SAN JOSE, January 27, 2016 – A week ago, on the day honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., Peter Doyle of the Huffington Post, put forth the not-so-subtle notion that the GOP debates were awash with a “dog-whistling” mentality that would require his readers to be “more direct in facing the ugly facts as glaringly reflected in the Republican lexicon.”
Doyle indicated that such “dog-whistling” as referring to black peoples’ “athleticism,” has been contorted due to President Obama’s “intimidating cerebralism.” Doyle’s perspective is that because of Obama’s incredible intellect, “the GOP candidates in the latest Republican TV debate in repeated reference to President Obama as a “’child.’”
Peter Doyle contends that the “new whistle not only tarnishes Mr. Obama but even MLK and the causes and people he championed…” Mr. Doyle is essentially claiming that there are still racists in the GOP and makes a direct assertion against Donald Trump, “That white-supremacist groups were amongst the first to flock to Trump is a loud warning about this.”
No doubt, Doyle is attempting to set the stage if Trump is the GOP nominee, as he alludes in his article that it will be easy to paint Trump into a corner with his own words: “To be fair, the whistling has become somewhat more equal-opportunity of late with Muslims and Mexicans finding themselves in the same line of fire.”
Trump’s superficial response is that he “loves Mexicans.”
Certainly, the notion has been advanced, and there may be some truth to Doyle’ claims among some of the GOP contenders. Nevertheless, there is a serious weakness in Doyle’s claim that such racist attitudes, upsets “the ‘US is post-racial post-2008’ narrative; it is up to those directly targeted, such as Black Lives Matter, to protest the issue…”
So, when did America become lulled into some wonderland-like “post-racial – post 2008” narrative? It certainly was not the creation of the Democrats or Barack Obama. And to claim that the Republicans dog-whistling “not only tarnishes Mr. Obama but even MLK and the causes and people he championed…” is avoiding the point that Obama has tarnished the legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. himself.
The assumption that Barack Obama came as the fulfillment of Dr. Martin Luther King’s is an illusion. There is a naïve perception or sentiment among the white community, and likely among some of those in the black community, which presumes Barack Obama’s presidency is the fulfillment of Dr. King’s “Dream” he shared with hundreds of thousands at the Lincoln Memorial at the March on Washington, D.C. in 1963.
Honestly, Obama’s presidency is a contradiction to King’s efforts in the Civil Rights Movement. While King worked tirelessly against all violence, Obama has shown himself to be surprisingly selective, and usually vocal about white police violence against black people. While King was trying to bring all people together, Obama has not.
In reality, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. came as a Christian and a man of God, working tirelessly to unite Americans. Consider what Dr. King was sharing with America at the Lincoln Memorial when he spoke the words of his famous “I Have a Dream” speech:
I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that my four 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.
This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with… With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
In reflecting on this speech in 2011, Earl Ofari Hutchinson, author, political analyst, and at the time, a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network, wrote an article entitled “President Obama Still Can Seize King’s Racial Dream High Ground.”
Hutchinson stated in his article that:
The 1963 March on Washington that brought King world-wide attention and stamped him as a transformative leader for the ages brought thousands of persons together across gender, class and color lines in a vocal protest against intolerance and violence. This was the hope and promise of Obama’s election. It showed that millions of whites could strap racial blinders around their eyes and punch the ticket for an African-American for the world’s most powerful political post. King would undoubtedly have glowed with approval at that.
There is little doubt that Martin Luther King, Jr. would have glowed with approval when a black man finally became President of the United States in 2008; however, many Americans with clear vision, see President Barack Hussein Obama as a disappointment, and not a fulfillment of the Civil Rights Movement. While it is true that Barack Obama was viewed by many supporters during his first presidential campaign, as a fast-rising, rock-star senator who could heal racial divisions in the United States, this was an illusion. In 2016, at the beginning of his final year as president, Obama can be easily viewed as a leader who worked more to divide Americans, and not to unite them, seen as a man unable to lay claim to King’s moral high ground.
For those who would dare to be honest, it would not have been possible for Barack Obama to claim any of the moral foundation established by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. or the endurance of thousands in the long-fought Civil Rights Movement. Obama was elevated by a completely opposite foundation within a seriously divided black community. Just as Abraham Lincoln gave his ‘House Divided” speech revealing to Americans a divided nation prior to the American Civil War, Dr. king revealed a divided black community in 1963. In his speech at Lincoln’s Memorial, but more specifically in his “Letter from the Birmingham Jail,” he explained:
You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self-respect… that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses.
The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best-known being Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro’s frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible “devil.”
I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the “do-nothingism” of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle.
A tremendous irony, not well-known to white America, is that after the success of non-violent civil rights efforts in the South, Dr. King and Dr. Ralph Abernathy tried to turn the momentum gained to the northward, specifically to Chicago, but their efforts failed. The two men — King with his family — moved to the slums of Chicago’s West Side. In August, 1966, two dynamic ministers, absolutely dedicated to the efforts they fully believed had transformed the South, worked side-by-side in the inner city in Chicago to replicate their success in a historic effort. They met with incredible violence in the streets; as they marched, bottles and bricks were hurled at the marchers.
Incredibly, the opposition to King and Abernathy came not just from the white community; as much of the violence was perpetrated by young black men. Abernathy later revealed that when the leaders of that movement tried to replicate the methods successful in the South on the streets of Chicago, they were rejected. He even wrote that the movement received a worse reception in Chicago than in the South, a powerful statement considering how much the members of the movement had to endure in the South. Ironically, despite a decade of struggle in the South, these men withdrew from Chicago and went back home. What happened in Chicago holds clues to serious divisions in the black community, and to which foundation Barack Obama truly represents.