Monday, January 17, 2022

In Honor of MLK Day, Read MLK

One of the recurrent themes of the "anti-CRT" push by conservative politicians and activists is that they are merely upholding the legacy of Martin Luther King. Liberals counter by pointing out that Republicans seem to think MLK's entire legacy consists of one line from one speech, and that Republicans only like him because he's conveniently dead. But no no!, they say, MLK is the beacon of what racial relations in America should be! He is the antithesis of CRT!

So here is my suggestion for compromise: in every state which is currently enacting a "CRT" ban, school boards should develop a course that is simply and entirely devoted to reading the collected works of MLK. They can read statements like this:

“Whites, it must frankly be said, are not putting in a similar mass effort to reeducate themselves out of their racial ignorance. It is an aspect of their sense of superiority that the white people of America believe they have so little to learn.”

And this:

Whenever the issue of compensatory 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 nothing more. On the surface, this appears reasonable, but it is not realistic. A society that has done something special against the Negro for hundreds of years must now do something special for the Negro.

And this:

First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action;" who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season." 

And these:

The evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and racism. The problems of racial injustice and economic injustice cannot be solved without a radical redistribution of political and economic power.


“Again we have deluded ourselves into believing the myth that capitalism grew and prospered out of the Protestant ethic of hard work and sacrifices. Capitalism was built on the exploitation of black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor, both black and white, both here and abroad.”

There are many more besides. It is a rich corpus of work, after all, more than sufficient to support a semester's worth of study. Reading them all together, from the "I Have a Dream" speech to the "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" to the "Three Evils" speech could spark such interesting discussions and give a more thorough foundation to the ideas and ideology of a man whom -- liberals and conservatives agree -- is one of America's great heroes.

You want to ban "divisive concepts"? I dare Republicans to try and ban the "Collected Works of MLK" class as "divisive".

UPDATE: Nikole Hannah-Jones basically just did this in speech form.

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