king finished what jefferson began

Bang by Kerry James Marshall

The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday is as vexing as it is tedious. The public displays of stupidity and bigotry are as predictable as sunrise and sunset. I usually sit the holiday out by staying home and staying quiet. The level of political participation I enjoy and the ordinariness of my life as an American speaks above the pollution emanating from the mouths of political pundits. Dr. King finished what Thomas Jefferson started and none of the yo-yos writing online can undo it.

This year, whatever passes for the Right and whatever passes for black conservatism outdid themselves. Typically on the King holiday, the Right provides half of the pincer movement against King’s legacy by attacking his character while the Left attaches his words to whatever immoral and destructive policy they have at hand.

This year I noticed the Right tried to encircle and destroy King all by itself. One change in 2022 from prior years is that the prominent generals in the Right’s war on MLK Day were minorities instead of the usual blue blazered, buttoned-down white guys. They were loud and they were proud but their zeal for the task outran their competence at argument. Still, they provided the best examples this year to the quadrennial question asked by the Right: Why don’t blacks support the Republican party/conservative movement?

The barrio nazi

Pedro Gonzalez is a Claremont Institute Lincoln Fellow alumnus and associate editor of Chronicles Magazine. He has a lot of friends on the nationalist-populist Right. Ben Domenech – publisher of The Federalist online magazine – is not one of his friends, though, and he recently dubbed Gonzalez a “Barrio Nazi”. The moniker wasn’t handed out due to Pedro’s recent writings on King (I don’t think). It seems it was earned because of the recent dustup Gonzalez had with Jewish writer Douglass Murray. Nevertheless, Barrio Nazi is too good to let pass so I’m going with it (and Gonzalez is leaning into it as well).

Gonzalez wrote an essay for this month’s Chronicles Magazine titled The Sordid Legacy of Dr. King. He followed it up with a Twitter thread that used FBI transcriptions to make his case. Gonzalez is a young guy so he probably thinks going with FBI transcriptions of FBI recordings of alleged actions and words of King is new and edgy. It’s not. It’s standard operating procedure for certain segments of the Right going back decades.

For some reason it is very important for elements of the conservative tribe to make sure everyone understands Reverend King was a womanizer. It is supposed to work like so: 1. Expose King as sexually immoral 2. Readers are shocked because they thought King was only the second sinless man to walk the earth. 3. ???? 4. The entire Civil Rights Movement from Douglass to King is discredited. 5. All affirmative action schemes are dismantled (and maybe LBJ’s Great Society welfare edifice is pulled down, too).

I am opposed to affirmative action. It demeans me by calling into question all of my professional achievements. However, I can argue against affirmative action without getting into the private sins of third parties.

I also understand why affirmative action programs exist. I was on the call when the head of Wells Fargo said the reason his bank didn’t have high ranking black executives or board members is because the black talent pool is “very limited”. I remember wondering in my head “There aren’t any black people who could have come up with the phony bank account scam, or get the bank fined $1 billion for mortgage practices, or place fake insurance payments onto customer’s auto loans resulting in higher monthly car payments the customer couldn’t afford which lead to Wells repossessing the customer’s car?”

Maybe the CEO was giving black people a back handed compliment by saying he couldn’t find any blacks who could/would engage in that level of criminality. I doubt it. And it’s that kernel of doubt – for many blacks a boulder not a kernel – about the intentions of employers, contract assignors, recruiters, et al that cause most blacks to cling to a policy they resent. The Barrio Nazi is just the latest to hand wave away those concerns by explaining to us Reverend King was a hypocrite.

Barrio Nazi runs in elite academic circles. He can make a more compelling case than relying on transcriptions from FBI agents. Only he knows why he didn’t. I’m sure he and others on the Right will be just as trusting of the FBI as the January 6 and Governor Gretchen Whitmer escapades unravel.

the cotton picker

A week before MLK Day a man named Vincent Everett Ellison made his debut on the American Thinker blog. He wrote a post titled Time to Re-Evaluate the Legacy of Martin Luther King. It was an instant classic in the Black Guy Saying What White Folks Can’t genre. Mr. Ellison’s bio reveals that he was born a sharecropper on a cotton plantation. He doesn’t look old enough to have been a sharecropper. My father-in-law is 85. He’s the last of the sharecropper generation that I know about but I’ll go with Mr. Ellison’s self-description.

Mr. Ellison levels several charges at Dr. King.

  1. King fathered a child with the wife of a sterile Los Angeles dentist
  2. King turned the black church into a puppet for the Democratic Party
  3. King set in motion many decades of “black victimization”
  4. King cemented black inferiority in the minds of black people
  5. King used violence (through a 3rd party – the U.S. government) to reach his aims

Mr. Ellison also blames King for the violent crime and poverty rate of blacks living in the United States in 2022.

Mr. Ellison’s piece is thin and reactionary but being black and bombastic sells on both the Left and the Right.

Just for the exercise I’ll respond to Mr. Ellison’s charges briefly.

First – I think, after all this time, we’d know the identity of Dr. King’s bastard child. The claim is based on the word of Los Angeles Dodgers’ great, Don Newcombe. Don Newcombe was a great pitcher but I don’t recall him having a medical degree or practice. How did he determine the poor dentist’s sterility? And why would the FBI keep all of this secret about a man it wanted to discredit? You can’t speechify away the existence of a child and it would be the sweetest of blackmail currency.

Second – Mr. Ellison obviously has never heard of Reverend Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. or his successor in the pulpit, Reverend Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. To trace the decline of the black church into partisan politics start with the Powell dynasty at the Abyssinian Baptist church in Harlem. Abyssinian Baptist was the largest Protestant church in America and it was into the social Gospel and leftwing politics before King was even born. Someone needs to do a podcast on black history. . .

Third – no black leader in American has ever sold victimhood and gained or held popular support in the black community. Not Douglass. Not Booker. Not DuBois. Not Phillip Randolph. Not the Powells. Not Jackson. Not even Obama (whom regular readers know I don’t count as a black leader but I’m including him here to be generous). “But, but, but what about Sharpton?” I hear some bleating. MSNBC is where you go to learn about Al’s doings not the black community. Same with BLM. Al and BLM have roughly the same connection to the black community as Candace Owens or Thomas Sowell.

Fourth – I don’t know Mr. Ellison. It may be that English is not his first language. That is the best explanation I have for his claim that King cemented feelings of inferiority in black Americans. King consistently railed against blacks having a “false sense of inferiority”. Read this speech. Dr. King defends himself against Mr. Ellison better than I ever could. After reading it please be done with ever listening to charlatans telling you that King believed in the eternal victimhood and inferiority of black Americans.

Fifth – Calling upon the federal government to enforce federal law is not violence. If you believe that it is then you also believe everyone calling for justice is a violent person. It’s a dumb criticism of Dr. King to say he betrayed his rhetoric of non-violence because he wanted the police to stop thugs from hitting people with bricks.

I’ve written before about the uselessness of black conservatives. They are cowardly. They are not honest. They cannot work out the contradictions in how their white colleges use them to attack black leftists. They do not know what to conserve in the black community. They only know how to point out tumors on x-rays.

jefferson to lincoln to king double play

I believe the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. will one day be seen as the completion of Thomas Jefferson’s thoughts when he wrote in the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal and endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable rights. King finished what Jefferson began. They are in the same revolutionary train.

Five years after writing the Declaration Jefferson wrote his only full length book, Notes on the State of Virginia. In it he spends a great deal of time exploring the nature of black people (as he understood it) and what America should do with its black population.

Jefferson makes quite a few foul observations about black people that could not be read or said out loud today without provoking a lot of wailing and more than a few fires. To be fair to Jefferson, he couched most of his unkind views with the caveat that he was basing his observations on a people when they were at their lowest and when they were being treated horribly. He left plenty of room (and hope) to doubt he was right and that blacks would one day prove him wrong.

After laying out the case for black inferiority Jefferson then proscribes emancipation for blacks (only Jefferson could make that leap in a coherent way). He based it on the simple fact that American chattel slavery was wrong. He called slavery a “daily tyranny”.

More Jefferson: And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift from God? That they are not violated but with His wrath? I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever; that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation is among possible events; that it may become probably by supernatural interference! The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in such a contest.

Jefferson said the spirit of the master was abating and that emancipation was in the air. He hoped it would be peaceable. We all know now that it wasn’t. Lincoln went to war to save the Union from dissolution at the hands of the slave powers. He ended the war as the man who freed the slaves.The Civil War stands out in this regard.

Places where peaceful emancipation of slaves occurred (and the year):

  • St. Domingue (1803)
  • Argentina – children of slaves (1813)
  • Central American Republic – modern Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua (1824)
  • Mexico (1814 & 1829)
  • Bolivia (1831)
  • Great Britain (1838)
  • Uruguay (1842)
  • Columbia (1851)
  • Argentina (1853)
  • Venezuela (1854)
  • Peru (1855)
  • Russia – serfs given protection and land (1840-1867)

The United States ran against the grain when it came to peaceful transition from slave state to citizen Republic. Jefferson, Lincoln, and King shepherded the nation where it was not inclined to go.

Both Jefferson and Lincoln wanted the slaves removed from the United States and supported colonization of Africa with American slaves. What Dr. King was able to do was make those former slaves full citizens. Neither the sentiment nor the movement began with him but he brought it to a peaceful conclusion. Dr. King’s victory is so comprehensive and manifold it is easy to think the reality he created is a natural course of human events. We know it is not.

By all means, let’s evaluate Dr. King’s legacy but lets’ do it in the light of the founding principles of our great land and not in the bitter revisions of confused and angry men. king finished what lincoln began king finished what lincoln began king finished what lincoln began

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