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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  • Jim Bean

    The actual definition of racism is the belief that one race is inferior to another. The most profound racists in America bar none, are the white liberals who feel their superiority to black people imposes upon them a moral obligation to use that superiority to “help” our less capable and less intellectually fortunate black citizens.
    When someone says something critical of a black person, the white liberal is compelled to block the criticism by stepping in between the critic and the helpless black person because they just know that person can’t defend himself without better qualified assistance. When the black person’s behaviors get them in a pickle, the white liberal is compelled to step forward and point out why they ‘can’t help it’ because things are ‘different’ for them. When the black person falters economically, the white liberal is compelled to provide crutches because they are especially tuned-in to their infirmities and limitations. When the black fails educationally, the white liberal is compelled to lower the bar because – you know – they can’t jump that high. When the black fails in the work place the white liberal is driven to create special conditions more aligned with their ‘special needs.’

    Then, when some critical thinker says, “Who do you think you are, white Liberal? Get the H out of the way. These people are equal to everyone else, and just as capable as anyone else of navigating their way through life without your misguided help”, the white Liberal (and this has got to be the mother-of-all ironies) accuses the person saying “treat them as equals” of being a ‘racist’ – which is precisely what Palin is getting at.

    • Why do I get all the derailing trolls? Thanks for stealing the agency of black people, dumbass. It’s incredible how you paint white liberals (who have problematic behavior in regards to non-whites, for sure) as belittling non-white people, but yet your whole charade of a rant makes People of Color out to be infantile little trouble-makers.

      As a Puerto Rican, I will say this loudly: You pin your racism on someone else and it comes back to haunt you. Stay off of my articles, please.

      • Jim Bean

        Your desire is an audience devoid of anyone willing to challenge you? Then what is your mission? At least I had enough interest in what you had to say to read your contribution.

      • You’re not challenging. you’re trolling.

      • Jim Bean

        You misrepresented Palin’s statement with, I believe, with malicious intent to inflame the reader.

    • Pipercat

      Projection fallacy based on a false dilemma. This assumption is based solely on first person logic. Third person logic in this fallacy is completely absent which creates the false dilemma. This also falls into the notion of non-responsibility. This assumes irresponsibility, or malice, in action and a disavowal of the action after the fact.

      • Jim Bean

        I think you and I have already discussed maladaptive behaviors and their origins.

      • Pipercat

        … and I kicked your ass. Then you ran away with my boot still stuck in it. You don’t even realize how fucking stupid this bullshit is. You start this nonsense with a simplistic blanket definition of racism then make nothing but singular references to “black” people. Your prejudices will not allow you to create a blanket argument. Furthermore, you use the term “the black?” Fuck me, telegraph how you real feel! You haven’t figured out one little thing, you really suck at this. You spew your shit, get spanked then run away…

      • Jim Bean

        You comment tested my math skills. I had to go back to my original comment and count. I used ‘black’ 8 times and ‘white’ 8 times. How’s come you only saw the black ones? Tell me the truth – did really didn’t look up the definition I asked you to did you? If you do follow through, check on the definition of ‘singular’ while your at it. (Oddly, the author seems content with you’re vile rant but scolded me for offering my viewpoint in a civil manner. What’s the world coming to?)

      • Pipercat

        Your math skills are irrelevant, what is at issue are your social awareness and lack of skill at creating anything close to being logical, or even relevant for that matter. I’m so, so sorry you cannot take a direct challenge your veiled racist effluent. Just for clarification, that wasn’t a rant, that was a punk slap. Moreover, your use of the “the white” is just as vile as use of the “the black.” You just don’t get the fact using one in equal measure does not qualify the use of the other. It in fact makes your shit worse, exponentially.

      • Jordon Oldfather

        U can count I’m impressed

    • Adam

      Since Jim’s foot has obviously not been properly introduced to his mouth, I would like to do the honors. Jim’s foot, this is Jim’s mouth. I have a funny feeling you’ll be spending a lot of time there.

  • Sandy Greer

    I’m scared of this thread, LOL (the comments) but here’s what I think:
    It cracks me up when The Right tells us MLK was ‘conservative’ and would be a Repub today. They are so quick to claim him, when, back in the day, they were loathe to come out from under their white sheets. Forget all about the Dixiecrats fleeing Dems EN MASSE to join the GOP; a friggin’ stampede.
    And then they wonder why they can’t get a vote.
    Bottom line: Folks (ALL colors) know who likes them, and who doesn’t.

  • Jondo

    White people