Fifty years after the 1968 assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Americans work, play, trade, travel, study and dine together across racial lines. There is much to honor on his national holiday.
For example, each April 15, millions of Americans join together to commemorate Jackie Robinson, the Brooklyn Dodgers’ second baseman who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball in 1947.
Robinson battled as a boy, as a multisport standout at UCLA, in the military, in professional baseball and later as a businessman, to challenge the left and the right on issues of racial equality and personal dignity. He simply wanted, and demanded, integration.
King led the civil rights movement by urging that Black Americans “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
King asserted in his famous March on Washington, D.C., speech: “In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness of hatred. … We must not allow our creative protests to degenerate into physical violence … on the road to a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.”
Unfortunately, while white racists stubbornly continue to resent and oppose societal integration, we now also see an intensification of Black racial separatism and violence.
Malcolm X, the late 1960s-era chief spokesman of the Nation of Islam, a Black Muslim organization led by Elijah Muhammad, argued that “you don’t integrate with a sinking ship.” He advocated for a separate nation for Blacks apart from “a corrupt white nation destined for divine destruction.”
Longtime Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan asserted, “It is an act of mercy to white people that we end your world … we are at war.” He befriended 1984 Democratic presidential candidate Jesse Jackson, who made a career of race-based intimidation and shakedowns of corporate America.
Jackson’s heir was Rev. Al Sharpton, whose resume of inciting violence includes his 1992 recorded speech:
“I believe in offing the pigs. Well, they got pigs out here. You ain’t offed one of them. Plenty of crackers walking right around here tonight. Ain’t nobody come out and knock the gun out of your hand.”
Sharpton promoted street violence through race baiting. In 2014, he publicly pressured the grand jury to indict a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., whom the Department of Justice declared acted in self-defense against a criminal suspect.
Today, anti-white racism is both violent (“antifa”) and growing as a cultural phenomenon.
Singer Lido Pimienta, a Colombian-Canadian singer, asks concert audience members of color to move to the front and whites to move to the back.
June Chu, Yale dean at Pierson College, was fired after writing Yelp reviews attacking “white trash.”
Texas State University student newspaper columnist Rudy Martinez recently wrote, “white death will mean liberation for all,” while Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., promoted a white-free “Day of Absence” event.
Is there a path away from racial animus?
City University of New York professor Jessie Daniels tweeted that “the white nuclear family is one of the most powerful forces supporting white supremacy.”
Among separate graduation ceremonies now being held for Black students was Harvard’s Black Commencement in 2017. Black-only dorms are common — segregation is back.
All of this was not the dream of King or the ideal of Jackie Robinson.
Is there a path away from racial animus? Perhaps modeling lives of peaceful racial coexistence and personal dignity, and asserting pride in America’s progress from slavery to legal racial equality.
Black author Shelby Steele has been deeply critical of racial separatism, identity politics and victimhood thinking, which he asserts is a great hindrance for Black Americans. He promotes instead a culture of excellence and professional achievement, not set-asides or entitlements.
All men are created equal. But the promise of the Declaration of Independence is still unfulfilled. May we choose peaceful integration over a rising tide of racial separatism.
Larry Greenfield is a fellow of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship & Political Philosophy.