Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Happy MLK Day.
January 21, 2002 8:57 AM   Subscribe

Happy MLK Day.
posted by Ty Webb (35 comments total)

 
I was tempted to leave this FPP without comment, but, given that it's a National Review link, I'm sure someone would've called me a troll. So, while I admit that a tribute to MLK in NR is somewhat ironic, I think it's as good an article as any to spark a discussion of his legacy.
posted by Ty Webb at 9:01 AM on January 21, 2002


It's nice to see how everyone trys to co-opt important historical figures, its a sign of King's importance.

Like similar arguements about "what Jeffereson (or Washington, etc) would have thought" based on today's definitions of conservative/liberal.

After all, conservatives in King's time were shouting "segregation now, segregation forever".
posted by malphigian at 9:03 AM on January 21, 2002


I am at work today. I am rather amazed at how many people in Washington, DC are working today. (Obviously not federal employees, though.) I thought it was a political gimme to observe MLK day.
.....
Two years ago I went to the MLK memorial in Atlanta. The church where he preached is across the street from the memorial, and the whole experience in general was very moving. Any moving tributes to the civil rights movement and Dr. King where you are? (Today or in general?)
posted by jennak at 9:09 AM on January 21, 2002


A couple of years ago I visited the National Civil Rights Museum, which used to be the Lorraine Motel where Dr. King was assasinated. They have the room set up exactly how it was the day he was killed, as well as a timeline of the struggle for equal rights. As blacks, both my mother and I became moved as well as extremely angry. The insane part of this, to me, is that this is all relatively recent. You jump back just one generation and blacks have no rights in America. Bizarre.
posted by owillis at 9:21 AM on January 21, 2002


Um, this is messed up: martinlutherking.org, at first looks normal, but is actually an anti-MLK site - the URL got hijacked apparently, and it's being used to defame him. Look at The Beast as Saint: The Truth About "Martin Luther King, Jr." - that's just wrong. Why has his family not fought to get the domain?
Checking the WHOIS records, it's registered by Stormfront, a "White Nationalist Resource".

Maybe things haven't changed that much....
posted by panopticon at 9:25 AM on January 21, 2002


Excerpts from "White America Misuses MLK Day," by Geov Parrish:

"In many ways, Ronald Reagan did the worst possible thing for the memory of Dr. King by acceding -- reluctantly -- to the national holiday that bears King's name. Because the holiday has become a feel-good lie...In 2002, TVland's MLK has no politics. And, for that matter, no faith. If the King of 1955 or 1965 were alive today, he would be accused of treason for his pacifism, as he was reviled for 'Communism' then. Instead of the FBI trying to bring him down, he, and most of his associates, would be prosecutable under new anti-terrorism statutes. And the moral outrage of Americans that made his work so effective? We don't do that any more."
posted by Carol Anne at 9:30 AM on January 21, 2002


panopticon:

This Salon article discusses the hijacking of the King name by stormfront.org, a white supremacist organization whose aim is to "...combat the "propaganda" regarding King and his life.".
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:35 AM on January 21, 2002


thanks for the link crash
posted by panopticon at 9:39 AM on January 21, 2002


When was the last time America had a leader like MLK? Someone who drew their power from actual people, and not from their television commercials which got them elected to office?

King had so much power that he was killed for it. Has their been anyone since in America who has had that kind of popular support? He was really a remarkable man, unique in the history of this country.
posted by cell divide at 9:42 AM on January 21, 2002


After all, conservatives in King's time were shouting "segregation now, segregation forever".

I don't think that's true of all conservatives, malphigian. As Charleton Heston is so fond of reminding us, he marched with King. It's true that the conservative establishment opposed integration, but that's the function of conservatism, to defend societal institutions as importnat in and of themselves, and in the process often keeping the baby and the dirty bathwater, to stretch a metaphor dangerously. Anyone who, like King, indicts an entire society is bound to run up against status-quo conservatism.

As I see it, genuine conservatism recognizes the value and inherent rights of the individual. On this, Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and Dr. King agreed.
posted by Ty Webb at 9:50 AM on January 21, 2002


Ty Webb: Charlton Heston didn't always call himself a conservative. And according to none other than David Horowitz, he's still a New Deal Democrat at heart. (Not that I'm saying Horowitz can be believed, but it's clear to me from reading and hearing enough about them man that Heston's beliefs have changed over time.)
posted by raysmj at 10:08 AM on January 21, 2002


The best MLK tribute site I found last year seems to be gone forevever.

Here's the wayback machine's copy of it.
posted by mathowie at 10:13 AM on January 21, 2002


Charlton Heston didn't always call himself a conservative. And according to none other than David Horowitz, he's still a New Deal Democrat at heart.

Who said anything about Repubs and Democrats, raysmj? Remember Abe Lincoln?

This country is going to have an awfully difficult time moving forward as long as everyone is so quick to make sweeping, dangerous accusations against entire groups of people because of their political affiliation.

(Which is what half of the people in this thread have so casually done).
posted by glenwood at 10:26 AM on January 21, 2002


After all, conservatives in King's time were shouting "segregation now, segregation forever".
I thought it was Southern Democrats who were screaming that.
posted by thirteen at 10:26 AM on January 21, 2002


The Heritage Fondation, very conservative, of course pics and chooses to make MLK their own, ignoring the fact that conservatives strongly favor statres's rights, which made segration legitimate and that it thus took "big govt"--associated with liberalism to bring about cvhange. (Ironically, it is now big govt that we all are to trust to fight terrorism).
What is odd for me is that so little is mentioned of the MLK approach, passive resistance, following in the footsteps of Ghandi (who at one time was dumb enough to say that Jews should resist passively as they marched to the death chambers!)
But in the North, MLK would not have worked at all: the North was, in theory if not in fact, itnegrated, and it was the firebrand Malcolm X who made a =much greater impact upon both blacks and white in this areas of the country.
And of course passive resistence was the more nearly Christian thing to do and thus MLK became the spokesman for all America.
posted by Postroad at 10:26 AM on January 21, 2002


I thought it was Southern Democrats who were screaming that

Weren't Southern Democrats the conservatives?
posted by owillis at 10:29 AM on January 21, 2002


raysmj,
That may be true, but I think it goes to show that simple political labels don't really suffice. I used the example of Heston to support my opinion that there are elements of King's philosophy that are genuinely conservative. I should also add that I think modern conservatism has been so tied up in anti-communism that it's hard to distinguish it from statism. Horowitz illustrates this point nicely.

After all, conservatives in King's time were shouting "segregation now, segregation forever".

I thought it was Southern Democrats who were screaming that.


thirteen, you're right, though I think that was Strom Thurmond's Dixiecrat (who were breakaway southern Democrats) campaign slogan. This shows again how such simple political labels are practically useless.
posted by Ty Webb at 10:29 AM on January 21, 2002


thirteen:

Again I must reiterate that we can't make these historical parallels between Democrat::Liberal Republican::Conservative.

At their most basic premise, Republicans are pro-republic, and Democrats are pro-democracy. Since those of us in the U.S. exist under a 'Representative Democracy', it's probably safe to assume that conservatism and liberalism can exist in either party in differing capacities throughout history.
posted by glenwood at 10:29 AM on January 21, 2002


glenwood: The key phrase in the sentence cited is "New Deal." (There weren't a whole lot of New Deal Republicans, and being against New Deal-type legislation is what drives today's Republican Party. See: The battle over Social Security.) That doesn't exactly describe a conservative, particularly not an economic conservative.
posted by raysmj at 10:38 AM on January 21, 2002


I think my statement was misunderstood. In the sentence before I said how this article was phrasing the understanding of King in terms of modern definitions of conservative/liberal -- whereas the conservatives of the time were by in large opposed to civil rights. Trying to tie the changing definitions with the tendency for every side to "claim" different historical figures as their own.

I would have thought it was obvious that I wasn't talking about EVERY conservative in the 1950s, but I guess not, I should have phrased it differently, and better defined my terms.

Sorry for sparking this completely pointless and semantic labels thread.
posted by malphigian at 10:43 AM on January 21, 2002


It's a good article (from NR); it correctly points out that MLK did, indeed, have flaws, but it also accurately points out that his achievements far surpassed the sum of his flaws. Quite like George Washington and/or Thomas Jefferson, who have been criticized for holding slaves (or bearing children with them)...the fact is, like Dr. King, their achievements far outweigh any personal defects. That is one of the hallmarks of true leaders and/or visionaries: if they are "right", their vices will (or should) be relegated to the back seat...not forgotten or ignored, perhaps, but certainly put in perspective to the achievements of the leader.
posted by davidmsc at 10:46 AM on January 21, 2002


Glenwood: One more, a quickie. Please note that I was only responding to the Heston-as-always-conservative bit. But MLK talked about economic justice quite a bit - it's part of his legacy, like it or not. For those not in the know, here's what he was doing when he died. You never hear about that much.
posted by raysmj at 10:46 AM on January 21, 2002


malphigian,
no apology necessary, I think a discussion of political labels is completely relevant to an MLK thread. As I wrote before, MLK recognized the primacy of the individual, a basic conservative premise, even when that came into conflict with the popular will. Some would say that democracy is the highest goal, but I think if you were to have put Jim Crow to a vote in 1962 Alabama, Jim Crow would've won in a landslide. The people would have spoken and the people would have been dead wrong. This paradox is at the heart of the idea of self-government.
posted by Ty Webb at 10:59 AM on January 21, 2002


Ty Webb: Except that Alabama wasn't truly a Democracy in 1962. Blacks couldn't vote, for the most part. Then there had been years - decades - of total elite rule (which for decades after the populist movements of the turn of the 20th Century kept poor whites disenfranchised too), which unquestionably influenced public opinion. The problem wasn't so simple.
posted by raysmj at 11:07 AM on January 21, 2002


raysmj:
Could there ever be a society where everybody is equally informed and free from prejudice? We're nowhere near that even today, though we've come a long way since 1962. Even if Alabama's black population could have voted, they still would've been outvoted by the white majority and the white majority still would've been absolutely wrong. In situations like that, it's appropriate for The State to step in and protect the rights of individuals, as the U.S. government, at long last, did.

You also seem to assume (please correct me if I'm wrong) that populism always works in the interests of the poor and disenfranchised, where I think that populism has been used just as much to stir up the resentments of the mob against the rights of minorities ("They're coming to take your jobs!"). The poor are, in fact , most susceptible to this kind of talk because they feel, and are often right, that they have the most to lose.
posted by Ty Webb at 11:19 AM on January 21, 2002


statres's rights, which made segration legitimate and that it thus took "big govt"--associated with liberalism to bring about cvhange

Up till 1860 (when stronger population growth in the North tipped control of the federal government to that region) pro-slavery elements were in favor of big federal government, and used their hold on such (known as "The Slave Power" ) to maintain slavery and force evil like runaway slave laws on free states. During this period those in the North were for "state's rights".

Who's on which side of the state's rights debate (or other structural debate, say proportional representation vs winner takes all, such as the debate exists today) only tells you who is in control of the debated structure, and you can bet the arguments will flip when control changes.
posted by mlinksva at 11:23 AM on January 21, 2002


Ty: You'd do well to read some history of the South, and of race and democracy in turn-of-the-20th-Century America, before wandering into this territory. When I refer to "populism," I'm talking about a specific movement. In Alabama, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that a biracial movement easily could have taken off, but any hope was cut off in the late 1800s with the writing of its new state constitution. There are dozens of books about classic populism and early 20th Century neo-populism out there you could consult which discuss what was going on in the South and the Midwest, and how it was tied in with race. Here are two good places to start.
posted by raysmj at 11:35 AM on January 21, 2002


Another good article on the same topic, in a promo for Harold Evans' "American Century."
posted by raysmj at 11:51 AM on January 21, 2002


And another: What We Should Remember on Martin Luther King Day: Judge People by Their Character, Not Skin Color by Edwin A. Locke
posted by dagny at 1:08 PM on January 21, 2002


dagny: Dr. King was not an advocate of "black power," but of human rights.

"Let us be dissatisfied until that day when nobody will shout 'White Power!' - when nobody will shout 'Black Power!' - but everybody will talk about God's power and human power." Where Do We Go From Here (1967), Martin Luther King, Jr.
posted by Carol Anne at 1:23 PM on January 21, 2002


It's a great day to reflect on the progress that Black-Americans have worked hard to achieve over the last 40 years. I've heard on the radio that the economy of Black-America is the 7th largest in the world. Black-Americans are also highly influential in the arts and business. It's also reflects proudly, I think, on the strength of American society that such wrenching changes were undertaken to bring reality in line with our ideals. I don't know of another instance in history where an empowered group has willingly made such a large place at the table for others. Congratulations to everyone.
posted by prodigal at 2:06 PM on January 21, 2002


You forgot sports, prodigal.
posted by dagny at 2:17 PM on January 21, 2002


raysmj,
Thanks for the advice on how to do well. I'm actually quite familiar with the history of the American south, and with American social movements in general, and nothing you wrote or linked to seems to challenge my claim about the misuses of populism.

Also, when referring to the specific Populist movement, as opposed to populism as a general idea, it helps to capitalize.
posted by Ty Webb at 2:32 PM on January 21, 2002


I've heard on the radio that the economy of Black-America is the 7th largest in the world. Black-Americans are also highly influential in the arts and business.

Of course, doesn't it go against Dr. King's goals of segregating a "Black American Economy"?
posted by owillis at 3:35 PM on January 21, 2002


Geez, dagny, save it for James Earl Ray day.
posted by hincandenza at 4:00 PM on January 21, 2002


« Older Could the Surplus be Vacuumed Away?...  |  Don't steal gas during a volca... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments