Friday, April 4, 2008

ML King - 40 years ago today

April 4, 1968. I was doing homework, listening to the radio, and heard the news of Dr. King's assassination. It was sickening. I have never forgotten that day. And I have not forgotten that when MLKing died he was despised widely, suspected of being too radical, maybe even Red. As is the rule, in death Martin became a saint whose blemishes were forgotten even by many who reviled him while he was alive.

Now that Barack Obama is running for president and is plausibly within reach of getting the Democratic nomination, ML King's name is being brought up. No one can compete with a martyred saint.

This writer, whom I remember having seen on the telly a few times, castigates Obama for not measuring up to Martin Luther King, for being a politician, and for doing as a politician does. And, finally, he castigates Obama for not doing as Jesus would have done. Whew.

" his black and white supporters, Mr. Obama increasingly represents different things. The initial base of support for Mr. Obama's presidential campaign came from young whites ... Black voters rallied to Mr. Obama after whites in Iowa and New Hampshire showed they were willing to vote for him. Mr. Obama spoke directly to charges that he was not "black enough," that he was not a child of the civil rights movement because he grew up in Hawaii and has an Ivy League education, that he is too young, it is not his time, and even that his campaign is too risky because white racists might kill him."

A good start.

Mr. Obama has carried a message of pride and self-sufficiency to black voters nationwide, who have rewarded him with support reaching 80% and higher. Among his white supporters, race is coincidental, not central, to his political identity. The terrible tension between these racially distinct views now surrounds and threatens his campaign.

I am sure I do not agree with this assessment: for whites his blackness is not coincidental, but quite very much the essence of his candidacy.

So far, Mr. Obama has been content to let black people have their vision of him while white people hold to a separate, segregated reality. He is a politician and, unlike King, his goal is winning votes, not changing hearts.

Key point: Obama is a politician.

But, having stayed in a church where the pastor ranted against white America, his "judgment and leadership on the critical issue of race is in question."

While speaking to black people, King never condescended to offer Rev. Wright-style diatribes or conspiracy theories.

Any one suffers in comparison to Dr. King. Everyone, in fact, does.

Last March in Selma, Ala., Mr. Obama appeared on the verge of breaking away from the merchants of black grievance and victimization. But as his campaign made headway with black voters, Mr. Obama no longer spoke about the responsibility and the power of black America to appeal to the conscience and highest ideals of the nation. He no longer asks black people to let go of the grievance culture to transcend racial arguments and transform the world.

As the nation tries to recall the meaning of Martin Luther King today, Mr. Obama's campaign has become a mirror reflecting where we are on race 40 years after the assassination. Mr. Obama's success has moved forward the story of American race relations; King would have been thrilled with his political triumphs. But when Barack Obama, arguably the best of this generation of black or white leaders, finds it easy to sit in Rev. Wright's pews and nod along with wacky and bitterly divisive racial rhetoric, it does call his judgment into question. And it reveals a continuing crisis in racial leadership.

What would Jesus do? There is no question he would have left that church.

Wow. That seems a mite pretentious, for Mr. Williams to say he knows what Jesus would have done. And to castigate Obama because he did not do as Jesus would have? Tough to measure up.

No comments:

Post a Comment