By: Talib Williams
I’ve always found it interesting that, for a personality as peace loving and dedicated to the betterment of society as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, how is it that almost every street throughout America bearing his name, is among the worst in crime?
In her 2014 work “Freedom is a constant struggle,” Dr Angela Davis brings to our attention the following:
“no one can deny that global popular culture is saturated with references to the twentieth-century Black freedom movement. We know that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Is one of the most widely known historical figures in the world. Inside the US there are more than nine hundred streets named after Dr. King in forty states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico. But it has been suggested by geographers who have studied these naming practices that they’ve been used to deflect attention from persisting social problems – the lack of education, housing, jobs, and the use of carceral strategies to conceal the continued presence of these problems…”
In other words, the naming of these streets after such figures as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (or Cesar Chavez etc.) gives us the idea that the environment where these streets are located, are as pristine as the memories we have of these figures. However, as Dr. Davis suggests, this was done as a means to “deflect attention from persisting social problems…” Clearly these areas are among the worst. prostitution, drugs, and gun crimes are all too prevalent.
If we are to allow these streets to bear the names of figures such as Dr. Martin Luther King, we shouldn’t allow the ideal to overshadow the reality. As we realize the reality in regards to the conditions of these environments, we should be dedicated to doing the work to actualize the ideal.