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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Re-orientation of MLK Day

On Monday 1/15, the Detroit Free Press (Freep) ran an editorial in honor of MLK day. It seems that the Freep is trying to re-orient MLK Jr. Day to something other than a struggle for the individual rights of the black man.

Monday's editorial "Honor King with Action" starts with: "Honoring the life of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. ought to be a call to action and community service. Although King is often remembered as a dreamer for the enduring eloquence of the "I Have a Dream" speech, he was also a doer, a leader whose actions discomforted much of the nation that now celebrates his legacy."

Anyone who has lived through the civil rights era as I have, knows that Dr. King's essential characteristic was the struggle for racial justice. Other alleged goals such as helping the poor, improving education, etc., were secondary to his primary goal of equal rights for blacks. He believed that the achievement of equal rights would make the other improvements possible.

But that is not what the Freep is focusing on. We are told that to honor Dr. King we must take action in the form of "community service." The non-essential of community service is being made the defining characteristic of Dr. King while the essential of individual rights for blacks is moved to the non-essential. Now, when his "legacy" is discussed, it will be in a new but false context--service to the community--not individual rights. What kind of community service?

"Instead of shopping or kicking back, more and more Americans are observing King's birthday by taking part in thousands of community projects, including mentoring at-risk children, serving meals at a homeless shelter, registering organ donors, teaching seniors how to surf the Internet, organizing a neighborhood watch and cleaning up vacant lots."

Now there is nothing wrong with doing these things as such. There is everything wrong with pretending they are the essence of Dr. King's goals. While he would no doubt, approve of them, his main goal was to end forced segregation.

But there is something else being accomplished by doing all this community service; it obviates the need to focus on that which really needs to be addressed. There should be lectures, seminars and editorials all across the nation discussing such things as "What is racism?" "Why does it belong to the wider genus of collectivism?" "Why is collectivism evil?" What does it do to an individual and a community?" These and related questions will never be answered if we focus mainly on cleaning up vacant lots.

Unfortunately, this re-orientation of Dr. King's birthday is ongoing.

"State and local governments in Michigan should start thinking now how they, working with community agencies, can better promote service projects for the 2008 King holiday. Such efforts would foster a stronger sense of community year-round."

That this statement doesn't scare Freep readers does in fact scare me. State and local governments wield the power of force. They are being encouraged to promote "service projects" to "foster a stronger sense of community year-round."

If this is how MLK day is to be celebrated in the future, then today's intellectuals are trying to make him the nation's premier socialist by re-orienting his birthday into an orgy of self-sacrificial service to others instead of a struggle for rights.

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