Monday, January 17, 2005

Why Couldn't MLK Be Born in March?

What is the last thing you need in mid-January? That is right - another holiday. But here we have it, and though I officially have the day off, I am working it as originally planned so that I could go to the inauguration this Thursday. But it doesn't look like that is going to happen (my attending, that is), because I've got an all day meeting scheduled for that day, of all days.

Here are a few things you did not know about Dr. MLK. First off, the Doctor title came with the help of a little plagiarism, although that is like saying my wife is a little pregnant. But the plagiarism is fairly well excused by the fact that he had very little free time as he was usually getting a little somethin somethin on the side, outside of his marital bed. All that said, he was a great great man, and deserves a holiday. (Sure, he didn't soil some tart's dress so that he could defend the constitution, but he was great anyway.) All heroes have their flaws, and he is no different.

But here is an interesting hypothetical to ponder - how would we perceive him differently if he had lived to see his success in the political arena? In the closing years of his life, he was already losing a great deal of influence among young blacks who were turning away from his doctrine of non-violence to the "by any means necessary" outlook of Malcolm X, and the violence of the Black Panthers. To his credit, he didn't alter his style or what he preached in order to keep his unoffocial status as the civil rights leader. And looking back I don't think the threat to his legacy really stemmed from the more violent strain of black radicalism, as that was a short-lived phenomenon. The larger threat to his legacy would have stemmed from his very success - once you've achieved equality, your job as the guy who is there to secure equality is over. If you cling to it, constantly trumping racial prejudice as the primary problem in the inner cities like Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton, you become Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton. You might as well get a fuzzy multi-colored wig and some big floppy shoes, because you'd be a clown.

But the temptation to blame racial prejudice for what amounts to a breakdown in family life in the inner cities - a breakdown that coincided perfectly with the institution of generous welfare policies that MLK favored - that would have been a strong temptation. I'd like to think that he would have risen above it.


Blogger Professor Vic said...

I must agree with Hatch's comments regarding Dr. King's inconvenient birthday. Along similar lines I have always thought that we in the U.S. should get the President's birthday off (just like the Brits get the Queen's birthday as a holiday). The problem is that we'd probably end up voting for the guy with a birthday on July 3rd just to get the long weekend.

11:07 AM  

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