The 44 Percent: MLK Day, voting rights & André Leon Talley

·5 min read

Every third Monday of every year, Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy is reduced to nonviolence and dreams.

Often missing from the discourse is his abhorrence for American militarism, his call for a “radical redistribution” of wealth and, perhaps most relevant today, his challenge to White America to fully commit to racial equity.

It is with this in mind that Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones decided to use the very words of King in her own speech to an unnamed organization on MLK Day. The move came after Hannah-Jones, who described the incident Monday on Twitter, said she learned some members of the organization objected to her even giving the speech in the first place.

C. Isaiah Smalls II author card
C. Isaiah Smalls II author card

With MLK Day in the rearview mirror yet his points as poignant as ever, I wanted to quote some of my favorite Kingisms that Hannah-Jones shared. May his words illuminate a new path forward as we seek to deal with our country’s current conundrums.

  1. “The problems of racial injustice and economic injustice cannot be solved without a radical redistribution of political and economic power. A nation that continues year after year to spend more $ on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

  2. “Ever since the birth of our nation, White America has had a Schizophrenic personality on the ? of race, she has been torn between selves. A self in which she proudly professes the great principle of democracy and a self in which she madly practices the antithesis of democracy.”

  3. “Whites, it must frankly be said, are not putting in a similar mass effort to reeducate themselves out of their racial ignorance ... with each modest advance the white population promptly raises the argument that BLACK AMERICANS HAVE come far enough.”

  4. “The step backwards has a new name today, it is called the white backlash, but the white backlash is nothing new. It is the surfacing of old prejudices, hostilities and ambivalences that have always been there...”

  5. “... for the good of America, it is necessary to refute the idea that the dominant ideology in our country, even today, is freedom and equality and that racism is just an occasional departure from the norm on the part of a few bigoted extremists.”

  6. “If America does not respond creatively to the challenge to banish racism, some future historian will have to say, that a great civilization died because it lacked the soul and commitment to make justice a reality for all men.”

INSIDE THE 305



DeSantis ignites intraparty fight over fate of minority congressional districts:

The Florida Senate has advanced a congressional map that keeps Miami Gardens whole.

An initial proposal threatened to split Florida’s largest primarily Black city, but the Senate agreed to a late amendment.

“This amendment seeks to do one thing and that is to keep the principal city in my district and which is the largest black municipality within the state of Florida, keeping that whole in one congressional district,’’ said Sen. Shevrin Jones, a West Park Democrat.

This move comes just days after Gov. Ron DeSantis submitted his own congressional redistricting plan that gave Republicans a clear edge in Florida. DeSantis’ map has drawn criticism from activists and lawmakers alike, some of whom believe the governor’s plan engages in retrogression, which The Herald’s Mary Ellen Klas defined as “the reduction in voting strength of a racial or ethnic minority from one redistricting plan to another.”

Sen. Ileana Garcia, right, with Ana Lazara Rodriguez, 83, at a May 6, 2021 press conference outside of Rodriguez’s home in Miami discussing possible eviction proceedings against Rodriguez, a former Cuban political prisoner.
Sen. Ileana Garcia, right, with Ana Lazara Rodriguez, 83, at a May 6, 2021 press conference outside of Rodriguez’s home in Miami discussing possible eviction proceedings against Rodriguez, a former Cuban political prisoner.

State Sen. Ileana Garcia says African-American experience isn’t unique because ‘we had Obama as a president’:

Knowing your government representatives’ beliefs is critical.

Case and point: State Sen. Ileana Garcia, who told CBS4 in an interview that aired Sunday that the Black experience doesn’t differ from that of Latinos and white Americans because of Obama’s presidency.

“That’s the best example in the world,” said Garcia, whose district includes part of Miami-Dade County. “Obama was president, not for four years but for eight.”

Garcia went on to say that as a kid, African Americans discriminated against her and she was able to move on. She then urged other groups to do the same.

“I look at it as a learning experience and I’ve moved on,” Garcia said, “and I think people should move on from it.”

OUTSIDE THE 305

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 17: (center left to right) Yolanda Renee King, Arndrea Waters King, and Martin Luther King III, lead the annual D.C. Peace Walk: Change Happens with Good Hope and a Dream across the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge for Dr. Martin Luther King Day on January 17, 2022 in Washington, DC. Democrats are trying to pass John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act this week which will counter the various voting suppression laws passed in multiple Republican states in the wake of the 2020 elections. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 17: (center left to right) Yolanda Renee King, Arndrea Waters King, and Martin Luther King III, lead the annual D.C. Peace Walk: Change Happens with Good Hope and a Dream across the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge for Dr. Martin Luther King Day on January 17, 2022 in Washington, DC. Democrats are trying to pass John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act this week which will counter the various voting suppression laws passed in multiple Republican states in the wake of the 2020 elections. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

Voting rights bill dies in the Senate:

Democracy took a major blow Wednesday evening as legislation to combat the country’s new wave of restrictive voting laws failed to gain the support of Republicans while two Democratic senators opposed altering the filibuster rules to pass it.

In other words, the voting restrictions adopted by Florida and 18 other states in 2021 won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

The federal legislation in question, a combination of the the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, included moves to “establish nationwide standards for ballot access,” “establish new automatic voter registration programs and make Election Day a national holiday,” and “restore elements of the landmark Voting Rights Act that was gutted by the Supreme Court in a series of decisions,” according to The New York Times.

En esta foto de archivo del 28 de agosto de 2020, las personas llevan carteles con George Floyd mientras marchan desde el Monumento a Lincoln hasta el Monumento a Martin Luther King Jr. en Washington.
En esta foto de archivo del 28 de agosto de 2020, las personas llevan carteles con George Floyd mientras marchan desde el Monumento a Lincoln hasta el Monumento a Martin Luther King Jr. en Washington.

New episode of “This American Life” explores how conversations about race differed from 2020 to 2021:

Remember how the murder of George Floyd ignited a nationwide conversation about systemic racism?

This seems like forever ago considering the subsequent backlash in 2021 as critical race theory became the right’s boogeyman. The latest episode of “This American Life” explores how the conversational switch from 2020 to 2021 affected three individuals: James Whitfield, a since-fired principal; Nevaeh, a biracial teenager; and author Jerry Craft.

One of the podcasts’ seminal moments came during Nevaeh’s segment, as host Emanuele Berry contemplated what essentially amounted to 2021’s tagline: “We don’t want to talk about racism.”

“It’s the same message that has been on repeat everywhere in this moment of backlash,” Berry noted. “And as a kid, if that’s the message you’re getting, bury the racism, what do you do with that?”

HIGH CULTURE

Anna Wintour with Vogue editor-at-large Andre Leon Talley at work in a scene from the film, “The September Issue.”
Anna Wintour with Vogue editor-at-large Andre Leon Talley at work in a scene from the film, “The September Issue.”

André Leon Talley dies at 73:

André Leon Talley was many things — fashion icon, author, editor, television personality, creative genius, etc.

Of all the tributes that poured in after Talley’s death Tuesday, however, it was Saeed Jones’ Substack post that touched me the most:

It’s easy, I think, to dismiss ways of being as cultural contributions, but I believe that people are culture. How they live and move and myth-make and endure and drape and pose and want and want and want and observe and comment and declare. That’s culture. Andre Leon Talley’s sense of self was culture. And, I argue, it was culture at its best. One look at him and you wanted more for yourself. Another glance and you understood that “more” could look like anything as long as it was what you wanted for yourself.

“There is a famine of beauty.” And look at us now, trying to make something worthy from memory’s hem. Look at us now, draped in knowing just how good, how rich, how BLACK we had it with him. Onward. There’s got to be more out here somewhere.

Where does “The 44 Percent” name come from? Click here to find out how Miami history influenced the newsletter’s title.

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