[Marxism] Answering the Right Wing's Attempt to Use Martin Luther King

Brian Shannon brian_shannon at verizon.net
Sun Jan 15 12:36:27 MST 2006

Here a source to use to answer any right wing attempts to portray MLK  
as one who would have opposed affirmative action.

The Right Has a Dream
Martin Luther King as an Opponent of Affirmative Action
By Paul Rockwell

. . . In the Washington Post (4/26/91), Charles Krauthammer pitted  
King against diversity. Progressives, he writes, "have traded King's  
dream for something called diversity.... It is the opponents of race- 
conscious public policy who today speak in the name of values that  
King championed."

The National Review (3/20/95) trashed affirmative action with a cover  
story depicting a black kid, a kid with a Mexican sombrero, and a  
white girl happily climbing ladders, while two white boys fall down  
"the slippery slope of quotas." The lead of the article: "The civil- 
rights movement has strayed far from the color-blind principles of  
Martin Luther King, Jr."

. . . When Gov. Mike Foster of Lousiana signed an order . . . to  
abolish affirmative action, he presented the act as a fulfillment of  
King's dream. "I can't find anywhere in King's writings, that King  
wanted reverse discrimination. He just wanted to end all  
discrimination based on color."

In To Renew America, Newt Gingrich praised King as an individualist  
who opposed "group rights." And in promoting the "California Civil  
Rights Initiative," a measure [banning] affirmative action, Gov. Pete  
Wilson invokes King's name more than preachers quote the Bible.  
Backers of the initiative show no fear of media accountability as  
they claim King as one of their own.

Setting the record straight

. . . The term "affirmative action" did not come into currency until  
after King's death--but it was King himself . . . who initiated the  
first successful national affirmative action campaign: "Operation  

. . . King staffers gathered data on the hiring patterns of  
corporations doing business in black communities, and called on  
companies to rectify disparities. "At present, SCLC has Operation  
Breadbasket functioning in some 12 cities, and the results have been  
remarkable," King wrote . . . . boasting of "800 new and upgraded  
jobs [and] several covenants with major industries."

. . . As far back as 1964, [King wrote] "Whenever the issue of  
compensatory treatment for the Negro is raised, some of our friends  
recoil in horror. The Negro should be granted equality, they agree;  
but he should ask nothing more. On the surface, this appears  
reasonable, but it is not realistic."

King . . . never confused the dream with American reality. . . . "A  
society that has done something special against the Negro for  
hundreds of years must now do something special for the Negro" to  
compete on a just and equal basis (quoted in Let the Trumpet Sound,  
by Stephen Oates).

. . . King [once] compared affirmative action-style policies to the  
GI Bill: "Within common law we have ample precedents for special  
compensatory programs.... And you will remember that America adopted  
a policy of special treatment for her millions of veterans after the  


King's reference to the GI Bill deserves an update, because Ira  
Katznelson has shown how the GI Bill itself increased the gap between  
white and black.

"In the immediate postwar period, Katznelson convincingly argues, the  
GI  Bill widened further the economic and social differences between  
the races.  Southern segregation meant that educational opportunities  
available to  whites were withheld from blacks, who were forced to  
compete for a very  limited number of places in all-black  
institutions. Even in the North many  colleges and universities  
either excluded blacks or admitted only a  handful. GI loans for  
buying houses or financing small businesses were very  difficult for  
blacks to obtain because of the discriminatory policies of  banks and  
other lending agencies. Katznelson concludes that most government   
social policies during the 1930s and 1940s were, in effect, part of a  
vast  affirmative action program for whites that left blacks further  
behind than  they had been at the beginning of the period. He makes a  
chilling case."


Finally, a personal story that I have sent before.

Despite the relative privilege that she had as Assistant  
Superintendent at Patton State Hospital in California, my mother  
remained resentful for not getting the advancement that she felt she  

Gizella Whitman Shannon graduated from Pennsylvania Women's Medical  
College in 1932 or 1933 and served her internship in NYC. She wanted  
to become a surgeon, but found that that was pretty much a closed  
male world.

She first worked at the Hudson River State Hospital in Poughkeepsie,  
NY, later in California. When WWII broke out, she responded to the  
U.S. Navy recruitment for physicians. A certain rank was promised.  
She was told that she could not have that rank because she was a  
woman and younger male officers would have to salute her and take  
orders from her. That dimmed her patriotism a little and she declined  
the offer.

The GI Bill is the best known source of benefits for veterans. An  
added benefit for veterans was that extra points were added to civil  
service exam scores. I am not sure if they had to pass the test  
minimum before that kicked in.

  Assistant Superintendent at Patton for many yearsl, she was also in  
the top 3 for the Superintendent's exam for 10 years and never got an  
appointment. (You had to be in the top 3 to be considered.) Those  
ranked above her were there solely because of the extra points that  
were added for the WWII service. There were no women superintendents  
among the approximately 10 institutions at the time.

Of course this affected all women who took civil service exams in  
California and elsewhere. Whatever score they received, a man with  
the same score, but who had served in WWII in any capacity, ended up  
with a higher rank.

Brian Shannon


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