In Name of Civil Rights, Black Dem Senator Disagrees With Martin Luther King, Jr.
New Jersey Senator Cory Booker broke Senate tradition on Wednesday, by testifying against his colleague, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for attorney general. Booker used highfalutin liberal language about civil rights, all the while twisting a famous quote from civil rights champion Martin Luther King Jr.
Indeed, Booker explicitly subverted one of King's most famous quotes. "The arc of the moral universe does not just naturally curve towards justice, we must bend it," Booker declared. "If one is to be attorney general, they must be willing to continue the hallowed tradition in our country of fighting for justice for all, for equal justice, for civil rights. America needs an attorney general who is resolute and determined to bend that arc."
Booker's argument hinged on the claim that "Senator Sessions' record does not speak to that desire, intention, or will." Sessions will not force "the arc of the moral universe" to "curve towards justice." But this is exactly the opposite of Martin Luther King Jr.'s original point.
In his sermon at the Temple Israel of Hollywood in 1965, King warned against indifference and violence, and he declared his firm belief that "right here in America we will reach the promised land of brotherhood." He expressed his faith that the Civil Rights movement would prevail against segregation because "somehow the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice."
Martin Luther King believed that God would rescue black people in America from the evil of segregation, and his belief was gloriously vindicated. But he believed that because the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice — not because he labored under the delusion that his movement would bend that arc toward justice.
Booker declared exactly the opposite. "The arc of the moral universe does not just naturally curve towards justice, we must bend it," the black Democratic senator declared. King would have denounced this as heresy. It is God, not people — and certainly not political movements — who bends the arc of the moral universe. To suggest that a human being — even an august attorney general — could bend that arc is to confuse the human with the divine.
Furthermore, if Booker is right and the arc of the moral universe does not naturally curve towards justice, there is no hope for any civil rights movement, and King's speech ends in tragedy.