Last weekend, our local NAACP celebrated our beloved Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. There was music, there were readings and there was fellowship.Afterward, as I scrolled through social media, I was motivated by all of the wonderful posts, celebrations, and articles about King. There was one article in particular that resonated with me in a negative way. The article asserted that King had a dream of a colorblind society. Wait. What?
Politics have become the divide that has caused great turmoil in our nation as we struggle to maintain civil discourse and mutual understanding. Spinning a false narrative that King wanted a colorblind society is dangerous and, as USC psychologist Hajar Yazdiha puts it, “colorblindness is a way to obfuscate systemic inequality.”
Instead of confronting systemic racism and oppression, some folks would rather push the colorblind agenda than deal with the issue at hand. Why, you ask? Political confrontations are not something many leaders are willing to dive into. But that is the problem. Confronting the issues is the only way to effect and bring about real change. Having difficult conversations that make us uneasy can foster conversations that can move us forward.
As I read many articles on this topic last weekend, I noticed something. King’s words are often twisted and used to go against the very injustices that he fought against.
An example of this phenomenon is shared in Russell Contrera’s article, “Weaponizing MLK’s words in a divided Nation.” In the article, Contrera points out how Mitch McConnell referenced King when he won re-election in 2020.
McConnell opposed the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act — a bill King saw signed into law. In 2013, parts of the law were struck down by Republicans because “the conditions that existed in the south in 1965 do not exist today,” an assertion that many in the African-American community challenge. Corey Booker responded, saying, “...I know this is not 1965. and that’s what makes me so outraged. It is 2022 and they are blatantly removing more polling places from the counties where Blacks and Latinos are overrepresented.”
While I am hopeful that any article or journal that discusses King’s dream of colorblindness is not meant to spin an erroneous interpretation, I find it necessary to explain why such an inaccurate interpretation fuels the fire of misrepresentation. In the words of Bernice King, daughter of Dr. King, ”When [my father] talked about the beloved community, he talked about everyone bringing their gifts, their talents, their cultural experiences,” she said. “We live in a society where we may have differences, of course, but we learn to celebrate these differences.”
Sounds like the perfect interpretation to me.