Leonard Pitts Jr. decries the lack of respect paid to the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. in his column, “Reverence: R.I.P.”
You might call this a requiem for reverence.
It seems that one Jeffrey Darnell Paul, a graphic artist from Miami Beach, had been tasked with creating a poster for a strip club’s so-called “I Have a Dream Bash” last week in apparent “honor” of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. So this genius concocts an image of the nation’s greatest human rights leader holding up a fan of $100 dollar bills like some low-rent “playa” while a scantily clad woman looks on. Paul, let the record show as African-Americans duck their heads in mortification, is black.
But, though he’s the one whose transgression made national news and the one who has been fielding angry phone calls from sea to shining sea, let the record further show that he is not the only individual to use King’s image that way. A Google search reveals that clubs in at least two other cities (Pensacola, Fla., and Baltimore) also thought it a grand idea to pair King with barely dressed hoochie mamas to commemorate what would have been his 83rd birthday had he not been shot in the face and killed while fighting for freedom and economic justice.
Perhaps we ought not be surprised. It is not exactly a secret that America is a nation of illiterates where its history is concerned.
But Paul’s transgression speaks to more than just the shortcomings of the ignorant. It speaks also to an overriding shallowness, an obsession with the superficial and trivial that seems unfortunately characteristic of this era. It was difficult to look on that poster without feeling that, OK, here we are; this is finally it, the moment when reverence died.