The Martin Luther King “I Have a Dream” speech is one of the most famous moments in American History, and, as The New York Times commented today, World History as well. People oppressed all over the world now look to that speech as permission to try. Does King’s Dream belong to just one minority in one section in time, or to everyone?
Many say it’s the first, including gay-hating presidential unlikely Rick Santorum. Watch him spew and get smacked:
It’s not my business to insist that, yes, King’s Dream speech can be co-opted by whoever longs to break free and equally share the world with the majority. I don’t know what Dr. King’s intentions were when he wrote the speech. I’m assuming he was pretty squarely focused on black civil rights. Yeah, I’m gonna go ahead and just bet the millions I don’t have on that likelihood.
It is my business, though, to give myself permission to dream as well. As I wrote in August 2010:
“Glenn Beck held a “Restoring Honor” rally in Washington, D.C. Saturday at the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which was held at the same spot. And while I can’t imagine anything more vile and disrespectful to that historic event than the mostly all-white rally, they had an ace up their sleeve. MLK’s niece Alveda King spoke. It was a shrewd move to avoid an overwhelming pall of slimy ickiness over the event. Instead, it was only a generous coating of slimy ickiness.
Something you should know about Alveda King, however, is that she is an anti-gay maniac. She has recently made herself a public speaking gun-for-hire, notably at a NOM gathering (I would have said “rally,” but it was just too poorly attended to warrant the term) in Atlanta. At this divine reception, Alveda stirred up emotions with an eloquent speech worthy of her uncle’s pro-love, pro-respect, pro-civil liberties mindset:
Would Dr. King have agreed with his niece?
CNN’s John Blake asks similar questions this morning in an article called “What Did MLK Think About Gay People?”
One argument that suggests he did not is offered by Michael Long, author of a new book about King’s associate Bayard Rustin called “I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters.” He offers a letter exchange between Dr. King and a young boy at Ebony Magazine in 1958:
“I am a boy,” an anonymous writer told King. “But I feel about boys the way I ought to feel about girls. I don’t want my parents to know about me. What can I do?”
In calm, pastoral tones, King told the boy that his problem wasn’t uncommon, but required “careful attention.”
“The type of feeling that you have toward boys is probably not an innate tendency, but something that has been culturally acquired,” King wrote. “You are already on the right road toward a solution, since you honestly recognize the problem and have a desire to solve it.”
That seems to settle that. However, I must tell you that Bayard Rustin was gay, and Dr. King refused to distance himself from Rustin in 1963 despite the latter’s open homosexuality. Rustin was an early gay rights organizer, and he brought that “attention to detail” (gay) to planning out King’s March on Washington.
What do you make of that sip of stew?
Back to my 2010 article:
“Coretta Scott King, humanitarian and wife to MLK[,] [i]n 2004, before it became a little hipper (thanks, NoH8!) to support us,she spoke out passionately against Bush’s proposed Federal Marriage Amendment. “Constitutional amendments should be used to expand freedom, not restrict it,” the Great Lady (who has since passed) said. “Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protection, whether by marriage or civil union. A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages is a form of gay bashing and it would do nothing at all to protect traditional marriages.”
Alveda joined Beck and Sarah Palin and other people who should be remanded to a nervous hospital on Saturday. They ignored black civil rights activists (probably socialists), who objected to the rally’s timing, location and content as tacky (socialists!) and held a counter-rally called “Reclaim the Dream.”
But what about me? I used the above picture, a very clear parallel to black civil rights during a very sad time. Am I just as tacky? A good deal of black activists object to the gay community’s insistence on the parallels between their struggle and ours. Sexual orientation is different than skin color. Yes, it is.
Would Dr. King have supported Marriage Equality?”
Dr. King’s daughter, Rev. Bernice King, also adamantly says ‘no!’. From CNN:
During a speech at a church meeting in New Zealand, she said her father “did not take a bullet for same-sex marriage.”
Pretty tough talk. So, daughter and niece say no, and wife said yes. I personally want to know how Dr. King would have weighed in on the deplorable upper-class dogfight between Madonna and Elton John at the Golden Globes last night. If he’s anything like me, he would have said “You both have children. Shut your mouths!”
Back to my 2010 article (one last time!):
“Would Thomas Jefferson [also have supported gay rights]? John F. Kennedy? Possibly. Possibly not. The greatness of these men, however, is in that they understood that there is a spirit, a pioneering spirit, that is greater than any man. There are laws greater than them. Laws that oppressed minorities cannot and will not be contained forever. Jefferson’s words were written intentionally snug but flexible, so that as time went on, oppressions he could not even conceive of yet could be defeated.
Whether King would have supported us or not, his words he spoke were intended to be more far-reaching than just his own community on just that day. And as long as period-rags like Beck try to use a good man’s preachings not for opening hearts but for emboldening straight, close-minded Christian white people into trying to maintain their rapidly receding stranglehold of racial, religious, sexual and financial majority on America and the world at large, we will attempt to keep the Dr.’s true spirit alive.”
But what was his true spirit? As Stephen Tuck [of The New York Times Op-Eds] pondered, King’s spirit has been reinterpreted by almost anyone willing to do so. How are we to decide which of us is right? I think the point is to clean our hearts of animosity, hit them with a tuning fork and listen to them. We do what we think is right, and we’ll let history sort out the victor.