Michael Matteo: MLK’s ‘Dream’ has become a nightmare

Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

In my literature class last week, I started a unit on great speeches that included The Gettysburg Address, Glory and Hope (Nelson Mandela), and of course, I Have a Dream, by Dr. Martin Luther King.

As I listened to the speech, I still felt the chills I felt the first time I heard it because of Dr. King’s powerful oration and skillful use of language. His speech was about injustice, looking beyond the race of individuals, and allowing America to become great by healing the wounds created by bigotry and becoming a unified nation. He used the words, “I have a dream” eight times and never uttered a word about blame or revenge. His message was powerful and proactive because it was his hope for the future.

As we all know, Dr. King was struck down by an assassin’s bullet at the age of 39. I have often wondered what he would have accomplished in terms of race relations if he had lived. I also wonder what he would say about what has happened to an America where segregation is making a comeback, where claiming victim status is a way for people to exonerate themselves from failure, and where his ideas about a colorblind society are under attack by those who would rather point fingers than pose solutions.

The mindset of many on the left embraces things like white privilege, white guilt, segregation, and the idea that if you aren’t an “anti-racist,” you are part of the problem. The message is that we are defined by our race, not by what lies in our minds. Dr. King’s message about judging people by the content of our character is ignored by those whose agenda is to judge people by their melanin content instead of what lies in their hearts and minds.

Dr. King lived his life by example, as did many other important figures of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s.  He gave his life for his beliefs, and so did Medgar Evers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner (the three civil rights workers murdered by the KKK in Mississippi) as well as all those who boarded buses (Freedom Riders) to fight injustice, risking death threats, bodily harm, and unjust incarceration to protest injustice.

These were the true heroes of that time period and the battles that they won led to civil rights legislation. People like James Meredith and Rosa Parks did what they needed to do, as did Vivian Malone and James A. Hood whose admission to the University of Alabama was contested by then governor of Alabama, George Wallace. Wallace, a man who once shouted, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!” Compare these champions of civil rights with those today who advocate segregation, who want to vilify people by the color of their skin, and who tell small children that the most important thing about them is their skin color.

Today, the battle cry of those on the left is “systemic racism.” There is no dialogue about how to make things better, it’s all about the blame game. Proponents of critical race theory and the 1619 Project want to use it as a tool to divide. Compare this with Dr. King’s dream, which was to unify. At the time of Dr. King’s death, his net worth was (adjusted for inflation) $250,000 because his focus wasn’t on how he could profit personally; his goal was to make the world a better place.

Compare that with those who publish books and earn millions to espouse doctrines of victimization, race being more important than character, and who justify segregation. These individuals are constantly speaking about injustice and actually make claims that America is worse today than it was in the past. Tell that to Emmett Till’s family (Emmett Till, a teenager who was brutally tortured and murdered in the 1950s by whites who were acquitted by an all-white jury.)

Not one of today’s million-dollar authors has the courage to do what any of these heroes from the past have done. Ibram X. Kendi (the man who coined the phrase, “anti-racist”) and Robin DiAngelo (author of White Fragility) don’t even have the courage to accept those who have challenged them to debates. Do you think they would have been in the front lines of marches in the 1950s and ’60s and faced police dogs, fire hoses, or death threats?  I doubt it.

Whereas Dr. King and other civil rights leaders of the past wanted true inclusion, the “leaders” of today want selective inclusion, which is why a school in Georgia segregated black and white students. It is why the Centennial Elementary School in Denver was able to put on its school marquee, “Families of Color Playground Night, Wed. 12/18, 4:10 PM.”  It is why so-called educators can eliminate gifted programs in schools, call good grammar and math racist and teach convoluted and agenda-driven versions of history.

Neo-Segregation is the new politically correct terminology. The “segregation” of George Wallace was racist, but “neo-segregation,” embraced by those on the left, is good according to leftists. When Yale University came up with a neo-segregation policy to segregate black students into remedial programs, they defended it by saying that “neo-segregation is part of a large set of developments that has a name of its own: multiculturalism.”

It is this kind of disingenuous manipulation of words and rationalization which didn’t exist during the real civil rights era. Those who made speeches, marched and inspired legislation did what they did as a solution to a serious American problem and didn’t engage in ridiculous rhetoric to attain their goals, which is why it gained the support of mainstream America.

Today, those who write books that further divide people by race create problems and the only real problem they solve is adding to their own personal bank accounts. According to a Free Beacon story, a speaker’s bureau which represents Robin DiAngelo reported that a 60-90 minute speech would cost $30,000, a 2-hour workshop would be $35,000 and a half-day event would cost $40,000. Ibram X. Kendi was paid $20,000 for an hour-long event at the University of Michigan and has earned over $300,000 for a variety of speaking engagements, mostly at universities (the same universities that think that the US taxpayer should forgive student debt, but they have enough money to pay this kind of money to speakers.)

I do not recall Dr. Martin Luther King ever charging to espouse his message, a message of hope, a dream of unity, and a life forfeited for what he believed. I wonder what he’d say to Kendi, DiAngelo, and all those who have made a profit by shouting racism and crying all the way to the bank.

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Michael Matteo

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