As the world honors MLK, it's worth noting how his messages are appropriated

MLK in Detroit during the Walk to Freedom on June 23, 1963. | 

Today the world will honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It is a well-deserved honor for a man who, along with many others in the non-violent movement, led an American civil rights revolution.


While the work of MLK is unfinished, his accomplishments marked a significant change in American society. But MLK's reputation was not always held in such esteem. 


Until his 1968 assassination, MLK was tracked and harassed by law enforcement on all levels. The FBI conducted near-constant surveillance.


Just days after his famous I Have a Dream speech, an FBI memo said, "We must mark him now, if we have not done so before, as the most dangerous Negro of the future in this Nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro, and national security." It was a view shared by many White Americans.


Ronald Reagan even implied MLK had it coming following his assassination.  


During his life, Dr. King was reviled. Yet, in death, he is rightly placed in the pantheon of great Americans and a worldwide figure of great significance.


And a strange thing has happened the last 50-plus years following his murder. People, especially politicians, who had they been around in the 1960s or even 70s with their current views, which would have opposed Dr. King, have now appropriated his message for their parochial purposes.


There is a bastardization of his message. For example, conservative politicians have flipped his call for racial equality to lift Black people into the justification for rolling back programs like Affirmative Action because they argue it treats people unequally. Of course, the arguments ignore history and ongoing institutional bias. 


This brings us to comments by Sacramento County Supervisor Sue Frost. As the most conservative member of the five-member governing body, at the January 10 meeting (see video below), Supervisor Frost evoked Dr. King as "one of her most inspired leaders."


Now we don't know what is in Supervisor Frost's heart, but we can say she has strong, or as some would say, extreme, conservative views. 


Examples of her political philosophies include casting doubts on election integrity to her association with the Constitutional Sheriffs and Police Officers Association (her husband Jack Frost has been active in the organization). As noted on their website, the CSPOA claims, "The vertical separation of powers in the Constitution makes it clear that the power of the sheriff even supersedes the powers of the President." 


The Anti-Defmaantion League describes the CSPOA as "an anti-government extremist group whose primary purpose is to recruit sheriffs into the anti-government 'patriot' movement" and "The central tenet of CSPOA, borrowed from the anti-government extremist sovereign citizen movement, is that the county sheriff is the ultimate authority in the county, able to halt enforcement of any federal or state law or measure they deem unconstitutional." 


The arguments made by the CSPOA are identical to southern state sheriffs and governors opposing, beating, and killing civil rights activists during the civil rights movement in the 1960s. The CSPOA is the antithesis of MLK.  


So while we will never claim to know what is in the heart of Ms. Frost, her words about MLK from the dais say one thing, but her other actions and associations say another. Keep this in mind when you hear politicians today.  

 


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3 comments

Eye on Elk Grove said...

Let's see if Supervisor Pat Hume publicly stands up to fellow Republican Sue Frost from the BOS dais. No doubt that first test will come in short order. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's "measure of a man" quote comes to mind here.

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

Capt. Benjamin Willard said...

Not to make light of it, but yes, many politicians and businesses are whitewashing Dr. King's legacy for their own gain. From the perspective of Ms. Frost, she used the commentary on Dr. King as "evidence" she believes in equality.

Unfortunately, her equality is the type of rhetoric that is more akin to grievances associated with Donald Trump and other white supremacists. It has nothing to do with advancing racial or equality.

Capt. Benjamin Willard said...

Not to make light of it, but yes, many politicians and businesses are whitewashing Dr. King's legacy for their own gain. From the perspective of Ms. Frost, she used the commentary on Dr. King as "evidence" she believes in equality.

Unfortunately, her equality is the type of rhetoric that is more akin to grievances associated with Donald Trump and other white supremacists. It has nothing to do with advancing racial equality.

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