What We Can Learn From King, Hoover, and Snowden


Photo courtesy of http://www.wisn.com

As we continue to commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it is important that we slow down to recognize how his life parallels to where we are now.

Last year, Americans were semi-rocked with booming revelations that we were possibly being spied upon by the National Security Agency. When the spying documents were leaked to varied media outlets by former NSA employee Edward Snowden, a lot of black Americans simply shrugged their shoulders.

Not because it wasn’t a big deal or that they didn’t care, well some of them probably didn’t care, but I believe it was due to the fact that many African-Americans have been subjected to some form of government scrutiny at some point during their lives.

While I can attest and empathize with that sentiment, I still believe that black Americans, in fact all Americans, should stand and pay attention to what the NSA is doing with your personal data.

Here’s an example. In August of last year, the Washington Post reported that the NSA was giving data to the DEA and that a massive cover-up was taking place. The DEA would receive “tips” from the NSA that would allow the DEA to potentially establish probable cause for the arrest of a potential suspect.

Because the DEA may have been given the information illegally, the DEA has to create a faux story as to how probable cause was established.

Does that give you the shivers?

The United States government is no stranger to infiltrating the personal lives of Americans and potentially fabricating stories to create a negative narrative: See Dr. King.

In a new book by journalist Betty Medsger titled “The Burglary: the Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI,” Medsger details the former FBI chief’s obsession with Dr. King.

Hoover, with the permission of then Attorney General Robert Kennedy, tapped King’s phone and bugged everything from his home to his hotel rooms to prove that he was a communist.

He wasn’t able to corroborate the communist story, but Hoover and the FBI did hear of King’s extra marital affairs. With that information in hand, Hoover attempted to use it to break the civil right’s leader’s personal life.

Hoover’s dissonance to King is why more black Americans should pay attention to the happenings of the NSA.

Last week President Obama gave a major speech about privacy and the NSA. He talked of reforming some of the agencies collecting practices as well as other things.

Some of the reforms he suggested were put forth by a presidential task force on changing the NSA, and some of them will need Congressional approval before they are able to move forward.

We try to learn something new about King’s life each year that we celebrate his birth. We play his speeches, march in parades with his name, attend lunches and dinners in his honor, and recite the same tired lines from his “I Have a Dream” speech.

But what are we truly learning? What lessons have we received from viewing his life and how he was treated? Sure, black folk have a shaky history with the government, but does that mean that excuses can be made as to why we fail to pay attention to what’s being done us?

J. Edgar Hoover was the caution, Edward Snowden is the warning, who or what will represent the final blow?


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