Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday celebration has always been something of a puzzle to me. King has stood since his death as a symbol of America’s break with its own past – a means of redressing the United States’ troubled relationship with slavery and the century long denial of civil rights to its black population. So it is well and good that a day be taken once a year to recall that legacy with the understanding that slavery and the civil indignities that followed its abolition, were violations of the freedom and liberty this republic was founded to promote.
King himself may have been a courageous warrior for civil rights. But he was also someone who believed strongly in the idea of a meritocracy involving all individuals, of whatever color, religion or gender competing equally for income and jobs. He certainly propounded the idea that blacks had all the capabilities and capacities of whites and that given the appropriate opportunities would be able to compete successfully with them for any job or position in the land – including the office of the presidency.
Unfortunately his successors have not been quite as assured in their advocacy for the rights of blacks. For decades they have argued that affirmative action in our educational system is a cure for the rise of black crime, homelessness and single motherhood in African American neighborhoods. But they have also well known that affirmative action cures nothing. It only adds to the sense of black entitlement. And it is this entitlement which itself that has become the focus of black advocacy over the last several decades from leaders such as Jesse Jackson Jr. , Rev. Al Sharpton, Hazel Corby, June Jordan and the Congressional Black Caucus.
It certainly is the raison d’etre for the Reparations Movement. This is the idea that the descendants of the white Americans who enslaved the black population of this country should be made to pay for the injustices meted out to their ancestors. Of course the notion that white America has not already paid dearly in billions through an extensive welfare system, community activism and affirmative action policies, is almost laughable. But th question e more challenging to black leaders is, even given the efficacy of their claims, what would the black community actually do with the billions they are claiming? Would they create social programs, black universities, training institutes or job incentive programs?
Almost certainly not. If the actions of Jesse Jackson and his followers are any indication of what would happen to those billions, then you only need to look the way his Rainbow /PUSH Coalition is run and the way it fleeces millions from corporate America.
A principal tactic by which Rainbow/PUSH is to encourage public protests and threats of a widespread boycott and negative publicity for corporations it sets in its targets. It employs this technique with considerable success. The shakedown works time and time again for Jackson and has resulted in millions being paid by corporate America to causes which only go to further poverty and the failure to stimulate black employment.
The website Discover the Networks, adequately illustrates this:
“In 1998, for instance, the Coalition declared that the lending and employment practices of the mortgage institution Freddie Mac were racist, and Jackson encouraged major shareholders in that company to sell their stock. Shortly thereafter, Freddie Mac pledged to earmark $1 billion in mortgage loans specifically for minorities; it donated more than $1 million directly to Rainbow/PUSH and became a sponsor of Jackson’s annual Wall Street Project.”
Enough sensible black community leaders have stood up to Jackson’s intimidation to prove that his culture of victimology is not universally embraced by all black Americans. Ward Connerly, a central Californian businessman led the successful campaign against affirmative action in California. Comedian Bill Cosby has become an outspoken advocate for strengthening black families and for black men to take responsibility for their lives. Thomas Sowell, John McWhorter and Shelby Steele have all written eloquently against the culture of victimology which has prevented black integration and advancement in traditional white professions.
As McWhorter states in Losing the Race: Self Sabotage in Black America states: ” ……( In the Black community) victimhood is not a problem to be solved but an identity to be nurtured,” while “separatism encourages black Americans to conceive of black people as an unofficial sovereign entity, within which the rules other Americans are expected to follow are suspended out of a belief that their victimhood renders them morally exempt.” Shelby Steele adds in his majesterial work White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era ” blacks made a deal with the devil by exchanging responsibility and control over their destiny for handouts.”
The black movement since King’s assassination in 1968 has not moved forward as he might have once envisaged. The election of a black president has done little to change the repetitive social dynamic in which the black community finds itself thwarted by its own leaders’ insistence on entitlements. The disservice King’s successors have done to their own constituency in failing to promote self reliance, independence and hard work, is something King himself might have decried as a betrayal of his vision.
Therefore if we are going to remember King each year, perhaps then we should also remember that his “dream” was first and foremost an American dream to which he urged all black men and women to subscribe. That they, by and large, have not, sullies the memory of their greatest leader and should give us pause for reconsideration of his legacy on this anniversary date.