Where the Civil Rights movement went wrong

This weekend, my hometown was treated to the antics of an even stupider bunch than Black Lives Matter: Grand Master Jay  and his "Not F------ Around Coalition."  About 200 of these idiots showed up to protest the Breonna Taylor tragedy and managed by accident to shoot three of their own members.

The Taylor case is a national issue only because the famous race grifter Ben Crump is here for a payday civil lawsuit.  Crump is also the man behind the fake witness scandal in the Trayvon Martin case. 

As we go through this long, stupid summer, it might be worthwhile to consider how the civil rights movement went so wrong.  I make the date out to 1964, when Martin Luther King, Jr. was given the Nobel Peace Prize.  Dr. King was an important but secondary person in the amazing civil rights movement of the 1950s and early '60s.

More deserving would have been Roy Wilkins of the NAACP and his lawyer, Thurgood Marshall.  Their patient litigation strategy won huge victories every time.  Brown v. Board was only the most famous.  Or President Eisenhower; he appointed all the Republican judges who ruled for civil rights.  And he backed them up, such as in Little Rock, where he sent in federal troops to end the violence and resistance of Gov. Faubus.  (No hand-wringing like the Kennedys with George Wallace.)  Or even the great Everett Dirksen, a man our media today cannot even imagine existed.  While many liberal Democrats like Adlai Stevenson never really embraced civil rights, or were slow to move, like LBJ, starting in 1932, Dirksen was both the most tireless proponent of civil rights laws in Congress and the leader of the conservative Republicans — fighting for everything from the right to work to an amendment to allow prayer in public schools.  Dirksen was the politician who made what became Black History Month a reality.  And unlike the current Senate GOP leader, Dirksen was an amazing orator, even winning a Grammy for reciting his own patriotic poem.

All these men were also passionate anti-communists, though, so the international Nobel Committee snubbed them, preferring to go with Dr. King, who was friendly to many lefty intellectuals and whose main accomplishment at the time was high-profile television events like the March on Washington.

But then, while the grown-ups continued to make progress in Washington, Dr. King and his SCLC group had to resort to ever more desperate stunts to keep the television coverage.  This involved picking pointless fights with the handful of Southern policemen who would take the bait, like Bull Connor in Birmingham or Sheriff Clark in Selma.

The recent movie about the Selma march was actually somewhat accurate, showing how King and his young rivals at the SNCC fought each other over who got the honor of inciting a confrontation with the sheriff.  As it was, John Lewis, a member of both groups, wound being the one who was famously hit on the head during the march on the bridge.

Ultimately, the SNCC became a violent, blacks-only group, which Lewis, to his credit, abandoned.  Other militant, vicious black groups like the Black Panthers sprang up, and the conventional civil rights movement, its great work done, essentially ended with the 1960s.

Dr. King, who had started out as a very mainstream American thinker — his 1963 Letter from the Birmingham Jail is a fine exploration of traditional natural law ideas — wound up instead, like his financial patron, Walter Reuther of the UAW, a fringe advocate of Scandinavian social utopianism.  But his fame was revived in 1968 by his assassination, and to such a height that his legend has pretty well overshadowed everyone else in the civil rights movement.

Many young leaders seeking to imitate Dr. King's career know about only the protests and marches, not comprehending that that was just a minor part of the actual movement that won civil rights.  King's immediate successors inherited only his talent for public relations and staged media events.  Outright con artists like Jesse Jackson turned "civil rights" into a profitable shakedown racket for themselves, with many others following, Al Sharpton among them.

Today, America doesn't have any liberal black leaders as fearless and effective as Roy Wilkins — somebody who could speak up on the real problems of drug crime and bad schools in the inner city.  It does have a president like Eisenhower, who understands that sometimes, federal troops have to keep the peace when the locals won't — though, sadly, the current crop of four-star bureaucrats don't agree with that.  And America doesn't have any congressional Republican leaders who can see beyond the details of the next appropriations bill.

All this, because "history" and the Nobel Committee got the real story of the civil rights movement so wrong.  Perhaps one day, the better part of this country will again understand who its real heroes are and how it got to be such a great place.  Until then, keep an eye out for Grand Master Jay.  A man with his talents has a big future in Joe Biden's Cabinet.

Frank Friday is an attorney in Louisville, Ky.

Image: Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University

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