The Conservative Distortion of Dr. King’s Legacy

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a driving force behind the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. He sought for racial justice and equality for blacks and poor people through virtually nonviolent means up until his death in 1968. That’s the basic and simple image of who Dr. King was. However, decades after his death, his legacy has been easily misrepresented, misinterpreted and misused to advance political and social agendas usually against the people Dr. King fought for.

Many folks of today seem to only remember Dr. King for one thing, his “I Have a Dream” speech of 1963. More specifically, they remember that one sentence where he mentioned about judging one’s content of their character, not the color of their skin. Many people seem to have misinterpreted that as a call for colorblindness. What’s worse is that some, mostly conservative, use it not in it’s intended context but instead to avoid any kind of racial responsibility.

Conservatives are notorious for using their version of MLK whenever the subject of discrimination against black folks and general racial inequality is mentioned or exposed. They use their disfigured knowledge of King’s vision, that he was supposedly a conservative Republican, against anyone who suggest that America must take responsibility for their role in creating, sustaining and benefiting from racism and reorganize itself into a system where all people have equal chances and rewards. So, things like affirmative action would be looked down upon by someone like their Dr. King.

But alas, the right is not known to be reality or truth-driven in their pursuits to maintain the status quo. If they were, the status quo would’ve crumbled, something they won’t allow. Dr. King wrote in  Why We Can’t Wait the following passage:

“Whenever the issue of compensatory treatment for the Negro is raised, some of our friends recoil in horror. The Negro should be granted equality, they agree; but he should ask nothing more. On the surface, this appears reasonable, but it is not realistic. A society that has done something special against the Negro for hundreds of years must now do something special for the Negro.

Few people reflect that for two centuries the Negro was enslaved, and robbed of any wages–potential accrued wealth which would have been the legacy of his descendants. All of America’s wealth today could not adequately compensate its Negroes for his centuries of exploitation and humiliation. It is an economic fact that a program such as I propose would certainly cost far less than any computation of two centuries of unpaid wages plus accumulated interest.”

Most conservatives prefer to ignore the past or not consider it having any significant impact on today. Nor do they believe that blacks are being or have been racially oppressed in any way. They rather believe that today’s black person have equal opportunities, and the only thing holding them down are themselves. Some believe they have more handed to them in the form of welfare and affirmative action. And some hard right wingers believe they don’t deserve any “special treatment” regardless of how they were or are treated.

But most of all, they appear to not know or not care to know that in the past, Dr. King was widely hated among white Americans.  Maybe that’s why his legacy has been heavily malformed, to ease the guilt of white Americans, to tell them that racism is not their problem or a problem in general. And no doubt, if Dr. King were alive today maintaining his same views on racism, conservatives would target him as a leftist, a communist and(or) racist, an enemy against innocent white people. There would be no attempt to whitewash him. Instead, he would be blacklisted among the right, negatively painted as a dangerous leftist by conservative pundits. He would be placed on the list of the most despised black leaders alongside Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. And if he wasn’t assassinated then, someone would try, thanks to the influences of white supremacist hate sites and Fox News.

Dr. Martin Luther King’s image of being a radical fighter for economic and racial justice has been watered down by the mainstream as a nonthreatening leader who spoke about a post-racial society. The white-owned corporate media and even many school text books would not dare to discuss the Dr. King that spoke out against the Vietnam War, wanted to eradicate poverty and demanded economic equality, reparations for black people and that white supremacy was one big fat lie used to keep black folks down. That was the real Dr. King, the one that conservatives and many white folks would hate with a passion.

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7 thoughts on “The Conservative Distortion of Dr. King’s Legacy

  1. I have just realized how young Dr. King was a young man with a huge vision and a movement he was trying to give birth to. May he rest in peace and power.

  2. Another thing that “galls” me is on discussion boards those that call themselves “white” when trying to admonish black people like to deflect and conflate with MLK. That really pisses me off.

  3. RIP to the King. I’m paying homage to him and his legacy.

    I feel you on this one. I just find it funny how ” violent” he was accused of being when his was alive and how the conservatives want to call him “civil” by distorting his message. Which is it? They can’t have their cake and eat it, too. This was an argument a Black man had on his Twitter account.

    I just see their idea of quoting Dr. King’s legacy as deflection, denial and mainly to silence Black people. That is why they want to use his name . Give it some time, they’ll be telling another generation the same jive stuff ” You should be more like BLM”.

    I was born during the time of Dr. King and I can’t say how he would react to BLM,but any logical minded person can hypothesize that if Martin was still around, he wouldn’t stand for this…not the police brutality, Islamophobia, anti-semitism, economic inequalities..most likely , he wouldn’t..and more than likely..he wouldn’t wan’t us to be silent. We wasn’t during slavery, wasn’t during the Civil rights era and definitely not in 2016.

    I get annoyed when people criticize BLM and other movement groups…whether they’re Black or non-Black. These same people are not only trying to silence these groups but they’re also doing ABSOLUTELY nothing to solve jack, not even some of the children of these leaders. I only know of one who is actually following the creeds of the civil rights movement by feeding the homeless on holidays but they criticized her late father because he didn’t take a lot of crap from nobody not did he fit into society’s status quo of what “good” civil rights leaders should be like.There is police brutality,, then you got homelessness, education problems, jobs..etc. Where are these same people who are Anti-BLM? They are only around for photo-ops and hanging around only the big-wigs.

    Another thing..it’s funny how people think that movement groups like BLM, SayHerName and so on is violent. Black people can’t even go as to investigate a shooting in Florida without them calling it a ” riot”. They aren’t violent groups, they are doing anything that is effective in combating racism as best as they can with whatever non-violent methods they can use.. I was just reading the Bible and there are several chapters/verses that have to think about movements like this
    2nd Chronicles 20:17, Daniel 3:23, Numbers 12,,Deuteronomy 10:17 and Acts 10:34( There are many others,but it’s a lot).

    I looked at all of these scriptures and my conclusion of it? If there is an injustice, God wouldn’t want us to sit back and pretend that it doesn’t exists. Throughout the whole bible..not once did I read about people cowering to their oppressors. The Three Hebrew boys was threatened to thrown into a thing of hot fire but they still disobeyed their King and said that they will risk their lives to stand by God( Daniel). Jehoshophat asked God what to do when he was confronted by 30,000 soldiers opposed to his mediocre amount in his? God told him to stand and that he’ll help him win the battle( 2nd Chronicles). It’s also funny how many people think that god is a racist( The GOP would love to have all think that way). Moses was Hebrew and Zipporah, his wife was Ethiopian( It may also say that she’s a Cushite woman) when God seen the contempt that Moses’s siblings unleashed against her he punished them ( Numbers) for their bigotry.

    It’s amazing how folks try to tell Black people how to act . They will have you thinking that standing up is a crime or that being Black/POC is one. The Devil is a liar and anybody who think that it’s wrong to stand up for their truth should read what they almighty say about them.

  4. Amen Mary Burrell! He was young but he was a man on fire. Thank you for this post Brothawolf because so many people have fallen into the trap that Dr. King was a carebear and he was far from it. He was hated just like Malcolm X but whose message could be sanitized? I appreciate Dr. King the older I get and I see him and Malcolm X as two people who were necessary for their time because both showed the spectrum of how Black people felt. You have the ones that wanted to integrate and you have those that wanted to be as far away as possible. Dr. King spoke out about so much and was killed for it. He would not have voted in favor of the wars America is in and he would not be in favor of the poverty rates and continued economic disparity between Africans Americans and other races. It is a shame that his legacy is being tarnished but its up to a lot of us, all races, to educate ourselves about this man and his dream.

  5. Hi, everybody!

    Here are three really good videos about MLK:

    These videos are each about an hour long, and they contain a lot of profanity. Enjoy! 😀

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