Happy Martin Luther King Day.
The third Monday in January is annually set aside to honor the most towering figure of our nation's civil right's movement. And his most eloquent speech was given in 1963, I Have A Dream. That speech was a stirring call for true equality. After opening by noting the promise of our nation, that "all men are created equal," near his conclusion, he said: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
The full speech is in the video below. Do watch it. His moving appeal to equality as the basis for our nation rings as true today as in 1963.
And there is this via Hot Air today from MLK's niece, Dr. Alveda King who asserts in the interview below that had her uncle lived to see today, he’d be considered a pro-life, social conservative.
What follows is reposted and updated from 2008:
(2011 Update) Three years ago, I wrote a post on race in America, surveying our history and pointing out the far left's bastardization of MLK's dream of equality for all. It is appropriate to revisit that post today. I predicted at the time that, with the election of Obama, we would fall ever deeper, and perhaps irrevocably, into identity politics and multiculturalism, moving ever farther away from realizing MLK's goal of equality. I was wrong:
Liberal African American NYT columnist Bob Herbert recently had this to say in extolling the virtues of the left:
Without the many great and noble deeds of liberals over the past six or seven decades, America would hardly be recognizable to today’s young people. Liberals (including liberal Republicans, who have since been mostly drummed out of the party) ended legalized racial segregation and gender discrimination.
Mr. Herbert pretty much sums up what has been the far left / liberal / progressive line for decades. But then how to explain all the vicious, ad hominem and unhinged Palin-bashing coming from the left? To take it one further, how to reconcile that Palin-bashing with the left's acceptance of people like Rev. Jeremiah Wright as a part of their stable? It seems quite the conundrum unless one knows a bit of history and can identify the massive deceits. Here are some facts, some of which you might not be aware:
- The Republican Party - the party of Abraham Lincoln - was borne in 1854 out of opposition to slavery.
- The party of Jim Crow and the Ku Klux Klan was, as Jeffrey Lord points out in an article at the WSJ, the Democratic Party. And Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) [was the last] member of the Senate who was once a member of the KKK.
- The 13th (abolishing slavery), 14th (due process for all citizens) and 15th (voting rights cannot be restriced on the basis of race) Amendments to the Constitution were enacted by Republicans over Democratic opposition.
- The NAACP was founded in 1909 by three white Republicans who opposed the racist practices of the Democratic Party and the lynching of blacks by Democrats.
- In fairness, it was the Democrat Harry Truman who, by Executive Order 9981 issued in 1948, desegregated the military. That was a truly major development. My own belief is that the military has been the single greatest driving force of integration in this land for over half a century.
- It was Chief Justice Earl Warren, a former Republican Governor of California appointed to the Supreme Court by President Eisenhower, also a Republican, who managed to convince the other eight justices to agree to a unanimous decision in the seminal case of Brown v. Board of Education. That case was brought by the NAACP. The Court held segregation in schools unconstitutional. The fact that it was a unanimous decision that overturned precedent made it clear that no aspect of segregation would henceforth be considered constitutional.
- Republican President Ike Eisenhower played additional important roles in furthering equality in America. He "proposed to Congress the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960 and signed those acts into law. . . . They constituted the first significant civil rights acts since the 1870s." Moreover, when the Democratic Governor of Arkansas refused to integrate schools in what became known as the "Little Rock Nine" incident, "Eisenhower placed the Arkansas National Guard under Federal control and sent Army troops to escort nine black students into an all-white public school."
- The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was championed by JFK - but it was passed with massive Republican support (over 80%) in Congress and over fierce opposition from Democrats who made repeated attempts at filibuster. Indeed, 80% of the vote opposing the Civil Rights Act came from Democrats. Women were added to the Act as a protected class by a Democrat who thought it would be a poison pill, killing the legislation. To the contrary, the Congress passed the Act without any attempt to remove the provision.
- Martin Luther King Jr. was the most well known and pivotal Civil Rights activist ever produced in America. His most famous speech, "I Had A Dream," was an eloquent and stirring call for equality. If you have not read the speech or heard it, you can find it here. I would highly recommend listening to it. Rev. King was, by the way, a Republican.
- "Bull" Connor was not a Republican. . . .
Nothing that I say here is to suggest that racism and sexism could not be found in the Republican party or among conservatives at any point in American history. But if you take any period in history and draw a line at the midpoint of racist and sexist attitudes, you would find far more Republicans than Democrats on the lesser side of that line. And you would find a much greater willingness on the part of Republicans, relative to the time, to effectuate equality. That was as true in 1865 as in 1965 - and in 2008.
Sometime about 1968, the far left movement emerged as a major wing of the Democratic Party. This far left wing hijacked the civil rights movement and made it, ostensibly, their raison d'etre. Gradually, the far left has grown until it is now the dominant force in Democratic politics. JFK, Truman and FDR would recognize precious little of today's Democratic Party.
The far left fundamentally altered the nature of the Civil Rights movement when they claimed it as their own. They imprinted the movement with identity politics, grossly distorting the movement's goal of a level playing field for all Americans and creating in its stead a Marxist world of permanent victimized classes entitled to special treatment. The far left has been the driver of reverse racism and sexism for the past half century. That is why it is no surprise that, with the emergence of a far left candidate for the highest office in the nation, Rev. Jeremiah Wright should also arise at his side and into the public eye preaching a vile racism and separatism most Americans thought long dead in this country. Nor is it any surprise that the MSM, many of whom are of the far left, should collectively yawn at Obama's twenty year association with Wright. Wright is anything but an anomaly. To the contrary, he is a progeny of the politics of the far left.
The far left did not merely hijack the civil rights movement, they also wrote over a century of American history, turning it on its head. That is why Bob Herbert, quoted above, is able to wax so eloquently while spouting the most horrendous of deceits. The far left managed to paint the conservative movement and the Republican Party as the prime repositories of racism and sexism. The far left has long held themselves out as the true party of equality. They have done so falsely as, by its very nature, identity politics cements inequality. Beyond that truism, the far left has for decades played the race and gender cards to counter any criticism of their policies, to forestall any reasoned debate and to demonize those who stand opposed to them. They continue to do so through this very day.
For example, Obama has attempted repeatedly to play the race card so as to delegitimize criticism of his policies. And today we have the Governor of New York calling the McCain camp racist for belittling the executive experience one could expect to be gleaned from the position of "community organizer." Apparently, according to Gov. David Patterson, "repeated use of the words 'community organizer' is Republican code for 'black'." What Gov. Patterson is doing is the well worn trick of taking any criticism of something pertaining to one of the victim class and recasting it as an illegitimate attack on the victim class itself. These tactics, which the left has used with incredible effectiveness in the past, have done incalculable harm to our nation over the decades.
We are either a melting pot wherein "all men are created equal" - the ideal of our Founders for which we have long laboured and are ever closer to succeeding - or we are to become a multicultural nation of pigeon-holed special interests. We are to become a nation where groups are encouraged to remain apart, defining themselves by their victim class before defining themselves as Americans. Multiculturalism is unworkable - we can see it destroying Europe and Britain - but that has not stopped the far left in America from their embrace of the concept. Nor has it slowed their efforts to weave multiculturalism irrevocably into the fabric of our society.
The far left has long pushed forward minorities and women to prove that they are the party of inclusiveness. On the right, the process has been slower. You had the percolation of minorities and women to major positions through the natural process of time and selection of the fittest. Only the most jaded would ever argue that Colin Powell and Condi Rice did not earn their positions solely on merit. And love her or hate her, Kristi Todd Whitman was both well qualified and a very good governor.
I have long been waiting for a self-made and accomplished woman or minority to rise to the very top in Republican politics. It is something that would intrinsically expose the incredibly damaging canard that the far left has pushed for near half a century. I had hoped Colin Powell would be that man a decade ago. As to Condi Rice, had things worked out differently for the Bush administration and had she not selected the Sec. of State slot (a killer for anyone with Pres. aspirations) I thought that perhaps she would have a good shot at running in 2008. I've been waiting for Thomas Sowell to run for any elected office for decades - and yes, I would consider him for beatification. These are people for whom neither their skin color nor their gender makes them a victim. These are people for whom what unites us in common as Americans is more important than what divides us into sub-groups. And these are people who earned their success by virtue of their excellence rather than the distortions of identity politics.
It is inevitable that one of the two concepts I earlier described - a melting pot of equals or a multicultural morass of victim groups - will gain ascendance in America. I have long felt that we are at a crossroads in our nation for precisely this reason, and that the ramifications of how we decide this issue will be existential. . . .
When I wrote this post, I thought that electing Obama would take our nation irrevocably down the multicultural path, strengthening in America the victim class mentality that defines the left. I did not count on the rise of the Tea Party, nor that the left would go all out with the race card in a concerted and transparent attempt to delegitimize the message of that grass roots movement. Instead of strengthening the victim class mentality, all indications are that it has had a contrary effect, exposing the device to much of America. It is a tremendous irony that Obama, a man whose promise to lead us to racial equality was always without the barest hint of substance, may well inadvertently lead us to that promised land regardless. As the race card loses its ability to stigmatize the far left's political opponents, it spells the beginning of the end to the victim politics of the left. When the last vestiges of its toxin are banished from our land, then will come the day MLK's dream is fulfilled, and all of our children will "live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
Update (2011): NiceDeb has a round-up of MLK posts, linking not only to this post, but also to a fine post by Michelle Malkin, asking the left to give the race card a rest on MLK Day. In it, Malkin provides an exhaustive list of the times the left has used the race card in the recent past, concluding with an essay from Jerome Hudson that appears at Human Events:
Like most Americans, I’ve had enough with this administration’s policies. I was fed up and fired up.
I am even more so in the wake of the most moving gathering I’ve ever been privileged to be a part of.
At one point, some of the people attending the Rev. Al Sharpton’s “counter rally,” coined “Reclaiming King,” stopped me. I guess they must have been judging me by the color of my skin not the content of my character, because they asked if I was going to come join them.
“No, I won’t be there,” I told them. “Why?” one of them asked with a grimace on his face. I looked at him and said, “I want to be where the Lord is and the Lord is in this place.”
One of the older black women in the group asked me if I felt like I was “selling out” for being one of the “tokens” in the Beck rally crowd?
I laughed and said “Ma’am, Al Sharpton is a pretender. He is going to tell you to pretend that the color of your skin matters. He is going to ask you to ignore the now overwhelming proof that 50 years after the Civil Rights movement, blacks are now destroying each other faster than the KKK could have dreamed.”
As I walked away, the group stood frozen, not knowing how to reply.
Later, as Sharpton preached a divisive message void of actual solutions on how to “close the education and economic gap” in the “black community,” Dr. Alveda King, Martin Luther King’s niece, invoked the spirit of her slain uncle proclaiming, “I too have a dream, that white privilege will become human privilege and that people of every ethnic blend will receive everyone as brothers and sisters in the love of God.”
Her comments on restoring the “foundation of the family” in America were met, not with boos, but with a thunderous applause.
(What bigots those white folks! Having the audacity to cheer Dr. King’s niece like that. Racists the whole lot of them!)
I was probably the only 24-year old black college student in the crowd. It’s hard to know, because we had over 300,000 people there. But that didn’t matter to me. As we all stood hand-in-hand, American shoulder to American shoulder, our myriad faces streaked with tears as we sang “Amazing Grace.” It was a moment I will be proud to tell my grandkids about one day.
What that moment taught me is this: Something profound is happening in America that runs far deeper than politics. The ground is shifting, and it’s in freedom’s direction.
Update 2012: It is a tragedy that the goal of MLK, a society where people are "measured by the content of their character and not the color of their skin," has been so distorted and hollowed out to be used as a political tool by the left. All of the most prominent voices of the black civil rights movement today - Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, etc. - invariably seem to be doing far more for themselves than for blacks as a group. Indeed, for but one example, there is Prof. Henry L. Gates who has made an entire, extremely well paying career at Harvard out of arguing for reparations from all whites to all blacks for the original sin of slavery in America. And as I pointed out in a post a few days ago, in taking stock of what the Civil Rights Movement and the Obama administration have achieved through today:
. . . Blacks should be waking up to a hard lesson - that the left wing promises sold to them, the separatism and victimhood, they are all empty. And on the two most important issues facing blacks today, jobs and education, their best hopes lay with the right.
. . . The black middle class has been growing steadily since 1955. But that middle class is under full frontal assault from Obama. According to the Economic Policy Institute, quoted in the Chicago Sun Times, the median net worth for black families has plunged 83% under Obama. Black unemployment has risen to 16.2%, and only 56.9% of black men over the age of 20 remain in today's workforce. According to the Censsus Bureau, the poverty rate for black households in America today is at a staggering 27.4%. As the Sun-Timessummed this up:
Millions of Americans endured financial calamities in the recession. But for many in the black community, job loss has knocked them out of the middle class and back into poverty. And some experts warn of a historic reversal of hard-won economic gains that took black people decades to achieve.
“History is going to say the black middle class was decimated” over the past few years, said Maya Wiley, director of the Center for Social Inclusion. “But we’re not done writing history.”
Adds Algernon Austin, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s Program on Race, Ethnicity and the Economy: “The recession is not over for black folks.”
And indeed, it should be noted that Obama's most recent decision to decimate Army ranks will likewise severely restrict another historic avenue for black advancement to the middle class. In the Army, 27.7% of the enlisted ranks are filled by blacks.
[The second way in which the modern civil rights movements has wholly failed the black community is in education, and particularly] the horrid state of public education in the inner cities. Is is, as Juan Williams has called it from the left, "the key civil rights issue of this generation." And as Thomas Sowell has opined from the right, "Republicans have a golden opportunity to go after the votes of black parents by connecting the dots and exposing one of the key reasons for bad education in inner cities and the bad consequences that follow.."
Both Williams and Sowell also agree that the single biggest hurdle to improving education in the inner cities is the power of teachers' unions. The left stands shoulder to shoulder with all public sector unions - teachers' unions in particular - because they provide much of the economic base for Democrats. And indeed, Exhibit one in trying to win the black vote on this issue is Obama who, at the start of his administration, ended the DC voucher program for DC's inner city youth, while at the same time he enrolled his children in the area's best private school.