Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Coretta Scott King Dies at 78: "Leaves Feminist Legacy"

We honor Coretta Scott King, the amazing woman, whose life was a light on positive social change as a personal path. Like a beacon illuminating intersections rather than impassable social chasms, she showed us how we might overcome one of the stickiest of activist dilemmas. That is, seeing beyond one's own situated experience (or epistemological tunnel vision). We must remember rather, as she always did, that when we promote racial or gender equality, the broader social change we seek is neither culturally-specific nor single-issue. Each success advances our capacity to recognize and promote human equality on all fronts!

The reprint posted below taken from the Feminist Daily News Wire offers a very brief sketch of Corretta King's life and reminds us of her exemplary contributions to various movements simultaneously. While today's BBC article, entitled "Widow of Martin Luther King Dies," is longer and has beautiful pictures, the more "feminist" approach, evident when comparing titles, is better, and here's why.

The FDNW synopsis recognizes her singular life as a contribution in its own right. Surely it is unintentional when the BBC treats Coretta Scott King as wholly derivative of her husband. Nevertheless, the effect is stunning: Clearly for fear of readerly non-recognition, the title fails to mention her name, and, instead of remedying this, the first sentence explains that "Mrs King had carried on her husband's work for racial equality after he was assassinated in 1968." Perhaps there is an ironic comparative lesson to be drawn with the subject of yesterday's post regarding the first woman president of South America. This is a big deal! That is, as we noted, an entire handful of women has served previously in a presidential capacity during an interim period usually related to the death of a presidential husband. These previous cases of women effectively and capably exercising executive power, however, fail to constitute a "legacy" of women presidents, political, historical or otherwise.

What is distinct about Coretta Scott King's legacy is that she served vigorously as a leader in the pursuit of peace and civil rights before and after her husband's death. Her life leaves us a feminist legacy, because she took her husband's work where he might not have been able to do. By refusing to compromise race for gender or vice versa, she charted an historical course for future feminists of all genders to carry on.

We wonder, who will replace her in the interim?

"Coretta Scott King Dies at 78, Leaves Feminist Legacy"
Feminist Daily News Wire - 1/31/2006
Renowned civil rights leader Coretta Scott King, wife of the late Martin Luther King, Jr, passed away last night in her sleep at the age of 78. Coretta Scott King was well-known for her dedication to peace and civil rights, but she was also dedicated to women’s rights throughout her lifetime.

King played a significant role in the founding years of the National Organization for Women (NOW). She hosted NOW’s second convention in Atlanta, Georgia. King was appointed by President Carter to serve as a commissioner on the National Commission on the Observation of International Women’s Year, which was led by Bella Abzug.

On what would have been Martin Luther King’s 50th birthday, King dedicated the public observation to the drive to make his birthday a national holiday, as well as the drive to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. King faithfully attended the annual brunch of the National Congress of Black Women, led by Dr. C. DeLores Tucker, a civil rights and women’s rights champion who passed away last year.

“Over and over again, Coretta Scott King lent her words, her encouragement, her acts, and her deeds for the drive for human rights, civil rights, and women’s rights worldwide,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “She wisely used her historical position to further the rights of all people.”

(Tagline: "FeministMajority.org - Your source for the feminist perspective on political Media Resources - Feminist Majority Foundation")

SEE PHOTOESSAY: http://www.time.com/time/photoessays/2006/coretta_king/


El Mapa No Es el Territorio said...

Dear Annie Lorrie,
Of course you are right about the difference in the ways that news reporting feminist vs. what, not-feminist? choose to honor Coretta Scott King as either her own person, an activist and political leader in her own right, or as a sort of domestic remnant symbol of MLK JR. But, and however, the feminist majority deserves to get critiqued also for their own representational practices, specifically towards not-US American women of color. On this regard, I will only say that I know everything I know about the F.M. from my sister Claudia who devoted a large chunk of her MA thesis to criticizing Barbara Bush's speech about Afghani women as part of some F.M. event. Anyway, we certainly do honor Coretta's legacy and we thank her, as we do all the departed souls that have blessed our planet, and we hope they will return to us and continue to struggle for an exponential increase in LOVE. I love you, increasingly.

Sombra Morena said...

Yes, Mapa-No, thanks for raising the issue/bar of our expectations for mainstream media. (I too have my suspicions about the assumptions that produce a WOC--i.e., woman-of- color--as inivisible.)

Here is more to chomp on. Lambda legal celebrates the CSK legacy in their newsletter, and quote her from a presentation in 1998:

"As an African-American woman, I am concerned about discrimination against my race and gender," she said. "But it's just not good enough to support human rights for one's own race or culture and then be silent about injustices to other groups. As long as that's all we do, our success will be limited, and we will be working against each other instead of with each other."

"I've made the decision that I'm not going to put up with homophobic bigotry because it's morally wrong and because it lowers human rights standards for everyone."

That's what we call thinkin' it through!
For more:

El Mapa No Es el Territorio said...

Yes, indeed!