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August 28, 2013 10:53 AM The Legacy of the March on Washington Through the Looking Glass

By Ed Kilgore

No one has a monopoly on interpretation of the 1963 March on Washington or its legacy, and there are obviously many valid perspectives from which to look at the current status of civil rights and economic opportunity. But having said that, it’s pretty remarkable to see coverage of the anniversary at a daily newspaper in Washington itself heavily devoted to the proposition that African-Americans have squandered the rights for which those marchers and the movement they represented made so many sacrifices.

I don’t have access to the print edition of the Washington Times, but the lead “story” in the digital edition is an op-ed by Dr. Ben Carson, the recently annointed chief spokesperson for the conservative perspective on race relations:

If King could be resurrected and see what was going on in America today, I suspect he would be extraordinarily pleased by many of the things he observed and disappointed by others. He, like almost everyone else, would be thrilled to know that there was a two-term black president of the United States of America and a black attorney general, as well as many other high government officials, business executives and university presidents.
Perhaps just as thrilling would be the sight of black doctors, lawyers, airline pilots, construction foremen, news anchors, school superintendents and almost any other position imaginable in America. The fact that seeing blacks in such positions no longer raises eyebrows is a testimony to the tremendous progress that has been made in America over the last 50 years.
There are some areas, however, where I suspect he might be less than thrilled. The epidemic of black-on-black violent crime indicates that there has been a significant deterioration of values in the black community. Not only are the lives of their fellow blacks and others being devalued by street thugs, but the lives of unborn babies are being destroyed in disproportionate numbers in the black community.

So the important trends to note today are that black folks are preying on each other and killing their offspring. But that’s not all:

King was a huge advocate of education and would be horrified by the high dropout rates in many inner-city high schools. He, like many others, was vilified, beaten and jailed for trying to open the doors of education to everyone, regardless of their race.
If he were alive today, he would have to witness people turning their backs on those open doors and choosing to pursue lives of crime or dependency….
Perhaps the biggest disappointment for King would be the wholesale adoption of a victim mentality that makes people feel that they are entitled to being cared for by others rather than working tirelessly to create wealth and opportunities for their progeny.
The amount of wealth that resides within the black community today is staggering. If the black community, like Jewish, Korean and other cultures in America, learned how to turn over dollars within their own community at least a couple of times before sending them out into the larger society, they would create wealth….
Finally, we should all remember the aspect of his dream in which he desired that people should be judged by their character and not by the color of their skin. In part, this means no one should assume that a black person would adhere to certain political orthodoxy any more so than a white person would.

This last invocation of King, of course, is on behalf of the tiny percentage of black folks who currently object to the pathologies of their fellow African-Americans by voting Republican. At least Carson did not, as conservatives often do, claim King was himself a Republican.

Now Carson’s whole shtick these days is to serve as a heretical “truth-teller” willing to administer political tough love to African-Americans. That’s his prerogative. But when transmitted through organs like the Washington Times, his “message” can only be understood as comforting the comfortable by afflicting the afflicted. It’s a shame readers of that paper will come away with the impression that the “dream” associated with the March on Washington is now being best advanced by politicians who want to crack down on black criminals, ban abortion, reduce dependency by eliminating safety-net programs, and destroy the “plantation” of the Democratic Party by making it harder to vote.

You can consider the March on Washington and its leaders and agenda misguided if you want. But please, conservatives, stop trying to hijack it.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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