The outrage surrounding MLK Day club parties is misplaced writes Tracy Clayton. Respectability politics won’t save us.
But so what if a few people want to get drunk and sexy on MLK Day?
Sure, Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t explicitly say he had a dream that one day your cousin Mooney could get crunk in any establishment regardless of color in his famous speech, but that’s still a part of being free. As black people, we’re still in the margins, but our collective quality of life is a lot better, thanks in part to the work of Dr. King. Why not put on those red bottoms you worked so hard to get and drop it low in the name of progress?
The argument against dropping it low in the name of progress is that these clubgoers are just using the day as another excuse to party, and the use of MLK’s name and image becomes a sacrilege and the entire idea of celebrating becomes an offense. Well, consider this: The same thing is done with other non-black holidays and nobody seems to care as much. Memorial Day club party flyers contain all manner of half-dressed women posing next to eagles and American flags and baseball-filled apple pies. And let’s not even talk about what they do to the poorEaster bunny. Where is the collective outrage there?
It makes sense that black folks, in general, may be hypersensitive about the way society (read: white people) sees us and the way our history is handled. When your can lose your life over how you look in a hoodie or because your car crashed and you went looking for help or you were holding a toy gun in a Walmart, every day becomes a solicitation to be treated fairly and taken seriously. All our energy is poured into being “respectable,” prim and proper and perfect enough to maybe not be gunned down in the street by police officers at a higher rate than whites.
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