Today is the day we commemorate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. here in the United States. There will be lots of parades and platitudes, and many leaders will say kind and respectful things about Dr. King.
The years have placed a gauzy veil over the human rights leader. People today forget just how extreme and problematic he was to the establishment. He was a rabble-rousing Negro and it finally got him killed.
So how far have we come since then?
It will be fascinating to watch the Republican debate tonight. Most likely one or all of the candidates will pay tribute to Dr. King. But if he were still alive today, you have to figure a lot of these same candidates would be trying to jail him, denigrate him, and defeat his goals.
They’ll likely be mouthing platitudes about equality tonight. But they’ll also be touting their plans to gut all labor unions. Which is kind of ironic, in that King was gunned down in Memphis, while leading a campaign to organize the municipal garbage workers.
Dr. King fought for repeal of Jim Crow laws designed to suppress minority voting. If he were still alive today, he would be livid, fighting the new voting registration changes taking place in 14 states right now. The standard line is these new laws are to protect against voter fraud. But of course the people they’re really going to affect are poor and minorities.
Dr. King realized that the real issue was poverty. That is what keeps people suppressed as much as anything. Tonight the candidates will argue about Bain Capital, and suggest their tinkle down economic policies will enrich all. But their system is so skewed to corruption and exploitation, driven by lobbyists and loopholes, that millions don’t stand a chance.
Tonight the Republicans will be talking about their humane approach to “Gay rights” as though this is some kind of preferential treatment of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual or Transgender people – just like earlier politicians in the 60’s framed “Colored rights.”
Of course there is no such thing as Gay or minority rights – only human rights. Your great grandchildren will look back on historic footage of these debates with shame, incredulous that there was a time when people could be marginalized and discriminated against in this way.
So expect some pandering from the candidates tonight. But know that if Dr. King were alive today, they would be fighting against everything he stood for.
The guy who has demonstrated the most balanced, kind, and equitable approach for all is Jon Huntsman. (He could actually have a rational conversation about things like evolution, climate change and the environment and refused to pander to the Tea Party extremists.) But I expect him to drop out of the race today and not even be in the debate tonight. With him gone, pretty much everyone else left advocates rounding up all the immigrants and throwing them back over the 30-foot-high electric fence they want to build.
The one guy left who advocates policies that would actually protect the poor and downtrodden in Dr. Ron Paul. That’s because he’s the only candidate in the race who supports the Constitution and Bill of Rights. He’s also against the war on drugs, which is really just a convenient way to prosecute and imprison more minorities. But 20 years ago Paul was publishing a newsletter containing anti-Semitic and racist comments. All he can say is he wasn’t aware of it – in a newsletter with his name on it?
A lot of parades will take place today along streets named after Dr. King. Yet I wonder how many are named the way they are here in South Florida?
In Miami and Hallandale Beach, each have a street named after the civil rights leader in the black zip codes – but they conveniently revert back to the old name in the white zip codes. About as symbolic segregation as you could imagine.
Yes we have a president of color in the White House, and that certainly is a momentous step forward. But we have so far to go. And we need a successor to Dr. King, now more than ever.
I have a dream. A dream to see Dr. King’s legacy enacted – not just pandered to by politicians with platitudes and parades. That’s what real prosperity is about.