Monday, January 21, 2013

Post No. 186b: What Would Dr. King Say?

© 2011 and 2013, 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 make 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 am not sure I would describe it a "not.. very dignified post." In fact, I would say it was an excellent and informative post. Growing up and becoming politically aware,as I did, during the Civil Rights Era (as we tend to call it), I was unaware of Rustin's contributions. That's understandable, I suppose, since I am white and was living in the south at the time (1956-1965). They weren't teaching us much about the movement and the media in the region was not all that favorable toward it.

  2. Thanks much Douglas. There's another very important reason that you would not have been aware of Rustin's contributions. (The Wikipedia article discusses in far more detail than we would have suspected.) Rustin was gay. Dr. King, to my understanding, suggested that Rustin occupy a more significant and visible role in the movement. In a way similar to his view about the potential detriment responsive violence would bring to the movement, Rustin felt that the attention focused on his sexual orientation would adversely affect the movement, and thus he operated in the background.

    Rustin died in 1987. Before his death, he was interviewed (with his lover at his side) about his involvement in the movement, and how his sexual orientation affected his life and decisions. It is some pretty powerful stuff to view should you ever have the opportunity.

  3. I'd like to read that interview. I can always speculate on why people get involved in various causes and/or events but reading (or hearing) what the principal thinks is much more satisfying. Where might I find the interview?

  4. Thank you very much, Inspector, I see I have much to research.

  5. As much as i belong to the non-violent side of the debate generally, this is mostly due to weakness and physical cowardice - and when have these virtues ever defeated the armed and brave who make the rules?

    I can at the same time loath violent individuals and see that without them the masses are without protection from outside forces such as Islam, or inside forces such as fundamentalist christianity.

  6. Welcome back, CorfuBob. We seriously missed your viewpoints. You make a very pragmatic, if not popular, point about violence and its use to protect the masses. (We recognize that it can also oppress the masses.)

    Just earlier this week, we saw a movie on Turner Classic Movies set during World War II. Danny Kaye was a Polish citizen assisting Jews in escaping Nazi forces. As we watched the Resistance forces battle the Nazis, we asked ourselves whether the defeat of the Nazis could have come about through peace, love, understanding, negotiation, and marching. Probably not.

    Our theoretical suspicion is that what MLK accomplished can only be accomplished through the involvement of large numbers of citizens, and many of whom come from the privileged class, some luck, and some good timing.

  7. What would he do? He'd give me the day off of work!!


  8. One thing about you, Pearl: You'll always generate a smile from us....

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