Ava DuVernay’s new film Selma indirectly draws a stark contrast between Martin Luther King Jr. and current so-called civil rights leaders.
Released worldwide on Jan. 9, the film depicts King’s struggle to persuade then President Lyndon B. Johnson into proposing legislation guaranteeing African-Americans the right to vote-via threatening to and then marching with his supporters-from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in early 1965.
The soon to be adopted bill — which became the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — eventually, eliminated obstructionist tactics used by southern registrars to prevent African-Americans from registering and then casting their ballots — in lieu of Reconstruction amendments, which guaranteed those rights — but were rarely granted.
Congress previously had passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — which outlawed segregation in public places — but did not address issues pertaining to suffrage.
Selma depicts King as an articulate, charismatic, principled, and intensely religious young man — risking his life — as he and his followers suffer appalling violence — courtesy of Alabama state troopers — while attempting to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge, which extends from Route 80 into the center of town.
While watching the film, many viewers may note the distinction between tactics and ideals used by Dr. King — commitment to non-violence, personal responsibility, respect for private property, law enforcement personnel etc. — and that of his self-professed successors such as Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Michael Eric Dyson and others who claim to be stewards of King’s legacy.
It is incumbent upon us to ask the following question.
In the aftermath of riots in Ferguson that resulted in the destruction of dozens of minority-owned businesses — and the tragic death of Eric Garner at the hands of a police department largely crippled by a mayor intent on instituting politically correct law enforcement practices — coupled with demands by modern day civil rights leaders and their progressive allies — who do not hesitate to advocate for the continuation of racial preferences in education and employment: Has Dr. King’s legacy been hijacked by those who seek to manipulate historic grievances for the purpose of maintaining political and financial power?
King’s 1963 March on Washington — where he insisted that every American should be judged by “the content of one’s character” rather than skin pigmentation — flatly refutes the validity of any policies or practices (Affirmative Action) that contradict this sentiment.
It also is fair to assume that Dr. King would champion an environment where peoples of diverse backgrounds could have an open and honest discussion about race relations without being subjected to threats of verbal, financial, vocational, or physical violence.
Such an environment does not currently exist in the United States due to the constraints of political correctness — a doctrine that not only stifles free speech — but prevents honest individuals from working together to improve race relations. And the institutions that claim to be proponents of such a dialogue — namely academia — are the most egregious violators of said efforts.
When common sense policies such as requiring all individuals to submit identification before stepping into a voting booth are labelled as attempts by resurrect Jim Crow-Era barriers, accusations of racism lose their meaning and make it less likely that legitimate examples of discrimination will be taken seriously by the general public.
On a daily basis, the average American is subjected to a litany of disingenuous claims suggesting that the following institutions or groups are inherently racist: law enforcement, banks, corporations, Republicans, Conservatives, Tea Party Members, and even Capitalism itself. And when one arbitrarily attacks one or all of these parties in conjunction — under the mantle of promoting racial progress — disastrous results inevitably ensue.
King’s message was not to tear down American society and its institutions. Nor was it a call to commit violence or make excuses for an individual’s situation in life. He dreamed of an America where every individual regardless of skin color would be free to take responsibility for their own lives and reject the very notion of alleged white privledge.
The final message is this: On January 19, when the nation and the world gathers together to honor this remarkable man, ignore those who would use his legacy to advance causes that would damage America and her ideals.
Bryan has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and a life-long passion for politics at all levels. He has interned in the Maryland General Assembly and has volunteered for several congressional campaigns. Given this particular background, he has a unique insight into the dynamics of political analysis. When he is not writing, Bryan spends his time reading about history and frequenting Chinese restaurants.