“We will reclaim the civil rights movement,” Glenn Beck says. “We will take that movement because we were the people who did it in the first place.”
Glenn Beck of Fox News spoke Saturday from the Lincoln Memorial, on the anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. He is one of many right-wingers who are trying to associate themselves with Dr. King’s legacy. They quote Dr. King’s statement, that he wanted his children to grow up in a country where they will be judged on the content of their character rather than the color of his skin, to mean he was some kind of libertarian conservative.
According to their interpretation, this statement means that Dr. King was some sort of rugged individualist who was merely asking for a level playing field. This not only rules out any kind of government action, especially those that help black people proportionately more than white people, but also collective action or solidarity. Using this logic, right-wingers say the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People or the United Negro College Fund are themselves racist, because they’re concerned with black people and not with white people.
This chain of thought takes them some distance from what Dr. King actually thought, as well as some distance from reality. Dr. King’s ideal was not a fair competition, in which some people wound up in palaces and others in the gutter because they deserved to. His ideal was the beloved community, in which we lived according to the ideals of the Gospel.
Dr. King was the foremost proponent in his time of the Social Gospel, the idea that social justice is part of Christianity. His last action, before he was murdered, was to rally support for striking garbage collectors in Memphis, Tenn. Glenn Beck is on record as saying you shouldn’t belong to a church that preaches social justice.
The contemporaries of Dr. King now regarded as conservative heroes – Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, Milton Friedman, William F. Buckley Jr. – were all opponents of the civil rights movement. The living people who actually took part in the movement – Jesse Jackson, Rep. John Lewis, the Shirley Sherrod family – get no respect from Glenn Beck and his comrades.
“We are the people of the civil rights movement,” Glenn Beck keeps saying. “We are the inheritors and protectors of the civil rights movement.” As Tonto said to the Lone Ranger in the old joke – “What do you mean ‘we,’ white man?”
Click on “I Have a Dream” for the text of Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1963 speech.
Click on “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” for the text of Dr. King’s 1968 speech in Memphis.
Click on Restoring Honor Keynote Speech for a video of Glenn Beck’s address on Aug. 28. [Added 8/31/10]
Click on Glenn Beck “reclaims” the civil rights movement for many quotes in which he has tried to identify himself with Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement.
Click on It’s a matter of honor for a Christian Science Monitor article by Dr. Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, on why she participated in the Glenn Beck rally. [Added 8/31/10]
I’m not going to link to any “white nationalist” web sites, but Glenn Beck has enough appeal to white racists and anti-Semites that Stormfront.org and Davidduke.com warn white racists and anti-Semites that he is not really one of them. [Added 8/31/10] [Updated 10/13/16]
Click on Glenn Beck becomes damaged goods and Glenn Beck rises again for a revelatory Salon.com profile of Glenn Beck’s broadcasting career. There were things that he did in his early radio days that only a seriously disturbed person would have done. [Added 8/31/10]
Click on Glenn Beck Program for Glenn Beck’s home page. [Added 8/31/10]
Click on Glenn Beck “Restoring Honor” Rally Crowd Estimate Explained for CBS News’ explanation of its estimate that 87,000 people attended the rally. [Added 9/1/10]
Click on Overcoming Racial Discrimination and scroll down to the part about testers for evidence that black people still do not receive equal treatment.
Click on White ex-cons get jobs faster than Blacks with no criminal record for more evidence.