pool pic.twitter.com/m2i3Xi7Vnq
The third and final example he shared was of Larry Ward, the Chairman of "Gun Appreciation Day." In an interview with CNN, he stated, "I believe Gun Appreciation Day honors the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. The truth is, I think Martin Luther King would agree with me if he were alive today that if African Americans had been given the right to keep and bear arms from day one of the country's founding, perhaps slavery might not have been a chapter in our history." Wood Jr. responded by the glaring logical flaw: "I'm pretty sure on Dr. King's list of priorities, giving slaves guns comes way below not having slaves in the first place," he asserted. "The logic makes no sense."
Concluding his segment on both an educational and a humorous note, Wood Jr. explained what the anti-racism pioneer stood for. He strongly affirmed, "MLK was for racial equality [and] economic justice, [and he] stood against the exploitation of the poor. And he did so because one day our great nation would rise above bigotry, injustice, and poverty. And on that day my friends, there will be twerking for everyone, everywhere."