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January 20, 2014 3:37 PM Right Angles on MLK Day

By Ed Kilgore

Aware that I was risking exposure to “MLK was a Republican” lies and the usual stuff about the only racists being race-card-playing liberals, I checked out a few conservative sites today to see what they had to say about the MLK holiday. At Townhall, there was a piece attacking PETA for comparing animal abuse to the injustices King fought. It included the revelation that King was a meat-eater. Ho hum.

National Review looked more promising at first, with a big featured piece by Kevin Williamson, one of America’s most audacious civil rights revisionists. But turns out Williamson was writing about the exceptional work ethic of wealthy people, and how poor people would benefit from emulating them. He did not, to my disappointment, work in any reference, ironic or otherwise, to the SCLC’s Poor People’s Campaign.

A little further down on the NRO site I did find a paint-by-the-numbers essay by Roger Clegg and Heritage’s Hans von Spakovsky asserting, on the strict basis of the famous “content of their character” sentence in the “I Have a Dream Speech,” that MLK would approve of legislation ending affirmative action (if anyone even vaguely associated with the actual Martin Luther King seemed to think that assertion was valid, I haven’t heard it).

There was also an item referring to the “March on Washington,” but turns out it’s about the annual anti-choice “March for Life,” which is this coming week.

And it all came together at RedState, where Breeane Howe regretted her megachurch pastor’s reluctance in a sermon about MLK to talk about abortion:

Despite the enormous work Martin Luther King Jr. did to free African-Americans, black babies are being murdered at an alarming rate under the guise of freedom. Abortion is the number one killer of African-Americans. I believe The Radiance Foundation puts it best when they say, “The inhumanity of slavery has been replaced by the inhumanity of abortion.” 79% of Planned Parenthood facilities are located in minority neighborhoods. This is to say nothing of the babies that are murdered because they are girls or would be born with a disability. As Christians we should never let the opportunity pass to speak out against the current holocaust in our own backyard. If anyone understood the importance of speaking up it was King: ”Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Abortion = slavery = genocide. I suppose if you actually believe that, then it makes sense to commemorate MLK Day, and every day, not focusing on inequality or poverty or racism but on re-criminalizing abortion. MLK’s niece Alveda constantly invokes her uncle’s spirit (though not so much anything he actually said or did) in this attempted branding of the anti-choice movement as the “new civil rights movement.” But as Tara Culp-Ressler noted at Think Progress a few months ago, MLK himself was an admirer of that great anti-choice devil figure, Margaret Sanger, founder of the predecessor organization to Planned Parenthood:

In 1960, King served on a committee for a Planned Parenthood study on contraception, explaining, “I have always been deeply interested in and sympathetic with the total work of the Planned Parenthood Federation.” He repeatedly wrote about why family planning programs are important, and why they need to be funded by the government. In 1966, King received a Margaret Sanger award from Planned Parenthood “in recognition of excellence and leadership in furthering reproductive health and reproductive rights.”
King saw an explicit link between the struggle for racial equality and the struggle for reproductive justice. In the acceptance speech he wrote for his award from Planned Parenthood — which his wife, Coretta Scott King, accepted in his place — he explained that reproductive rights activists like Planned Parenthood’s Margaret Sanger help further broader movements for equality. “Margaret Sanger had to commit what was then called a crime in order to enrich humanity, and today we honor her courage and vision; for without them there would have been no beginning. Our sure beginning in the struggle for equality by nonviolent direct action may not have been so resolute without the tradition established by Margaret Sanger and people like her,” King wrote, going on to say that the African American community has “a special and urgent concern” with issues of family planning.

All in all, maybe the Weekly Standard site has the “right” idea for the right today: grinding its usual axes without trying to name-check Martin Luther King as an ally.

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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