Did Pre-MLK America Really Need Redemption?

Peter Brimelow
In the FrontPageMagazine.com


that Paul Gottfried mentions below, we had an
exchange about Martin Luther King with the
interlocutor, Jamie Glazov. I thriftily reproduce
my comment here, in honor of Martin Luther King

Brimelow: As a practical
matter, this effort to make King a "hero – for


Americans" is just not working out. Here in rural New
England, for example, the public schools have made him a
more important figure than George Washington. My little
boy has been drafted into Christmas pageant-type things
about the evils of segregation since he was in
kindergarten. As there are no blacks and no history of
segregation in this area, the net effect is simply to
inculcate vague white guilt of a sort that would drive

David Horowitz


Ironically, not merely was
there no segregation in this area, but it was a hotbed
of abolitionism. The local farmboys formed a famous

that was
shot to bits at Cold Harbor. My son certainly knows some
of their descendants (none of this

Proposition Nation

nonsense here). Yet this story is never mentioned. I
have never found a public school teacher who has heard
of it. For these people, the

King cult

represents a species of historical dispossession.

I don`t think King can bear
the symbolic weight our interlocutor wants – not merely
because of King`s personal failings (adultery,
plagiarism, fellow-traveling etc.) but also because he
quite probably didn`t believe all that tactical
color-blind rhetoric himself. That certainly is the
argument of Michael Eric Dyson`s book

I May Not Get There With You.

Paul Gottfried remembers the unredeemed America – and
Americans. For more on King,

Marcus Epstein`s
brilliant analysis on (where else?)

Lew Rockwell.com

Martin Luther King
has replaced Jesus Christ as the
central figure in human redemptive history. This year`s

Holiday Season
, as

is now called, brought forth a torrent of

moralizing about King and the civil
rights movement. One standout illustration: the December
12 syndicated column,

“Trent Lott Must Resign,”
in which Charles

told us what America is about.
Krauthammer proclaimed that, by daring to praise the
presidential run of Dixiecrat

Strom Thurmond
, now-disgraced Mississippi Senator Trent Lott gave “evidence of
a historical blindness that is utterly disqualifying for
national office.”


civil rights movement
, as led by King, was,
according to Krauthammer, the defining moral moment in
modern America. Indeed, King had made us morally whole:

“The point is not just
what King and his followers did for African Americans,
but what they did — by validating America`s original
promise of freedom and legal equality — for the rest of
America. How can Lott, speaking of `all these problems
over all these years,` not see this?”

One reason for Lott`s apparent blindness (if we might
attribute to this senator a clarification he may be too

dim or opportunistic
to offer) was that King was not
just asking for legal equality but for a good deal more
– such as black political empowerment, racial

, and a socialist economy. In 1983,
President Reagan and nearly a quarter of the Senate
balked at the idea of

proclaiming a national holiday

, given his private vices,

Marxist-Leninist affiliations
, and relative
unimportance compared to America`s founders. During
King`s life and even after his death, moderate

William Buckley
, Frank Meyer,

James Burnham
, and – my mentor – Will Herberg spoke
scathingly about King as a dangerous,
Communist-controlled rabble-rouser. Were they all guilty
of “historical blindness” and therefore unfit for
“national office”?

Paralleling Krauthammer, FrontPageMagazine.com`s
James Glazov, in the course of somewhat immoderately
moderating the webzine`s January 10

on “White Nationalism,” asserted that it
was King who lifted us above

“…not only the terrifying and inhuman
suffering of black Americans at the hands of racist
whites, but also the darkness that all of America was
submerged in because of racism. That King put his life
on the line to bring justice in this tragic area of
American life I consider heroic.”

I understand that Glazov was born after those dark
ages had passed – and, moreover, in Russia.
 (Coincidentally, Krauthammer was also born abroad, in
Uruguay.) As someone who was born in the U.S. and was
around during the dark ages, I don`t recall them being
quite as dark as we are now told.

Years before King`s supposedly redemptive death,
whose assassination not surprisingly set off a wave of
black violence, I went to school and played ball with
black teenagers in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Contrary to
the current Authorized Version, my black classmates were
neither victimized nor denied legal equality. One of
them, our junior class president at

Bassick High School
, Sammy White, lived in a
two-parent family, and, like others of his race in that
pre-MLK era, bore no perceptible animosity toward

When my parents and I went into New York, we saw
blacks and whites eating in the same restaurants and
attending the same public and recreational events.
Perhaps this was an optical illusion, of the kind that
pagans suffered when they imagined they were looking at
pagan apparitions. Although segregation did exist in the
South, it was not a political institution elsewhere,
despite the fact that blacks, like Italians, Irish,
Hungarians, and Jews, had their own


From my youthful trips in Southern states, I
discovered that blacks there were indeed segregated. But
this situation seemed less appalling to me – perhaps I
had not been sufficiently sensitized – than the
Auschwitzian oppression that everyone now assumes was
the lot of blacks in the antediluvian South.

Of course, my parents had escaped the real Auschwitz.

Violence certainly accompanied the civil rights
revolution, which included an invasion of the South by
civil rights activists and the
federal military
. But the isolated violence
inflicted on activists pales in comparison to the black

, directed against whites and other blacks,
which has characterized American urban life

since the late sixties

Black conservatives Walter Williams and Elizabeth
Wright have made the same judgments about the relative
situations of black society before and after the civil
rights upheaval.  (See Wright`s publication

Issues and Views

Note I am not offering a defense for legal
segregation. What bothers me, as always, are the neocons,
who echo the PC hysteria of their leftist comrades.
Although they never stop glorifying America as an

or “promise” – or more recently, as a
war-making machine – they appear to despise America as
it actually existed before they and their friends took

What neoconservatives like is America as a grab-bag
of rhetoric, or as a

multicultural cuisine

domestic service industry
that exists for their
pleasure in

New York

The American people who inhabited the country
until recently seem as alien to them as the horsemen of
Outer Mongolia. 


Max Boot
is right when he observes in Wall Street
2, 2003
) that neoconservative has come to mean
“the kind of right-winger a liberal wouldn`t be
embarrassed to have over for cocktails.”

Why should they? Outside of shrieking anti-Semitism
against those who don`t fancy their imperialism, these
eminently inevitable “conservatives” are identical to
those who invite them to cocktails.  

Let them drink a toast to St. Martin together. They
all deserve each other.

Paul Gottfried
is Professor of Humanities at
Elizabethtown College, PA. He is the author of

After Liberalism

Carl Schmitt: Politics and Theory
, and
Multiculturalism And The Politics of Guilt: Toward A Secular Theocracy.

January 19, 2003