The Disgusting Co-opting Of Dr. King’s Legacy

Sarah PalinFrom the Shooting Fish In A Barrel files we have our old frienemy, Sarah Palin celebrating co-opting Martin Luther King Day by inserting her racist foot in her racist mouth on her racist Facebook page yesterday.

Happy MLK, Jr. Day!

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Mr. President, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. and all who commit to ending any racial divide, no more playing the race card.

When Half-Term first entered the national spotlight and would set off the careers of many a comedian, she came in the middle of Pick on Community Organizers Day. Conservatives love to pick on people in lower social situations than themselves. The lowest among the conservative welfare set like to mock poor people and people of color who do the diligent work to organize and work for a better ‘scape of their circumstances. Those dastards who dare to defy the powers that be, who question the good intentions of mayors and building commissioners and land developers and chemical plants. How dare those ungrateful and lazy community organizers organize!* Oh, but don’t worry: Good ol’ girl Sarah Palin joined good ol’ boys like ex-New York ex-Mayor Rudy Giuliani (who certainly had his share of clashes with community organizers and activists) in attacking the work of community organizers.

So that was my first clue that Palin was racist. Certainly classist. The nail in the door for me was when she evoked “Real America” on that very same campaign.

We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation. This is where we find the kindness and the goodness and the courage of everyday Americans.

The “best of America” is small town America. Where, to contrast with the popular White conservative notions of “urban America,” the people are “hard working” and “very patriotic.” This kind of statement is intentionally evocative and exclusive – excluding non-white people particularly as Brown and Black people are considered by White Supremacist imagination to be “lazy” and “mean” and “thankless.” This is about as explicit of a racist dog-whistle as to be expected and said in a small city in the South – something she learned from her American hero, Ronald Reagan.

So Palin’s misunderstanding of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech (or, rather, the two lines that white conservatives love to pull out of context and misinterpret) isn’t surprising of course. White conservatives love to use that phrase to shoot down racial justice topics like Affirmative Action and anti-hate speech legislation while sitting at the top of the race pile. From which they pull out their Race Card Card.

What is a Race Card Card, you ask? It’s what some white people like to pull out when people of color point out that the system is unjust for them. “Why does it always have to be about race?” they ask. “Why do you people always pull out the Race Card?” It is a means of shaming the oppressed into submission and silence (and I can guarantee that someone in the comments section will pull it out). It’s a ridiculous assertion particularly to the Obama administration which has been extra careful to not wade into racial waters due to the extra sensitivity of White Americans weary of giving up an inch of power. You know who else was accused of playing the Race Card in his time (and definitely would be today)?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. That’s who.

So, full circle of mind-numbingness from Sarah Palin. What else did we expect from her?

Not to be outdone, mostly-white PETA, which has a history of using black people and the history of slavery as props in its war on animal abuse and meat-eating, came out with this co-opting of King yesterday on the Twitter machine:

Today, we honor Martin Luther King Jr. & the plight of animals who are tortured, abused & neglected:  #NeverBeSilent

and more recently upon seeing some push-back:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

RT if you agree w/ #MartinLutherKing & will #NeverBeSilent about animal abuse!

While a carnivore, I do believe that PETA’s messages of animal abuse, torture and neglect are important. I seek to eat less meat and am curious about more ethical and humane behaviors towards non-human animals. However, PETA’s continued usurpation of the images and icons of Black History serve to de-humanize the very subjects that they are using to sensationalize their goals. People are not animals and to treat them as such is to remove their agency and uniqueness.  This statements in context are not okay in a society and nation that has brutally and in every way treated black people as if they are chattel. It is not okay for a very white and upper-middle class  propaganda company to exploit the histories and narratives of people of color while denying them their own agency. PETA has yet to truly interrogate itself on how horrible this is.

So, those who’d be considered to be liberal can also be… problematic when it comes to racism and claiming Dr. King’s legacy as their own.

Oh, and lest we forget, the internet has also given us p0rn, so… Do we see where this is going?


*Remember, this criticism comes from the same people who complain about Latinos and Black people “always waiting for handouts.”


When he’s not riding both his city’s public transit system and evil mayor, Jasdye teaches at a community college and writes about the intersection of equality and faith - with an occasional focus on Chicago - at the Left Cheek blog and on the Left Cheek: the Blog Facebook page. Check out more from Jasdye in his archives as well!


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