King gained stature and recognition for his leadership of the civil rights movement. But it is time to acknowledge that he was not correct in all the stands he took. Praising his leadership and moral power does not mean that we have to take the position that everything he believed was correct.
King did say in 1967 at a Riverside Church meeting that the United States is “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” He was wrong, and it was, in my eyes, unfortunate that at that moment he drifted into support of the far Left’s agenda regarding Vietnam. Like so many others who opposed the Vietnam War and hoped for a North Vietnamese victory, King too was swept up by the growing opposition. He squandered his stature by joining with radicals whose agenda was not ending the war through a negotiated settlement, but favoring a victory for the Vietnamese Communists.
To left-wing radicals like Younge, King’s speech was not simply one calling for an end to legal segregation, but one in which he sought programs based on governmental help to bring material prosperity to poor black Americans.
Younge does not mention, however, that the program of the march for government intervention was worked on by Rustin and Randolph, and was based on the belief that the United States could afford both guns and butter, and that calling for programs like a domestic Marshall Plan to end the ghettos did not mean joining the Left’s call for less defense spending.
Of course, to Younge, racism is not an “aberration of the past,” as proved when the Supreme Court “gutted the Voting Rights Act this past spring.”
Younge’s views were bested however, by our capital’s leading voice, the Washington Post. In Sunday’s “Outlook” section, the main part of the front page and one other full page were given over to an article by Peter Dreier, whom readers of my PJM column might recall I was engaged in a debate with a few years ago. Dreier, the E.P. Clapp distinguished professor of politics at Occidental College (where our president was a student), asks the question “Where would [King] lead us today?” He writes:
Today, at age 84, King would no doubt still be on the front lines, lending his voice and his energy to major battles for justice.
Since King is no longer with us, the truth is that we have no idea how and in what manner King may have evolved.
Might he have joined Bill Cosby in criticizing so much of black “culture” that is harmful and eulogizes thuggish behavior and glamorizes murder? Might he have worked to emphasize the building blocks necessary to rebuild the black family at a time when so many African-American youngsters are raised in single-family households by their mothers? Any of these and many other choices are possible when speculating about what Martin Luther King, Jr. may have advocated in the present day.
Nevertheless, Professor Dreier is certain that King would favor the banning of guns, or, as Dreier writes, “would probably push for tougher limits on gun ownership.”
Note that word “probably.” Might not he have gone another route, and decided that with growing gang violence in black neighborhoods, perhaps owning a gun of one’s own might work to prevent violence being unleashed on those trying to raise their children in a stable atmosphere? That perhaps greater legal gun ownership would cause gang members to think twice before engaging in neighborhood shooting sprees? Perhaps, after reading Robert F. Williams’ Negroes with Guns, he might have concluded that just as some blacks in the South protected themselves against the Klan by having an armed home, the same protection might work in the present against the threat of bodily harm by gang members.
Dreier is also certain that King would support abortion, or as he calls it, “women’s reproductive freedom.” Noting that King received the Margaret Sanger award from Planned Parenthood in 1966, he cited King’s words:
There is a striking kinship between our movement and Margaret Sanger’s early efforts.
Perhaps after doing some more reading, King would have quickly disavowed those words, realizing that Sanger believed in eugenics and, as Jonah Goldberg has written, “was a thoroughgoing racist.”
As Sanger wrote, she desired:
More children from the fit, less from the unfit — that is the chief issue of birth control.
One of her closest friends was white supremacist Lothrop Stoddard, who favored limiting the food supply for the inferior colored races “so we can compel an inferior race to remain in its native habitat.” Sanger asked Stoddard to join the board of directors of the American Birth Control League.
Later, Sanger created “The Negro Project,” which, as Goldberg points out, was meant to “help pare down the supposedly surplus black population.” Sanger actually wrote:
We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population.
Her project report stated:
The mass of significant Negroes still breed carelessly and disastrously, with the result that the increase among Negroes … is [in] that portion of the population least intelligent and fit.