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No One Would be Less Welcome in 21st Century American Politics than Martin Luther King, Jr.

No One Would be Less Welcome in 21st Century American Politics than Martin Luther King, Jr.

January 21, 2019 10:34 pmComments are Disabled

It’s MLK Day, which means the annual ritual of public figures pulling their favorite quotes from this extraordinary man which conveniently align with their worldview, and, of course, excoriating those who they believe to be betraying his legacy.

I submit that neither the identitarian puritanism of the populist Left or the radical nationalism of the populist Right–both, incidentally, the positions that have all but dominated political discussion our country–are in alignment with, and actually are in gross violation of, what MLK stood for.

After all, MLK was a uniter, calling for all people regardless of color to sit together at the table of brotherhood. But one of the most widely shared tweets on my feed today specifically put upon ‘all white people’ to take full and sole responsibility for eradicating their innate ‘socialized’ racism. This combative tweet–one of many coming from this ideological corner–was composed by a self-declared ‘race warrior.’ I’m not old, but I’m old enough to remember when being a race warrior was considered a bad thing, and certainly not in the spirit of one of the greatest men of peace to ever exist.

Of course, the Right suffers from its own delusions that MLK spoke for its principles of American universalism and Christian supremacy, with not only garden-variety white racism on display in so many quarters, but the oft-debunked claim that MLK’s was not a radical peace-and-love socialist but a Republican capitalist. And of course, we mustn’t forget the current head of the party of the Right, Donald Trump, a man of repugnant character whose annual attempts to lavish praise on a man whose character was beyond reproach always come across as hypocritical, embarrassing and an insult to his memory.

The fact is, contrary to the anger and confrontational approach favored by many black leaders of the day, including Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X, MLK stood against the forces of both black nationalism and white nationalism, as he said many times, including in his famous Letter From Birmingham Jail:

The other force is one of bitterness and hatred and comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up over the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement. This movement is nourished by the contemporary frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination. It is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incurable devil. I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need not follow the do-nothingism of the complacent or the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. There is a more excellent way, of love and nonviolent protest. I’m grateful to God that, through the Negro church, the dimension of nonviolence entered our struggle. If this philosophy had not emerged, I am convinced that by now many streets of the South would be flowing with floods of blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as “rabble-rousers” and “outside agitators” those of us who are working through the channels of nonviolent direct action and refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes, out of frustration and despair, will seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies, a development that will lead inevitably to a frightening racial nightmare.

It was specifically his call to racial unity, his rejection of ethnic warfare and the profound division and hatred it would beget, that made him unique as a nonviolent leader and helped create an uplifting bond between white and black America to overcome institutionalized racism and segregation. He built a following with people of all colors, and didn’t spend his time creating sound bytes to provoke people who didn’t agree with him into further anger. He reached out across the racial divide to build a consensus.

What would MLK make of today’s racial and ethnic identity politics, where both sides engage in slanderous, disrespectful, hatred vitriol against the other, everyone ready to do online, or real, battle at a moment’s notice, whether it’s with Berkeley protesters or unctuous Kentucky teenagers?

In honor of a day dedicated to upholding the King legacy, I thought it would be fitting to pull a couple MLK quotes that would get him banned from Twitter in today’s day and age. See if you can guess which principle sacred to each side would be violated by each quote.

Doxxed and shamed by the Left:

We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.

Whatever your life’s work is, do it well. A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better.

In contrast to ethical relativism, Christianity sets forth a system of absolute moral values and affirms that God has placed within the very structure of this universe certain moral principles that are fixed and immutable.

The Negro needs the white man to free him from his fears. The white man needs the Negro to free him from his guilt.

Threatened and boycotted by the Right:

So today capitalism has outlived its usefulness. It has brought about a system that takes necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes.

I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government.

Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.

Don’t let anybody make you think God chose America as His divine messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world.

Can you imagine how ill at ease this Christian, pro-American, anti-imperialist, pro-socialist, anti-violence, anti-nationalist, pro-unity preacher would be in today’s political climate?

It is my hope that we all wake up and realize that, as a society, we are harming the ability of future Martin Luther Kings who could create real change in the world to emerge: real people who think really hard about important issues and whose ideas may not always be right or widely accepted, but who are given the chance to present them to a listening audience without being strong-armed off campus or murdered on a Charlottesville green.

But regrettably, contrary to everything MLK stood for, we now live in a world where every declaration is sought out and dissected by trigger-happy special interest groups, from both sides of the proverbial aisle, determined to go to war over the slightest offense, whose only contribution to the world is hatred, and whose mode of arriving at justice is increasingly violent. And, soon enough, not a single person will be exempt from the magnifying glass of this regressive form of restorative justice. And every single piece of writing that contradicts someone’s ill-thought out, ill-tempered narrative will be thrown on the metaphorical digital bonfire and burned.

Go ahead. You can add this blog post to the pile.

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