After blaming daycare and public schools for ruining society, Jeffrey Kuhner of the Edmund Burke Institute now has another figure to blame for America’s ills: Martin Luther King, Jr. Reflecting on the recent dedication of the King memorial in Washington, D.C., Kuhner writes in The Washington Times that King’s support for progressive causes was responsible for keeping African Americans bound to the “shackles of affirmative action and the welfare state.” Such claims may be news to Glenn Beck, who claimed that he was going to “reclaim the civil rights movement” and tried to frame himself as the next King. Kuhner writes:
Yet, there was a dark side to King and it should not be ignored. Its effects continue to plague our society. Contrary to popular myth, the Baptist minister was a hypocrite who consistently failed to uphold his professed Christian standards. His rampant adultery and serial, life-long womanizing revolted even some of his closest associates. Large parts of his doctoral dissertation were plagiarized. He had numerous ties with communists and Soviet sympathizers. Then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover knew this, which is why he considered King a “fraud.”
King’s leftism ultimately betrayed his original civil rights creed. His call for a color-blind society was contradicted by his multicultural progressivism. Affirmative action, racial quotas, government handouts to minorities – these policies directly violate the basic principle of equality under the law. Contemporary Americans are not judged as individuals, but as members of a racial group, gender or ethnicity. This is a perverse inversion of the very kind of racialism prevalent in the Old South. More than 40 years after his death, we are further away from being a genuine meritocracy. Victimology and racial set-asides dominate large swathes of American life, from university admissions and government bureaucracies to big business and construction. The country has slowly Balkanized, splintering along ethnic lines.
King’s socialism also convinced many blacks to adopt welfare liberalism. It transformed them into a permanent Democratic constituency. The results have been disastrous. The nanny state has crippled the black community, undermining self-reliance, entrepreneurship and personal responsibility. It has fostered family breakdown, soaring rates of illegitimacy and trapped millions in a cycle of poverty and urban squalor. King showed blacks the way out from segregation, but he led them to an economic plantation.
The great irony is that more Republicans voted for the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act than Democrats. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the legislation but to overcome the intense hostility of Southern Democrats he needed – and received – strong GOP congressional support. The party of Lincoln not only freed the slaves, it helped to dismantle Jim Crow. Instead of rewarding Republicans, blacks have largely turned their backs on them and with that, have rejected the self-empowerment and prosperity that comes from free-market capitalism.
King’s legacy has been a double-edged sword: He both liberated and imprisoned black America. As we celebrate his achievements with the new memorial in the nation’s capital, for the sake of future generations, let us remember too how King erred. In order to truly create a society where all citizens rise to the height of their potential, we must discard the shackles of affirmative action and the welfare state.