Monday, January 19, 2009

Happy Civil Rights Day!

Ok, so it isn't "Civil Rights Day,"--but it should be.

With all due respect to Martin Luther King, Jr. and what he and his organizations were able to accomplish, he was just a man, and an imperfect one at that. The idea--that of protected freedoms and rights for all--is what is important to remember today (and every day). Many heroic and capable people preceded King in life and death, in addition to other contemporaries that preached along side him--and, indeed, in opposition to him. These men and women too should be celebrated and remembered--and, of course, their messages should not be lost to history.

It is just barely an overstatement to say that U.S. History texts describe the sum of the struggle for freedom for American blacks as the arrivals of Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, and MLK. This is more a function of poor history texts and the way history is taught in America than any deliberate "whitewashing" of the American tale, but it is problematic nonetheless.

While one would think it would be hard to overstate the accomplishments of such a remarkable man, such is the sorry state of things. The messages of men like Martin Delany, Frederick Douglass and Malcolm X-- of personal responsibility, entrepreneurship, and self-improvement free from government interference--have been nearly entirely subsumed into that of King and his followers, in spite of the very great differences in philosophies. King has become the end-all/be-all of Civil Rights heroes and martyrs--now standing for anything and everything that freedom meant, despite the fact that King did not support everything now assigned to him.

So, in the spirit of my Civil Rights Day, I share with you one of my favorite clips of a man I admire, discussing a quote from another man I admire, that I have shared on this blog before:

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