Kidnapping Dr. King

While watching C-SPAN on Monday evening, I happened upon coverage of the "Jobs and Social Justice National Symposium," where I was able to catch what was meant to be a rousing speech on the necessity to fight against "economic injustice."  To say the least, I was amazed at what I saw. 

Martin Luther King, Jr., a man whom entire generations have come to revere for his selflessness and his bold vision that helped overcome centuries of unjustified discrimination, had his noble life turned into a ten-minute commercial for massive political unionization and class war against the successful.  And emceeing a portion of this travesty was none other than his son and namesake, Martin Luther King III.

I must admit, even as a very young man knowing little of Dr. King, I would never have believed his grand ambition to be so narrow.  When I saw his "I Have a Dream" speech as a child, the truth of his words resonated so profoundly to an innocent mind that had not been subjected to any particular slant in the area of race relations.  And as a Christian child, it rang all the more true.  How wonderful to be judged not by your social birth caste or your race or ethnicity, but to be measured by the "content of your character" and by the value you can provide your family and society!  This was the stuff of God's word.  This was the stuff of honest men, who would proudly stand accountable for their successes and failures in life.  This was the stuff that deserved reverence.

I have always taken this message from Dr. King, and in self-study and when speaking with those much more familiar with his teachings, my thoughts have only been affirmed. 

For example, I once had the privilege of speaking with a man named Dr. Rick Rigsby, a motivational speaker and former chaplain of the Texas A&M University football team.  In our discussion, he related to me that regardless of a man's lot in life in a given moment, it is admirable and necessary for him to offer his best in all his endeavors.  He explained to me that a man should not be measured by his race, education, or his social status, but by the strength of his character and his resolve to do right in the face of adversity, because it is in those moments when it's easiest to do wrong.  To accentuate his meaning, Dr. Rigsby quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who once said, "All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence."  Whether you sweep floors or you are working to cure cancer, he said, is irrelevant.  Doing a job, and doing it to the best of your ability, is the path to the "character" by which all men should be judged.

I cannot imagine that Martin Luther King, Jr. would ever advocate that someone be given something because of his social class or the color of his skin, nor would he advocate that something be taken away because of his social class or the color of his skin.  He merely fought to ensure that biases like social class and skin color not be used as a measure of recompense for labor or esteem, but rather have men judged by "the content of their character."

That is the Martin Luther King, Jr. I have known.  And unless you haven't taken Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson with more than a grain of salt for a few decades, that probably sounds like the Martin Luther King, Jr. that you know, too.  But as this C-SPAN coverage continued, I wondered who this guy was that they were talking about.  This guy who wanted the government to take money from rich people to bolster a welfare system that rewards idleness and the poor character that comes with it, which has fostered the disintegration of countless American families.  This union boss that would mandate that men and women must be hired in accordance with a racial quota rather than suitability and merit, and that job security should be granted by union protection rather than being predicated upon whether or not a job is "undertaken with painstaking excellence."

I did not see the ideals of Martin Luther King, Jr. exhibited in this symposium.  I saw men simply invoking his name as they bandied about token liberal presuppositions about minorities' poor lots in life.  These were men who spouted key phrases like "social justice" and "wealthiest Americans" so often that one would swear that Obama shares their teleprompter. 

The ilk of Martin Luther King III and Jesse Jackson do not hearken to the teaching of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  They merely exploit poverty to extract political currency in the manner of all modern progressives.  And to paint him in the same box as these common, modern-day hucksters is to do him a disservice.

Dr. Martin Luther King's message of equality and love for one's fellow man transcends race, religion, economic status, and even political alignment, and therefore is unworthy of rudimentary party politics.  And America witnessed his son cheapening his father's legacy to the status of a poorly made Obama commercial, advancing a socialistic agenda that places more value upon race and economic status than the content of a man's character.  And besmirching such a man's legacy to satisfy a narrow political agenda is a greater shame than I ever hoped to bear in life.

William Sullivan blogs at

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