Today we officially celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. although he would have been 80 years old on January 15. His life was cut short by an assassin on April 4, 1968 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. His murder was blamed on James Earl Ray, although Ray claimed innocence, and Dr. King’s family sided with Ray before Ray’s death.
On November 2, 1983, president Ronald Reagan signed a bill creating a federal holiday to honor King which was observed first on January 20, 1986. On January 17, 2000 the day was officially observed in all 50 of the United States. The day also is celebrated with a banquet in Hiroshima, Japan.
King was 39 years old at the time of his murder, a legendary leader in an abbreviated life. There has been no substitute for Dr. King, although many people have sought legitimacy as heir to his leadership of black America. The most prominent figure since King is Jesse Jackson, whose record and demeanor are hardly representative of the eloquence and character of King. Jackson has used divisive language and strong-arm tactics to achieve his power, and has stirred anger among blacks whenever the opportunity has arisen. King, on the other hand, was a peaceful and thoughtful man, and a powerful orator. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his work to end racial discrimination.
King rejected anger as a tool: “Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.”
But what do the other black leaders of our time, including Al Sharpton, have in common with that statement? Little. Sharpton came to national prominence in 1986 falsely accusing a group of white men of raping a young black female named Tawana Brawley.
In Jackson and Sharpton, the black leadership in America has veered from King’s vision.
Today many black leaders are using inflammatory tactics to resurrect hatred among blacks in order to lead them not through reason but through emotion. In South Carolina recently, black Democrat US congressman James Clyburn was responding to white Republican governor Mark Sanford who opposed Clyburn on government earmark spending. Said Clyburn of Sanford: “He happens to be a millionaire. He may not need help for the plantation his family owns, but the people whose grandparents and great-grandparents worked those plantations need the help in the form of federal money.”
Obviously Sanford’s family farm does not use slave labor, but the rhetoric suggests both racial and economic disparities. King never would have tolerated this kind of manipulation.
Most Americans do not know that Martin Luther King was a Republican, as were most African-Americans in the early Civil Rights movement. Until 1935, every black member of the US Congress was a Republican. Because the Republican party was founded in 1854 as the anti-slavery party. That is why the South throughout much of the 20th century was strongly Democrat – because they hated the Northern Republicans who had freed the slaves and won the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln was a Republican.
It was Republicans who amended the Constitution to grant blacks freedom (13th Amendment), citizenship (14th Amendment) and the right to vote (15th Amendment). Republicans passed the civil rights laws of the 1860s, including the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the Reconstruction Act of 1867 that was designed to establish a newer and fairer government system in the Democrat-controlled South.
Republicans started the NAACP and affirmative action with president Nixon‘s 1969 Philadelphia Plan that set the nation‘s first goals and timetables. Although affirmative action since has been turned by the Democrats into a quota system, it was established to counter the harm caused when Democrat president Woodrow Wilson in 1912 fired blacks from federal government jobs.
Republicans founded the historically black colleges and universities. Republican US senator Everett Dirksen of Illinois was key to the passage of civil rights legislations in 1957, 1960, 1964 and 1965. Dirksen also wrote the language for the 1965 Voting Rights Act and crafted the language for the Civil Rights Act of 1968 which prohibited discrimination in housing. President Johnson could not have achieved passage of civil rights legislation without the support of Republicans.
Meanwhile prominent Democrats like US senator J. William Fulbright, Bill Clinton’s mentor, were segregationists. Yet today, black America is controlled lock, stock and barrel by the Democrat party.
Later in his career, through his associations and his advocacy, King was linked to the Communist party and other left-wing causes including the anti-Vietnam war movement, which tarnished his image among many Americans.
Born Michael King Jr., King was renamed in honor of German Protestant Martin Luther. Preaching in Montgomery, Alabama, King took pages from the lessons of Mahatma Gandhi, advocating non-violent resistance to the oppression that blacks faced every day in America.
On April 3, 1968 King addressed a rally with his famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech. King’s flight to Memphis had been delayed by a bomb threat. In the close of that final speech of his life, in reference to the bomb threat, King ominously said the following:
“We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
Today, in Oakland, California riots have broken out over the killing of Oscar Grant, who is black, by a white police officer. The anger is justified but the destruction is not. Yet the black communities of America are ravaged by thousands upon thousands of black-on-black murders and millions of black-on-black rapes, robberies and assaults ever year and there is nary a peep. Why this selective outrage? Where is the anger at the mayhem within the black community? What would Dr. King say?
King would be affronted at what has happened to so many in black America since the promise of August 1963 and the “I Have a Dream” speech. He would see that many blacks have turned from the hard work of building their societies through the content of their characters and instead have looked inward to government dependency, violence, drugs, hip-hop music, anger, illegitimacy and murder. Dr. King would she tears over the collapse of public schools, the marginalization of scholastic achievement, and the destruction of the three core institutions that liberal Democrats seek to destroy even in white America – their businesses, their churches and their families.
In his “I Have A Dream” in August 1963, King said:
“The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges. But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.”
Today black America has made huge progress toward integration and the realization of King’s dream. Not just equality, but in many cases triumph. Some blacks have become rich and famous beyond most Americans’ wildest dreams in academia, publishing, business, sports and entertainment. But too many have been left behind. And King would have a heavy heart over their lack of their achievement because of its source – bitterness and hatred – from Jesse Jackson’s maligning of Jews, to Sharpton’s false charges, to Clyburn’s divisive language, from P-Diddy’s gross materialism to the ‘rap wars’ that led to the murders of Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur.
Too many blacks still are “drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred” rather than holding a positive and God-oriented vision of the future. And that is the great tragedy of black America today.
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