People often invoke the words of Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King in support of their positions now based upon his words uttered at a time that wasn’t anything like now. What would he think? I certainly don’t know, and doubt that anyone, even his progeny, could say, even though they do. They know their mind and get to invoke his legacy by virtue of ancestry, but they don’t know.
MLK isn’t alive today because he was murdered, assassinated. His spirit lives on in some ways, but not others. He spoke about his vision for the future, where he “dream[ed] 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 the content of their character.” If MLK were alive today, perhaps that would still be the dream. But he’s gone, and the dream has been subsumed by those who demand hyper-racialism in lieu of a colorblind society.
In two days, Kamala Harris will be sworn in as the Vice President of the United States. Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor will swear her in on Thurgood Marshall’s bible, which is just as well given that Marshall would never have stood on the same side of the well as Harris. We have already had a black president, and yet we’re reminded that this is historic. Kamala Harris will be the first black woman to be vice president.
What would Martin Luther King think?
Who Harris is, was, is no mystery. She was a prosecutor, a cop, and damn proud of it when it served her political ambitions. She morphed her story into that of a progressive prosecutor when it served her political ambitions. Unlike Thurgood Marshall, she never stood beside a black person accused of a crime. She was the person at the other table on the other side of the courtroom, smirking at the claim of innocence, the complaint that he was needlessly beaten, as if any arrested black man didn’t deserve it. And she wore her pearls on her black skin as a prop to show the public, the jury, that she knew what she was talking about, she knew who and what these defendants were. Guilty.
There is an obvious comparison with a justice of the Supreme Court who, like Harris, has black skin but is otherwise reviled by those for whom race comes first. Justice Clarence Thomas embodies what theorists might characterize as self-loathing. Others might say he “blacks” wrong, because they believe there is a right way to be a black person.
When it served her self-interest, Harris, like Thomas, “blacked” wrong, and got the gig as San Francisco District Attorney, California Attorney General and then Senator from California. When it served her self-interest, Harris “blacked” correctly, and now she’s about to be sworn in as the vice president. Her political trajectory has been meteoric, as has her shift from top cop to woke woman. While defendants remain prisoners serving out the sentences they received because of her, and cops remain free not serving sentences because she came up with excuses for their killings, she’s climbed the ladder to the second highest office in the nation.
Not too shabby for Harris, who has made the most of the public’s limited knowledge and short attention span to further her political ambitions. And while vice presidents’ names get mentioned in advance of their inauguration, few, if any, have been mentioned as much, as often and in such glowingly historic terms as Kamala Harris’. She’s already got a cover in Vogue.
But what would Martin Luther King think?
Jesse Wegman reminds us that there was another black person elected to office the other day, whose election was huge, and yet overshadowed by the next day’s insurrection, so it failed to get the play it deserved.
Lost in the horror and mayhem of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot was another momentous event that happened barely 12 hours earlier and hundreds of miles away: the election to the Senate of the Rev. Raphael Warnock of Georgia, the first Black Democratic senator from the South in the nation’s history.
It could well be argued that Warnock didn’t so much win as Trump lost it for his opponent, but that’s irrelevant. Warnock won. That it took until 2021 for the State of Georgia to elect a black person to the Senate is, as Jesse reminds us, a vestige of post-reconstruction Jim Crow that took its harsh toll on the black voters of the state, until they were finally awoken and empowered, and made their voices heard. Whether you love what they had to say or not, they get to say it just like you get to say it. And they did, as is their right, and should have been their right all these long years when their American spirit was crushed. And you have Trump to thank for pushing Georgia into the future.
In my white man’s imagination of what Martin Luther King would think of these events, he would have said it was good that neither Harris’ nor Warnock’s skin color precluded their being elected to high office. But now, now that they have been elected, now that their swearing in is imminent, now that they have overcome the detriment of racist obsession with skin color, it’s up to them to show us the content of their character.