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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Perversion of Dr. King


Mark Twain noted, “The radical of one century is the conservative of the next. The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out, the conservative adopts them.”

I am reminded of this quote whenever I read how conservatives try to use part of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream Speech" against any attempt to realize social justice for African-Americans through the type of collective action we have available to us through federal legislation and governmental policy. Conservatives fixate on the line from King's speech.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
They try to argue that all government policy which attempts to help those in need is a violation of what King stood for.

This sort of King "proof texting" ignores that fact that King worked for economic justice as part and parcel of his work for political rights. In fact, his last act was to take part in a sanitation workers' strike in Memphis. Dr. King felt that some attempt had to be made to address the economic injustices that fell most heavily on people of color in this country.

Conservatives have not only tried to adopt King as one of their own, they have also tried to pervert King's essential message.

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