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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

MLK

As a white southerner whose childhood was mostly spent in a Jim Crow society, the life and death of Martin Luther King, Jr., is not something I just read about in history books. I remember the searing challenge he posed to the polite white southern “liberals” who were embarassed by his simple demands for justice, and his direct evocation of the ideals of their country and their faith. And I also remember the incredible hatred his gentle, quintessentially Christian movement provoked in so many of my own “people” (e.g., an aunt who before the apprehension of James Earl Ray said she’d love the opportunity to hide and care for King’s murderer).
Even today, I’d guess a majority of white southerners–and white yankees, for that matter–think of MLK Day as an ethnic holiday that has nothing to do with their own “people.” I recently read a new biography of Jesse Helms that showed pretty convincingly that Helms’ opposition to a federal MLK holiday was the single most important factor in his survival of the toughest political challenge of his life, his come-from-behind victory over Jim Hunt in 1984. Clearly, many white North Carolinians thought of MLK as a man who had helped vanquish their heritage, when in fact he helped redeem it.
More than anyone in recent memory, Martin Luther King, Jr., held up a mirror to the people of this country and asked them to live up to the best of what they believed about themselves. And that’s why this is, and should be, a truly national holiday, for all of us.

One comment on “MLK

  1. geri on

    Martin Luther King Jr. was the voice for all of the people. Every word he spoke was truth and unfortunately a lot of people don’t like to hear the truth or see the truth. This is a marvelous dedication of his life in http://www.hypocrisy.com, where the writer points out the hypocrisy of government officials in that time of our history. He was a visionary and he opened our minds and our hearts with speeches laced with his heart and his soul. I am truly thankful for Martin Luther King Jr. and I too believe it should be a national holiday for all of us.

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