It is important that we commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Dr. King not only arguably delivered the greatest speech spoken on American soil, but his words were a critical turning point in the history of civil rights in America. When King said that he dreamt of the day that his children would be judged by the content of the character instead of the color of their skin, it was the point at which many white Americans began to rethink their views about blacks.
Yet half a century later, it is sadly and painfully apparent that Dr. King’s successors have outright ignored his inspiring words:
And that is something that I must say to my people who stand on the worn threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
Unfortunately, this country’s most prominent black leaders have spent many years drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. Their thirst shows no signs of satiation.
Some of these leaders were King’s contemporaries and on hand for the March on Washington. Georgia Congressman John Lewis, who also spoke at the March on Washington, would later sustain a fractured skull at the hands of Alabama State troopers when he led 600 marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in March 1965.
Lewis however seems to possess little of King’s equanimity and has seen fit to liken his political opponents to George Wallace-- the man who sent in the troopers to stop Lewis. Indeed, after 2008 GOP presidential candidate John McCain said Lewis was one of the three wisest people he knew, Lewis returned the favor by comparing him and Sarah Palin to Wallace. John McCain can be accused of many things. A segregationist George Wallace isn’t one of them.
In March 2010, during the height of the Obamacare debate on Capitol Hill, Lewis was one of a number of members of the Congressional Black Caucus who accused Tea Party activists of using a racial epithet against him. The late Andrew Breitbart offered $10,000 to the United Negro College Fund if videotape evidence could be produced to substantiate Lewis’ claims. There were no takers.
During the 2012 DNC Convention, Lewis recounted a story of a man who beat him up at a bus station in South Carolina while he was a Freedom Rider in 1961. That man would later visit him at his Congressional office in Washington, D.C. to seek his forgiveness. Lewis told the DNC audience, “This man and I don’t want to go back. We don’t want to go back.” The implication was clear. If America elects Mitt Romney, white mobs will once again wantonly beat up blacks at bus stations across the South.
It was only last month that singer Harry Belafonte blamed the Tea Party for increasing racial tensions in the United States without citing any examples to back up his claims. During an interview with MSNBC this past May, former NAACP Chairman Julian Bond said the IRS was justified in investigating the Tea Party because he believes it to be “overtly racist.”
Oprah Winfrey and the Rev. Al Sharpton were not at the March on Washington, but are considered by the liberal media to be at the vanguard of today’s civil rights movement. Both Winfrey and Sharpton have seen fit to liken the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin to the acquittal of the men who murdered Emmett Till. Sharpton said, “We march because in the ’50s it was Emmett Till, now it is Trayvon Martin.” Somehow I doubt the men who killed Emmett Till would have stood up for a homeless black man beaten by the son of an official with the Sanford Police Department as George Zimmerman did.
Then there is President Obama. When running for President in 2008, Obama called his own grandmother “a typical white person.” I’m still trying to figure out what a typical white person is. Of course, if I or any other conservative referred to Obama as a typical black person how, would do you think Oprah, Sharpton, Belafonte, Bond, Lewis, and, for that matter, Obama have reacted?
Only six months into his first term, Obama proclaimed he did not need all the facts to conclude that the Cambridge Police Department had “acted stupidly” in the arrest of his friend Henry Louis Gates, Jr. It would quickly become apparent that Obama judged Sergeant James Crowley by the color of his uniform rather than the content of his character.
The words of President Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Al Sharpton, Julian Bond, Harry Belafonte, and John Lewis dishonor the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. So long as they choose to drink from the cup of bitterness and hatred and share this brew of discontent with others then they will continue to dishonor Dr. King.