Would the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. recognize the civil rights movement of today —92 years after his birth, and more than 57 years after his famous “I Have a Dream” speech?
I don’t believe he would. The just goals he fought for, equal opportunity for all and a color-blind society, have been set aside by modern critical race theorists, in favor of divisive identity politics and collective grievance.
The logical outcome of these progressive policies won’t be the world King dreamed of — where “the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”
It will instead be a dystopia not far removed from the reality that so deeply disappointed King, with segregation that is at once educational, societal and economic.
Let me explain.
King’s calls were for integration and justice. Separate was never equal, he knew. He also knew that integration wouldn’t be easy. “Segregation is a cancer in the body politic which must be removed before our moral and democratic health can be realized,” he said in a speech at SMU in 1966.
And it’s here he loses the critical race theorists. They are in fact, advocating a new segregation. At Rice University, for example, some students are demanding a designated space for Black students to hold gatherings. The National Association of Scholars has a report detailing 173 colleges and universities acquiescing to similar demands for segregated centers, spaces and programs.
The quality of education is also becoming resegregated. In the San Diego public school district, where three-quarters of the students are non-white, critical race theory and its nom de guerre, anti-racism, are lowering the expectations for a generation of young learners.
Students there will no longer see their academic grades penalized for disrupting class, turning in work late or not turning it in at all. Those issues are reflected, instead, in students’ “citizenship grades.” But the real world requires punctuality and efficiency. These requirements should be reflected in academic standards. Without them, I fear that students will be put at a severe disadvantage.
The civil rights movement of today is also out of touch with justice. While the theorists calls for defunding and the outright abolition of the police, Black families don’t agree. A full 81% of Blacks surveyed say they don’t want fewer cops; some want an increased police presence to make their neighborhoods safer.
And these two demands of the new civil rights movement — a separate and unequal education system, along with lawless neighborhoods to grow up in — will lead to my third point, worsening economic segregation. When children of color can’t compete in the job market, when businesses fear opening and operating in lawless neighborhoods, we will be further than ever from the mountaintop that King envisioned.
My own life has been spent in the arena of civil rights. I’ve seen much progress, and I’ve seen some setbacks. But I’ve never lost sight of the true goal: equality. Critical race theory threatens all that leaders like King achieved.