Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Post No. 152: What Would Dr. King Say?

© 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

We considered calling this piece, What Would Dr. King Do?, or What Would Dr. King Think?

Frankly, none of them would be really appropriate, since none of us has any first hand knowledge of his thought process, or even a comprehensive appreciation of his view of the world.

For example, most think that Dr. King adopted Gandhi’s non-violent philosophy on his own. Yet, many involved in the movement contend that it was actually Bayard Rustin who counseled Dr. King to adopt non-violence as his MO.

There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, that after having his home and family threatened, Dr. King grabbed a rifle on his way to confront his attackers on the front lawn.

Rustin supposedly stopped Dr. King in mid-stride and suggested how to get the upper hand on his attackers, that being to take the higher moral ground - less subject to attack.

Per Rustin, resorting to a tactic that placed the good doctor in the same violence stratum as his attackers only served to hurt the cause, and made it less likely that others would side with him (defense of his castle be justified or not).

On this past MLK Day, those of you fortunate enough not to have become infected with that virus commonly known as Twitter [which should be changed to “Twitcher”], would have been amazed at the volume of thought-provoking MLK quotes posted by “kids” of every imaginable color, age, country, and station in life.

But two situations or events, both featuring the NAACP, kept bothering us.

Why the NAACP? [That’s exactly what we asked.] Because, in theory, one might think that their positions and the interests advocated by Dr. King would bear some resemblance to one another. In both instances, we’re just not sure what was going on. [Plus, we recognize that only certain racial groups are monolithic.]

The first involved something seemingly innocuous as school snow make-up days.

In many districts around the country, schools are required to end their year by a certain date. Most states also require that a school year consist of a certain number of days. Because of severe snow storms, many districts found themselves trying to discover make-up days on the calendar.

Some announced that they were “considering” having their charges attend school on MLK Day. The NAACP, in virtually every region where such a plan was “considered,” shifted into Sharpton-Jackson mode. [Where is a Michael Steele or an Alan Keyes when you need one?]

We need not even explore the substance of their arguments. Many prominent in the black community even suggested that parents keep their kids home. [That’ll show them.]

But it occurred to us, what better day to spend the time in school, reflecting on all that Dr. King represented, and all that he valued?

What better opportunity for black folks to consider the importance of, or show the outside world how much they value, that education thang?

What better day to suggest and support the extension of the school week to Saturdays, or the school year into the summer?

What would Dr. King have said, or done?

The second situation involved the Governor of Maine. This maverick of a politician was invited to participate in an NAACP celebration in memory of Dr. King, and he declined. [Uh, oh…!]

When questioned further about it, he simply said that there are only so many special interest events that one man can attend in a 24 hour day.

He further suggested that if someone thought that his declination was racially motivated, they could “kiss his butt.” [At least he has the balls to tell some group to kiss his rear end.] He finally alluded to the fact that all one needed to do was examine his family portrait, and they would find that he has a black [adopted] son.

Once again, the local NAACP went ballistic, and suggested that whether he had a black son was irrelevant. [Any of those NAACP folks have any white sons?]

Once again, we asked what would Dr. King have said, or done?

Of course, we don’t know. But we have a guess.

As great as all of the quotes posted on Twitter were, there was one missing that may reflect how he might have reacted.

On Monday night, we watched a tape of one of Dr. King’s speeches at the close of an MSNBC segment. During it, he said:

“We must conduct our struggle on the high plain of dignity and discipline.”

Did the NAACP heed his word?

You be the judge.

P.S. Yeah, we know. This was not a very dignified post.


  1. I think the post was relevant and I would not qualify it as "not... very dignified."

    I thought it was clear and concise.

    Except for this line...

    [Plus, we recognize that only certain racial groups are monolithic.]

    Which ones would they be?

    If I recall correctly, some civil rights groups oppose interracial adoption. I am not sure if the NAACP is one of them. But that is a complex subject. I have to agree, at some level, with the NAACP's stance that the Maine Governor's adopted child is not relevant to the issue. Adopting a black child does not mean one is without all bias. But that is also a complex issue that cannot be summed up in a comment.

  2. Last week Jeh Johnson claimed that Dr. King would have supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This week Mrs. Palin compared her own struggles to those of Dr. King. I have to admit and say that at times like these American politics looks more like a badly scripted soap-opera to me. Everything and everybody (including the dead) are used to score some points. Despicable in my view.

    MLK Day looks like a bad choice for a make-up day to me. Why not pick a day that is celebrated by most Americans, if it has to be a holiday?

    Other than that, I'm with Douglas on this one. I do not think that there are entire racial groups that are monolithic. I also fail to see the relevance of the adopted child.

  3. Thanks much Douglas.

    One of the reasons why we considered the post to be less than dignified is because we made light of some issues which many consider to be important. We've never been much into words or symbols, focusing our attention on action instead.

    We were being facetious when we suggested that only certain ethnic groups are monolithic. None of them is monolithic, although we suspect that there are varying degrees of consensus within certain groups and in connection with certain issues.

    With respect to the relevance of the Governor having a black child, the concept of bias is not necessarily synonymous with the concept of racial motivation. We do suspect that a man who has chosen to adopt a black kid probably is less likely, from a probabilistic perspective, to be racist than someone who would not. That is, unless he consciously adopted the kid to make the kid's life worse, or to inflict pain and emotional distress on the kid.

  4. Welcome WSteffie:

    Earlier today, a Republican claimed that the improvement of the economy was due to the tax cuts that the GOP supported, and managed to get through Congress, with the cooperation of the President, in December 2010.

    Yep, politicians will take credit for anything remotely positive, and fail to take responsibility for anything negative. It’s no wonder they rank below used car salespeople in terms of credibility.

    One very simple solution to the problem would have been to pick "the first available open day," to avoid any semblance of favoritism. Once you start making exceptions or providing obtuse explanations for what should be a perfunctory act, bureaucrats make themselves open to scrutiny and attack from the NIMBY (Not in my back yard) crowd, which detracts from the time available for governance.

    In this instance, they could have just picked the first available date and moved the ____ on. When it became necessary to make up another day, they could have picked the second available date, and so on.


    And as one of the Optimizer's friends used to say, "There are potentially negative consequences associated with stepping on the doormat outside of one's door.


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