Monday, January 16, 2006

Dr. King and Conservative Values...



I honestly believe that Dr. King would be heartbroken at the state of affairs today-- specifically at the ploys of the Democratic Party that has successfully created a "dependent voter base" in the Black community. I searched for something that would validate my belief, and came across this speech given by Robert Woodson (Vice President of the NAACP in West Chester, Pennsylvania when Dr. King was assassinated -and who knew King personally): (emphasis mine)

"...Before coming over here, I was questioned by a producer of the "Today Show," who is considering a story on Martin Luther King's life. He asked me why young blacks are not embracing Dr. King or do not understand him. I said because it has been convenient for many advocates of civil rights to emphasize the Dr. King of the "I Have a Dream" speech. So he is presented to many as this wimpish figure who has a dream out here somewhere without really connecting to the realities confronting these young people today. I told him that when I think of Dr. King, I think of the Dr. King who, in the spirit of Jesus, went into the temple and threw out the money changers, I think of the aggressive Dr. King. Dr. King was a man who never was content to conform to the consensus of the majority or to reflect popular opinion. He was a man who was willing to challenge assumptions, and even his own peers.

When everybody quotes the "I Have a Dream" speech, I reflect on his "Letter from Birmingham City Jail," in which he said that the greatest stumbling block to black progress is not the Ku Klux Klan or the White Citizens' Council, it is the white moderate. He said that lukewarm acceptance from those of good will is more difficult to tolerate than outright rejection of those of ill will. He was counseled against releasing that letter because some feared it would alienate the liberal, white leadership and maybe jeopardize the money. But Dr. King released it anyway and stood by it. Again, when Dr. King tried to bring the civil rights movement together with the peace movement, it was Carl Rowan who characterized Dr. King as a communist, not Ronald Reagan. I remember being on the dais of the NAACP banquet in Darby, Pennsylvania, when Roy Wilkins soundly castigated Dr. King for this position. I remember almost storming off the platform, because I supported King in that position.

So, this is the Dr. King who was morally consistent on social issues. Dr. King spoke out against the violence of the Ku Klux Klan, but he also spoke out with equal vigor against the retaliatory violence of the Black Panther Party. Dr. King also used as the basis of his message the gospel of Jesus Christ. When he sought to remove the barriers confronting black America, he did not seek to then describe us as victims. There are two ways that you can prevent someone from competing. One is to deny them the opportunity to compete by law, which laws of segregation and discrimination did. The second way to deny them the opportunity to compete is to tell them they do not have to compete, that they can just sit back and government will do it for them...

Dr. King believed that everybody was capable of enjoying God's redemptive powers. He did not attack his enemies. Like Abraham Lincoln, he believed that the best way to destroy your enemy is to make him your friend. And Dr. King was motivated by the best traditions of the black community, in that he believed that personal conduct was important. But we saw the decline of the black community occur precisely at a time when we had the greatest opportunity. When the doors were opening up, instead of saying to black America, "Open the doors now and initiate self-help efforts to propel you further than you were," we told our young people, "Because of past discriminatory practices, you are society's victim and you have a right to restitution. You have not only a right to a level playing field and a right to opportunities, but you have a right to ten percent of the trophies." And as a consequence, this whole idea of victimization began to occur.

Remember, up until 1959, only nine percent of black families had illegitimate children, and 13 percent of white families in 1959 had children where the mother never married the father. When poverty programs began to unleash their evil message, we saw a dramatic decline and the nine percent went to 60 percent. I happened to be teaching at Crozer Theological Seminary at that time, and a lot of the young, black pastors there and at other liberal seminaries were embracing the social gospel. And what the social gospel did was separate righteousness from right. Suddenly we were telling young people that as long as you were confronting difficult circumstances of discrimination, until those circumstances were changed, you could not be expected to change. This is the opposite of what our predecessors had been teaching our people. Black America has a rich tradition of moral rectitude and personal responsibility.

Dr. King understood this and he tried to bring that message forward. For instance, in 1787 the black community established our first welfare system at Mother Bethel's Church in Philadelphia, when we had our own Free Society of Blacks. And our own welfare system would not give welfare to those who were poor because of their own thoughtlessness and irresponsibility. You could not become a member of the Free Society of Blacks if your own personal conduct was not proper. And in 1855, in Washington, D.C., 22 blacks were arrested on suspicion of rebellion. They were carrying two books on ethics and one of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The third item they were carrying was the plans to buy the freedom of a black slave in North Carolina.

It is Dr. King's attempt to bring forward this message that I remember most. Many of the civil rights leaders who have followed him no longer refer to the gospel of Jesus Christ as the basis of their message. Instead, they have embraced poverty programs. Instead, they have secularized the movement. They have told young people that they should be exempt from responsibility: It is OK to become fathers and mothers before you become women and men, because you have been a victim of discrimination. It is OK for you to kill and maim one another -- after all, you are a victim of society. As a consequence of this drumbeat of despair -- this drumbeat of victimization -- we have the kind of decline and despair that exists today.

If Dr. King were alive today, he would stand here and in pulpits throughout this country and give a message of redemption to young people. He would say to them that the victimizer might have knocked you down, but it is the victim that has to get up. And the most successful programs around this country are not what people on the right would lead you to believe; that is, all we have to do is have the right set of economic policies and proper economic incentives, because this is going to heal families. This is not the case. I do not know of anybody who sacrifices his life on foreign soil for reduction in the capital gains tax rate. No one. That is not the primary basis that motivates people. Nor do I know of anybody who has sacrificed his life so that he can get another government welfare check.

Remember the old adage: When bull elephants fight, the grass always loses. We need to understand that the fundamental basis upon which we will deliver this nation is to confront this cultural challenge -- the crisis in values which Bill Bennett talks so eloquently about. This is the next battlefield upon which we must fight. That is the legacy of Dr. King. If he were alive today, he, too, would have had a best-selling book on virtues." -Robert Woodson, 11/1993 (source)

Sounds like Dr. King would have been standing there right next to Bill Cosby...taking the heat for his unpopular beliefs.

In Remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King, whom I have read and respected since I was very young.

No comments: