Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
The University of Oregon celebrated Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday, but four years ago it came within a hair of canceling him for being politically incorrect on his previous birthday.
The offending issue had been King’s speech at the Lincoln Memorial, “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.” Putting character ahead of race has long since become unfashionable among a radical leftist movement obsessed with identity politics.
Today children are indoctrinated with critical race theory in kindergarten. Four-year-olds who barely have any concept of race are told that they must divide each other by color, and to feel proud or guilty of their race. They must forget character and think only about skin color.
That’s how the Democrats who claim to celebrate King and his legacy have tainted his dream.
Around the 57th anniversary of King’s speech, Al Sharpton, an illiterate bigot at the center of a racist riot, and a powerful kingmaker whose golden ring every single Democrat presidential candidate bows to kiss, held his own 2020 rally at the Lincoln Memorial. Sharpton’s most famous quote has a somewhat different message than that of Martin Luther King Jr.
“White folks was in the caves while we was building empires,” Sharpton famously declared. “We taught philosophy and astrology [sic] and mathematics before Socrates and them Greek homos ever got around to it.”
Sharpton is considered one of the preeminent civil rights leaders by today’s Democrats.
As is Robin DiAngelo, a white leftist, whose book, White Fragility, which contends that white people are permanently racist and black people are the eternal victims of racism, is the guide for countless critical race theory struggle sessions. Sessions with DiAngelo can cost $40,000 for those seeking her insights into the inescapable verities of racism, race, and racial destiny.
“All progress we have made in the realm of civil rights has been accomplished through identity politics,” DiAngelo has argued. Does DiAngelo understand civil rights better than King?
That corrupt hypocrisy which celebrates King while ignoring his message is typical of the Left.
Martin Luther King had wanted to free black and white people from identity politics. Instead the civil rights movement being carried on in his name has made it its goal to enslave black people on a political plantation that convinces both white and black people that racism can never end.
King had argued that black people can be equal and free. Today’s Democrats believe that they can be neither. Racism is a permanent feature of American life, they insist, and cannot be removed, only acknowledged, and compensated for through white guilt and black power.
And by black power, they mean the power of a privileged few to get free rides to Yale and Harvard, to make the short climb to CEO or the White House on the ladder of identity politics, while urban ghettos swell with the misery of tens of millions whose victimhood they trade on.
King’s message that we must set aside our anger and live in peace is at odds with their agenda. His idea that we could end racism by not hating each other is dismissed as simplistic. If we stopped hating each other, how would the Democrats commemorating his birthday win elections? How would white lefties feel superior to the white working class in flyover states?
Their annual commemorations of King ignore his message of racial progress and reinvent him in their own angry racialist image calling for permanent racial warfare and racial superiority. They dismiss his message of tolerance as a catchphrase meant to appease a racist white society.
But King’s message about the importance of a color blind society was not just something he had once said when people were watching. It had always been his message, not just to white people, but to black people, not just about the future, but about his present day. And ours.
“We must set out to do a good job, irrespective of race, and do it so well that nobody could do it better,” he had argued. That message sharply contradicts the sinecures of affirmative action and it also goes to the heart of why he advocated a color blind society and why leftists oppose it.
Leftists attack a color blind society as racist because it ends their process of deconstructing the country’s institutions and history as systemically racist while dragging everyone through racial struggle sessions and shoving them into an artificial racial hierarchy based around victimhood.
White Fragility and critical race theory are obsessed with creating a hierarchy among white people based around ‘wokeness’. The hierarchy only works when people see race. And identity politics uses King’s image as another indictment of America while ignoring his message.
But King was not interested in the hierarchies of white leftists, but in uplifting black people.
His argument to black people differed from his message in the much more public forum of the Lincoln Memorial in that it offered racial color blindness as the only true source of racial pride.
King’s version of identity politics demanded color blindness because he did not set out to fight for permanent victimhood with all the privileges of a political plantation, but for accomplishment. Only racial color blindness would allow black people to accomplish and achieve without being held back or pandered to, and to know that they could be as good as anyone else in America.
That’s the opposite of the message of the horrifying sham that civil rights has since become.
And this is where many white liberals misunderstood King’s dream of a world where people would, “not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” It was not a vision of some distant future, but a reality in the present day awakened by the civil rights movement. Color blindness was not dependent on some distant future where every vestige of racism would disappear: it was a passionate moral response to racism in the here and now.
“Through the forces of history something happened to the Negro,” King declared. “He came to feel that he was somebody. He came to feel that the important thing about a man is not the color of his skin or the texture of his hair, but the texture and quality of his soul. With this new sense of dignity and new self-respect a new Negro emerged.”
Color blindness did not mean refusing to recognize the existence of race, but refusing to put color ahead of character. An obsession with race was the mark of the “segregator” and the “segregated” suffering from a “false sense of superiority” or a “false sense of inferiority”.
Liberation meant being free of racism and of measuring yourself by your race.
King’s message was that black people would be in the vanguard of a colorblind society. They had endured the oppression of segregation and that had allowed them to recognize the falsity of identity politics, the obsession with race over character, and surface over substance. Theirs was a journey whose religion, the search for soul, preceded the political, the search for power.
The post-King civil rights movement is a soulless search for political power for a privileged few and he would have been deeply troubled and repulsed by what civil rights has come to mean.
Civil rights has come to be indistinguishable from the power of the Democrats who were the leading segregationists. Racism isn’t to be eliminated, but atoned, an original sin that will always stain us, but that can never be made to go away. Race is the most important element in life. We must see race. We must prioritize race. And we must value or despise our race above all else.
The Democrat message is that we are our race. And that is all that we will ever be.
That is what the Democrats have traded King’s message for and even as they commemorate his birthday every year, they bury his message of healing, tolerance, and respect. King wanted an America in which can look past race. The Democrats use him to make sure we never do.
And that is a hypocritical perversion of his message and the essence of our racial tragedy.
The Democrats who praise King claim that his message of a color blind society is racist. But they want us to only see race because the only kind of society they want is a racist society.
King’s vision was of a united society. Their mission is to permanently divide Americans.