I am immensely proud to have lived in a country that produced a Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and I am grateful that I have reaped the benefits of his sacrifice and his legacy. I have personally studied the Civil Rights movement, read a ton of books and seen countless documentaries. Dr. King was by no means perfect—as we discovered after his death, he was immensely flawed in many respects. But do we know of any “perfect” leader who changed history or the trajectory of a nation? Aside from Jesus Christ, I haven’t encountered one. Let me know when you do.
Sadly, MLK is being reduced to revisionist history on both the Left and the Right and they are both in the wrong. The Left has decided to turn MLK into some Che Guevara radical activist, completely removing MLK’s mission and calling being rooted in his faith in Jesus Christ.
The Right is being even more stupid by trying to connect King’s legacy to DEI and make this a launch point to tear down the Civil Rights Act.
Make it make sense.
The Left co-opts MLK’s brilliant work of organized activism and political gamesmanship, while divorcing it from the spiritual roots from which it was birthed and from which MLK carried it. MLK was not a Marxist—he was a Bible-believing Christian who drew deeply from his relationship with Jesus to be able to lead the movement. The book, Better Day Coming: Blacks and Equality 1890-2000 by Adam Fairclough, made reference to Dr. King’s deep faith and documented how he came by it. Fairclough quoted King from a speech King gave in Chicago in September of 1966:
It is impossible to understand King’s role in the SCLC [Southern Christian Leadership Conference], however, without reference to religious faith. The son and grandson of prominent Atlanta ministers, King entered the Baptist church almost as a matter of course. “Called to the pulpit” at eighteen, formerly trained at Crozer Theological Seminary, and the recipient of a Ph.D. in systematic theology, King assumed the pastorate of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church without ever having experienced the kind of conversion experience that characterized the American evangelical tradition. Seven weeks into the Montgomery bus boycott, however, when threatening phone calls kept him from sleeping, King prayed over his kitchen table and sought God’s help with a directness and earnestness borne of despair. At that moment I experienced the presence of the Divine as I had never experienced him before. It seemed as though I could hear the quiet assurance of an inner voice saying: “Stand up for righteousness; stand up for truth and God will be at your side forever.” Almost at once my fears began to go. My uncertainty disappeared. I was ready to face anything.
For the next twelve years King drew spiritual strengthen from that revelation. And while he often doubted his own worthiness for the role, he always returned to the belief that his leadership was providential.”
Fairclough, Adam. 2001. Better Day Coming: Blacks and Equality, 1890-2000. https://ci.nii.ac.jp/ncid/BA60485499.
You would not be able to tell this by the tributes on social media on Monday’s MLK Day. While many rightly quote MLK’s words and reference his work, most fail to mention his unwavering faith and hope of his calling in Christ. Even his own children did not bother to mention his faith in their tribute posts, reducing the weight of his work to strength, bravery, and fortitude rather than the powerful mantle of a living God which enabled him to do the work.
But we have an equally egregious movement on the Right trying to paint MLK and the Civil Rights movement as a destroyer of the nation and the reason why we have diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) movements today. The founder and CEO of Turning Point USA (TPUSA) Charlie Kirk has decided he needed a new way to promote outrage (and fundraising dollars), and chose MLK Day to enact his plan.
Conservative activist and Turning Point USA cofounder Charlie Kirk has a lot of opinions on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
In 2015, Kirk called him a “hero.”
In 2022, MLK was a “civil rights icon.”
In December 2023, speaking before a group of students and teachers at America Fest, a political convention organized by Turning Point USA, Kirk struck a different tone.
“MLK was awful,” Kirk said. “He’s not a good person. He said one good thing he actually didn’t believe.”
For decades, conservatives have pointed to King and his idea that people should “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” as a model for equality.
For Kirk, the shift on King wasn’t an offhand remark, but a glimpse into his broader strategy to discredit the civil rights leader and the landmark legislation most associated with King: the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“I have a very, very radical view on this, but I can defend it, and I’ve thought about it,” Kirk said at America Fest. “We made a huge mistake when we passed the Civil Rights Act in the 1960s.”
“Deification”? Excuse me? Like you deify the Founding Fathers?
Newsflash: Many of the Founding Fathers were racists and slaveowners. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, the list goes on. This doesn’t render their coming together to form this nation and “pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor,” null and void. So, why is Kirk using the same tactics as the Left to tear down MLK’s legacy?
MANY Black conservatives called this misbegotten campaign out for what it is: racist.
CEO, Podcast Producer, and writer Darvio Morrow said it best:
We are at another moment of choosing in this country, as there are people who are intentionally trying to rip this country apart and separate us once and for all. Today, on Martin Luther King’s birthday, multiple right-wing provocateurs engaged in an intentional and coordinated attempt to re-assassinate Dr. King by tarnishing his name and legacy. The apparent goal is to use those efforts to undermine, and ultimately repeal, the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. This evil and foolish plot would result in the dismantling of the entire civil rights legal structure at the federal level, putting protections for not only Black Americans but also other minority groups and women at risk.
I have written extensively on my criticisms of the excesses of wokeism at RedState, on Twitter, and at other outlets. However, I’ve seen very quickly that “woke” was just another way of saying “Black” for some, and it was only so long that these dishonest actors could keep that mask on. Not only is it evil to pick at our nation’s deepest and longest wound like this, but it is also politically stupid to do so at a time when more Black people are weighing their political options than ever before. I hope that this shows every grassroots conservative that there are snakes in your ranks, people who apparently don’t give a damn about winning elections. They profit when you lose.
Of this I am positive: Charlie Kirk doesn’t have an original thought bouncing around his brain. It is well-known on X (formerly Twitter) that he lifts people’s posts whole cloth and claims them as his own, never giving others credit. If Kirk and his cohorts continue in this vein, they will get the push back they deserve, and it may not be as respectful as MLK, and it definitely won’t be pretty. As Black conservatives we have long known the Left is out to diminish, demean, and discredit us and the principles that we stand for. It’s a whole other animal when the same insidious tactics come from those on the Right who claim they stand for the same principles that we hold dear.
It needs to stop.