Prager U Sings The Praises Of Great Conservative Thinker, Dr. King
Critical race theory is an academic movement that argues race isn't a natural, biological feature but an artificial, socially constructed category designed to exploit and oppress people of color. Critical racists such as the former White House squatter and the Idaho Legislature believe this somehow teaches Americans to hate their country, which was never racist and isn't now. It's “toxic propaganda" to claim systemic racism is a thing, especially after Dr. Martin Luther King spent all that time ending sanitized, edited-for-television racism before a white guy murdered him.
Conservative radio host Dennis Prager's fake university, Prager U, tweeted some nonsense Tuesday that dragged Dr. King into the critical race debate. Conservatives are certain that Dr. King would've opposed everything civil rights activists have done in the 53 years since his assassination.
To Critical Race theorists, Martin Luther King was both wrong and naive.
We interrupt this treacle to remind you that Prager U isn't defending the honor of the Dr. King who actually existed, the badass brother who called for boycotting white-owned businesses that mistreated Black workers:
KING: Go out and tell your neighbors not to buy Coca-Cola in Memphis. Go by and tell them not to buy Sealtest milk. Tell them not to buy — what is the other bread? Wonder Bread. And what is the other bread company, Jesse? Tell them not to buy Hart's bread. As Jesse Jackson has said, up to now, only the garbage men have been feeling pain; now we must kind of redistribute the pain.
Anyway, back to Prager U whitesplaining Dr. King's message.
White Americans can never judge blacks by the content of their character.
Is that a threat? You'll notice the tweet's conflicting use of “White Americans" and simply “blacks." Prager U can't even go two sentences without demonstrating the unconscious bias it claims doesn't exist.
[White Americans] can only judge them, always unfavorably — consciously or unconsciously, by the color of their skin.
Oh boo hoo.
Critical race theory contends that "racism is a normal feature of society and is embedded within systems and institutions, like the legal system, that replicate racial inequality." It rejects the very special episode fairy tales that racism is confined to just a “few bad apples" but instead is "codified in law, embedded in structures, and woven into public policy." Conservatives resent the concept of racism as a systemic issue. They barely even acknowledge the “bad apples," unless it's a Black person gaining admission to college through affirmative action.
Prager U's tweet alludes to that one Dr. King quote conservatives have imprinted in their thick skulls: “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 the content of their character." Even taken out of context, the line is misinterpreted. It's not a promotion of a color-blind society. Dr. King is specifically referring to his Black children who currently live in a nation that discriminates against them based on their race. Like all dreams, it's aspirational, but conservatives think they can slap a “Mission Accomplished" banner on his dream and move on. Dr. King confronted systemic racism. He marched on Selma. He didn't make commercials about buying the world a Coke.
What's interesting is that in death, conservatives treat Dr. King the exact opposite as how they treat Barack Obama, Stacey Abrams, or even Kamala Harris, who are inconveniently alive. They'll take a single line from the most benign I Love America To Pieces speech and hold it up as evidence that Obama, Abrams, and Harris hate America and want to shatter it to pieces. They still bring up Obama's “bitter" remarks, which were a prescient reflection on MAGA voters and the growing QAnon crew.
Yet conservatives are seemingly oblivious to the rest of Dr. King's I Have A Dream speech, where he said:
But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition. In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check.
Wow, Dr. King said America's racist!
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.
The “cooling off" line is a direct reference to the 1,340 demonstrations in more than 200 cities between May and August of 1963. Imagine a Black public figure saying anything similar during last summer's unrest? Attorney General Robert Kennedy had warned his brother, President John F. Kennedy: "Negroes are now just antagonistic and mad and they're going to be mad at everything. You can't talk to them. My friends all say [even] the Negro maids and servants are getting antagonistic."
This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. 1963 is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual.
There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
Yes, Dr. King preached non-violence but he never supported a false peace, which is the best that conservatives can offer. His demands were clear and uncompromising, and no matter how much conservatives want to deny it, critical race theory is a continuation of Dr. King's work.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."