Tuesday, January 9, 2024
Year : 1, Issue : 19
= Were Martin Luther King alive in 2024 to celebrate his 95th birthday, what would he have to say about his nation’s contentious racial landscape?
Black Americans still face real inequities. Look at the huge numbers of crime victims, largely black, generated by terrible progressive policies around public safety.
Or the willed decay of America’s public schools, once an engine of black social mobility: the erasure of all standards in order to conceal the failure of unionized teachers to actually teach.
Still and all, America is a far different place from the nation that saw King felled by an assassin’s bullet in 1968 at the young age of 39.
The United States has seen a black American serve two terms as president and a black vice-president — something King likely thought even his children would never see.
Black people routinely serve at the top levels of the Cabinet, on the Supreme Court, in the Senate as well as the House, as state governors. Indeed, race is no longer any barrier not just to the ballot box, but to elective office.
Here in New York, Carl Heastie became the first black Assembly speaker in 2015; Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the first black woman state Senate majority leader in 2019. And Brooklyn’s Rep. Hakeem Jeffries is now the first black politician to lead a major party in the US House of Representatives, poised to be the first black speaker.
Such achievements surely would cheer Dr. King, for it was all a long time coming. And it came about because the movement of which King was the public face fundamentally transformed America’s sensibility.
But he’d likely be dismayed, too, and not only by the injustices that remain. He would be pained by the fact that while young black Americans are no longer barred from schools, they are too often denied a quality education — and so drop out or graduate without the knowledge and skills needed to become fully productive members of society.
We suspect he’d also by distressed by the hypersensitivity and growing political correctness of today’s discussions about race — the near-impossibility of honest dialogue and the insistence by too many to label any who disagree with them as racists.
He’d surely cheer the spirit and passion of the Black Lives Matter movement — but with some strong words about leaders’ obligations to bring discipline to every demonstration so as to avoid chaos and violence that badly undermines the cause, and to serve as honest stewards of the money entrusted to them by donors.
And he would be pained, no doubt, by the fact that we have yet to fully realize his dream of a time when people would be judged solely “by the content of their character” and “not on the color of their skin.”
Indeed, our great nation seems to have gone visibly backward on that front, with racial identity a be-all and end-all in the minds of many.
That thinking lies are the root of so-called “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion,” a movement to brand whites (and Jews) as oppressors and blacks as eternal victims, incapable of achieving anything without active discrimination against whites (and Asians).
It’s poisoned political discourse here in a way it’s impossible to imagine King approving of.
For King’s was a universal message of equality and dignity for all: “Let us not see to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred,” he warned.
So we honor Dr. King for the goals he pursued and largely achieved — and for a vision the nation still strives to fully realize.
Yes, in the decades since his death, scholars have found that he had his flaws and frailties. To err is human.
His denunciation of America as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today”; his warning that the greatest threat to black progress was “the white moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to racial justice.”
Ultimately, though, Martin Luther King’s legacy is that he managed to combat injustice by appealing to Americans’ highest aspirations. And that is why the nation rightly celebrates him today.