January 20, 2003

Martin Luther King and Affirmative Action

In honor of Martin Luther King day, I'd like to do my part to counteract a myth which has been developed about his most well-known speech, and King's beliefs.

Martin Luther King said: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by their character."

But he did not say he believed that the best way to achieve that dream was to pretend racism had vanished, and to act strictly as if it had. Nothing could be further from his true beliefs and actions. He favored outright quotas. Again, contrary to a popular fiction which has been put around his beliefs, he favored quotas, and affirmative action, and race-based hiring as immediate relief from centuries of ingrained discrimination. This is an extremely unpleasant bit of history to those who have tried to turn him into some sort of (safely dead) black conservative with which to bash liberals. But it was his actual views.

Read the book "And The Walls Came Tumbling Down", by Ralph David Abernathy, especially pages 400-405, for a long description of this philosophy in action, through economic pressure on businesses. Some choice quotes:

"If the proportion of blacks to the total population was 12 percent, then we would ask that 12 percent of the employees be black."

"We would then tell him we were not willing to wait for these vacancies, that we wanted to see blacks in jobs right now."

"We were breaking eggs to make omelettes, and we insisted that businesses not postpone their responsibility to correct an historic imbalance."

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in journo | on January 20, 2003 11:58 PM (Infothought permalink) | Followups
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