As the MLK holiday approaches, I’ve been reading several blogs where conservatives are using the words of MLK, 50 years after his famous I Have A Dream speech, as a means to limit or abolish affirmative action and programs intended to help the disadvantaged.
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
Many conservatives believe that "judged by the color of their skin" includes things such as unique appeals to certain voter groups, reserving government contracts for Hispanic-owned businesses, seeking more non-white corporate executives, or admitting students of color to college with lower test scores. They argue that King’s words mean we as a nation should give no special treatment to any one group based on race. On the surface, that sounds rather noble, but when a disproportionate number of people in poverty and in prisons are African Americans, would King really have wanted us to be a ‘color-blind’ society? I think not.
For me, it really comes down to a question of race in America. Actually, it’s more than race, it is diversity, because it includes the lgbtq community. Fifty years ago, when King made his speech, bigotry was widely accepted. Today, even though prejudice is soundly denounced, it is clear that people still (and perhaps unconsciously) pre-judge others.
I must agree with Bernice King, who doubts her father would seek to ignore differences. She said: “When he talked about the beloved community, he talked about everyone bringing their gifts, their talents, their cultural experiences. We live in a society where we may have differences, of course, but we learn to celebrate these differences."
It seems to me that the right-wingers are using King’s words as a barrier to keep underprivileged people down, to not give them a helping hand in a time of need. Giving the deprived a helping hand builds a better, safer community for us all, and would be the Christian thing to do.
We still have a long way to go before we reach a point in this country where people accept differences (race and sexual), affirm them, celebrate them, but don’t allow them to become barriers in building a better community for all people.