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Drum Major Instinct

by C. Ross Jam on January 16, 2012

MLK Image In case anyone wanders by this blog and is curious, let me make it completely obvious. I’m Black or African-American if you prefer. In the United States, we have a federal holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who was instrumental in the American Civil Rights movement, which led to many of the liberties that I personally enjoyed this very day. I typically haven’t mentioned it when I’m blogging, but his holiday is an important day in my book.

I was all set to post about the copious first world, 1%er, global elite, advantages that have been available to me thanks to Dr. King’s effort (along with a whole bunch of other people, including my parents). Heck, when I was born, a black President of the United States was unthinkable. There’s a lot wrong with the US of A, but we’ve come a long way, and lit quite a path for other nations, even in my short existence.

Then Hendrik Hertzberg’s excellent, in-depth post on the inaccuracy of the quote inscribed on the King monument came across my feed. Even Hertzberg’s little taste of King’s sermon to Ebenezer Baptist Church, the Drum Major Instinct sermon, set me straight:

The drum major instinct is real. (Yes!) And you know what else it causes to happen? It often causes us to live above our means. (Make it plain!) It’s nothing but the drum major instinct. Do you ever see people buy cars that they can’t even begin to buy in terms of their income? (Amen!) [laughter] You’ve seen people riding around in Cadillacs and Chryslers who don’t earn enough to have a good T-Model Ford. (Make it plain!) But it feeds a repressed ego. …

The drum major instinct can lead to exclusivism in one’s thinking and can lead one to feel that because he has some training, he’s a little better than that person who doesn’t have it. Or because he has some economic security, that he’s a little better than that person who doesn’t have it. And that’s the uncontrolled, perverted use of the drum major instinct.

Those snippets can’t do the whole 5000 words justice, so make sure to read it yourself. But suffice it to say, while I am very thankful for all I have, and all those who sacrificed before me, I need to stay humble and think of ways I can personally do justice to the conclusion of his sermon.

P.S. The King family aggressively (and legally) protects copyright held on Dr. King’s image. The above is freely available according to Wikipedia.

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