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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Griper Blade: No, MLK Didn't Want a 'Colorblind' Society

King Memorial in Washington
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.
Martin Luther King Jr's "I have a dream" speech is considered one of the greatest speeches in American political rhetoric, yet conservatives tend to abridge it down to that one sentence. Charlie Pierce explains why:

There it is. That's the great loophole. It is an otherwise unremarkable sentiment given the context of the entire address, but, for the people who almost certainly would have lined up on the other side of the movement in 1963, it subsequently has been used as an opening through which all manner of historically backsliding mischief has come a'wandering in, from "reverse discrimination" to Allan Bakke, to what is going on today with the franchise in too many places, to the reaction to the killing of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of George Zimmerman. Modern conservatives have used that line to conscript Dr. King into their ideology, now that he's dead and unable to speak for himself. It's the only line in the speech that they remember.
Conservatives have in recent years taken to trying to coopt King as one of their own and that one sentence is pretty much the whole of the evidence for their case. Conservatives see him through the lens of what Cornell West calls "the Santa Clausification" of Dr. King -- i.e., King was a magical figure who came one day and ended racism, then was tragically taken from us by someone who didn't understand. Never mind that King advocated for a minimum guaranteed income for all Americans. Never mind that he died supporting the collective bargaining rights of striking sanitation workers. Never mind that he opposed the Vietnam War and supported the Voting Rights Act. Ignore all that and concentrate only one that one short sentence from one speech and, if you squint and cock your head just right, you can almost believe King was as conservative as your average teabagging frootloop...[CLICK TO READ FULL POST]

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