Thursday, August 29, 2013

Kiss my Ass With That, "MLK was a Republican/ Conservative" Bullshit

Hola mi Gente...
Every fuckin’ year I have to post this shit. The exploitation of King’s name, the distortion of his teachings by conservatives, is one of the uglier developments in contemporary US politics.

The video clip (after the jump) is Robert F. Kennedy's eulogy on the night of MLK's assassination. The words are chilling in light of the direction our nation has taken and the fact that RFK was also cut down by an assassin two months later. When he arrived, Kennedy was informed that King had died. Despite fears of riots and concerns for his safety, Kennedy pushed aside aides' worries and attended a rally at 17th and Broadway in the heart of Indianapolis's African-American ghetto. That evening Kennedy addressed the crowd, many of whom had not heard about King's assassination. Instead of the rousing campaign speech they expected, Kennedy offered brief, impassioned remarks for peace that is considered to be one of the great public addresses

* * *

Misquoting the Dream
A society that has done something special against the Negro for hundreds of years must now do something special for him, in order to equip him to compete on a just and equal basis.
-- Martin Luther King, Jr.,Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community?

            When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was alive, mainstream society viewed him mostly with fear and contempt. When he was cut down, he was viewed as a pariah and even allies and close friends had tried to warn him away from the more radical approach he adopted towards the end of life. In response to King’s anti-war stance (as expressed in a 1967 speech), TIME magazine called King a “demagogue for Radio Hanoi.” Years later, Reagan the Befuddled condemned King as a communist.

Today, however, a miracle has taken place in America: Dr. King, it has now been discovered, was a conservative! By taking a one line from one 1963 address, Dr. King has been co-opted by the right as the most quoted opponent of affirmative action in America today. However, while the transformation of King from communist to conservative is almost complete, it deserves an explanation.

It should come as no surprise that Martin Luther King, Jr. would have his words taken out of context. After all, King’s status today effectively ensures that conservative writers, academics, pundits, and politicians, sitting “athwart history,” feel compelled to borrow King’s words to advance their racist agenda. What better political plum than claiming the ideological support of an iconic figure such as King? Nowhere is the tendency to “play the King card” more evident than in the claim by dozens of contemporary conservative writers, academics, pundits, and politicians that King’s basic goal was “color-blindness” and that he viewed such visual impairment as the road by which racism would best be addressed.

Typically, as I alluded above, conservatives seeking to transform King rely on one line from one speech. Of course it’s only the most famous line delivered by King, one of the few most folks have probably heard: the one from the 1963 March for Jobs and freedom on Washington, the “I Have a Dream” speech in which he expressed the hope that one day persons “will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” For conservatives, this amounts to incontrovertible proof that King opposed race-conscious policies such as affirmative action, since, after all, such efforts require an acknowledgment of race.

Conservatives of all colors and stripes have clung to slender thread as a rallying cry in their war against “reverse discrimination.” Shelby Steele, for example, in The Content of Our Character (the title a naked attempt to evoke the famous King line) is harsh critique of affirmative action policies, claiming they have “done more harm than good” and implying that King would agree. Steele seeks to prove this not only with reference to the “Dream” speech, but also by recounting a 1964 presentation in which King implored black youth to get ahead: the implication being that King was an apostle of the myth of rugged individualism and hostile to special efforts to provide full opportunities for people of color.

In similar fashion, many other conservatives have misrepresented King. If you’ve been on the internet for any amount of time, I am sure you have run up against the now ubiquitous practice of the cutting-and-pasting of the Kool-Aid King. See if you notice any of the following...
Clint Bolick, a leading critic of affirmative action, wrote in 1996 that King did not seek “special treatment” for blacks, and cites the “content of their character” remark as justification for his position. Tamar Jacoby wrote in 1998 that King’s “dream” was color-blindness. The Thernstroms, in the social science bible, America in Black and White, make the same claim. Paul Sniderman wrote, “The civil rights movement... took as its ideal a truly colorblind society, where, as Martin Luther King Jr. prophesied, our children would be judged... ” by, yup, you guessed it, you know what.

Some have gone further and have advanced the notion that the modern civil rights movement’s support of affirmative action is a betrayal of King. Dinesh D'Souza, in his laughable End of Racism, states authoritatively that affirmative action is a “... repudiation of King’s vision, in that it involves a celebration and affirmation of group identity.” He makes the audacious assertion that Black leaders are the antithesis of Martin Luther King's principles, which he defines as the ideology that “race should be ignored and we should be judged on our merits as persons.” Strangely, D'Souza calls for the repeal of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, arguably the greatest legislative achievement of the movement King led.

Yet, despite the overwhelming noise raised by the right in their attempt to show that Dr. King principally sought color-blindness and would have opposed affirmative action, even a cursory examination of his writings makes such a position extremely difficult to defend. King never said he believed that the best way to achieve the dream of racial and economic equality was to pretend racism had vanished. Nothing could be further from his principles. In fact, contrary to the popular modern fiction advanced by conservatives, King favored quotas, he was a proponent of affirmative action, reparations, and race-based hiring as immediate relief from systemic racism. This is an unpleasant bit of history to those who have tried to turn him into a (safely dead) black conservative with which to bash liberals. But these positions were his actual views. 

From the outset, King placed responsibility for the nation’s racial inequality squarely on whites. In an article written in 1956 and included in James Washington’s edited collection, Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., King wrote that whites had “rejected the very center of their own ethical professions... and so they rationalized” the conditions under which they had forced blacks to live. In his Letter from a Birmingham Jail in 1963, King specifically criticized white ministers and white moderates, who he condemned for being “more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice,” and whom he said were perhaps more of a barrier to true freedom for blacks than the Klan (!!). This is the letter in which he famously wrote that an unjust law was no law at all. In short, King was hardly color-blind. He was clear as to who the victims and who the chief perpetrators of racism were -- and he said so in clear and forceful language.

It is true that King called for universal programs of economic and educational opportunity for all the poor, regardless of race. However, he also saw the need for programs targeted at the victims of American racial apartheid. King was even clearer on affirmative action. In a 1963 article in Newsweek (ironically published the same month of the “I Have a Dream” speech), King suggested it might be necessary to have something similar to “discrimination in reverse” as a form of national atonement for the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow segregation.
The most direct articulation of his views on the subject is found in 1963, in Why We Can't Wait, King noted: 

Whenever this issue of compensatory or preferential treatment for the Negro is raised, some of our friends recoil in horror. The Negro should be granted equality, they agree, but he should ask for nothing more. On the surface, this appears reasonable, but it is not realistic. For it is obvious that if a man enters the starting line of a race three hundred years after another man, the first would have to perform some incredible feat in order to catch up. 

In a 1965 Playboy interview, King spelled out what that something special might entail, and it was far more substantive than affirmative action. In fact, King stated his support for an aid package for black America for $50 billion. Yeah, get that you conservative motherfuckers: King was for reparations.

I am not saying that King's thoughts on this issue should be the determining factor on how people should feel about affirmative action or other race-conscious efforts. How they feel and think about the legacy and abiding problem of discrimination is up to them. I am trying to point out, however, conservatives horribly misrepresent and warp King’s message in a bald-faced attempt to dismantle or disparage such programs. I find this propagandizing used in order to co-opt the mantle of King's moral authority the height of hypocrisy. Regardless of the debate over racism, it is only fair and just to insist that we present King’s views honestly and completely and not attempt to use his words for purposes he would have found unacceptable.

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization... 

Update #1: Came across this excellent piece via an online friend. If any of this even remotely conservative, please contact me ASAP. LOL!

No comments:

Post a Comment

What say you?


[un]Common Sense