I have tremendous respect for the memory of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Being a Christian, a scholar, a professor of theology, and a student of history, how could I not? I see him as a martyr for human dignity. Like him, I also honor Mahatma Gandhi, from whose legacy Dr. King learned the principles of satyagraha (non-violent, absolute refusal to cooperate with evil). To paraphrase Dr. King, our problems as a species aren’t caused by the varied shades of our skin color, but by the content–or lack of content–to be found in our character.
There are those who say that religion and politics should never meet. I am not among them. I agree with Gandhi: “Those who say that religion has nothing to do with politics don’t know what religion is.” I’d add that it’s what we do with our faith that makes all the difference. Are we fervent or fanatical? Is our creed a light for understanding or a sword for conquering? Does it liberate or enslave? Does it offer to the world a forgiveness for which it greatly yearns or does it hold us bound to the chains of past wrongs? MLK Day 2012 offers examples to learn by.
First, the sublime. In a recent interview to mark the holiday, Alveda King had some important things to say about Dr. King. Her words are worth hearing because she is the niece of the civil rights leader slain 44 years ago. “I believe if my uncle were here, he would be encouraging the president to turn to the pro-life platform. My uncle was very pro-life. And certainly if he did not do that, my uncle would be praying for him, and perhaps giving his vote to other candidates.”
In other sources I see that Alveda speaks of the fact that her uncle was critical even of the ancient Romans for their practice of infanticide. Surely it should not surprise us that a well-read, ordained Baptist minister and intelligent leader like Dr. King was critical of abortion. How long does any species survive when it begins to destroy its offspring?
Now for the ridiculous. Rev. Raphael Warnock is pastor of Ebenezar Baptist Church in Atlanta, a congregation where Dr. King also served as a cooperating pastor at the time he was assasinated. In a Sunday sermon intended to honor the civil rights leader on the day before the MLK holiday, Dr. Warnock criticized presidential candidate Newt Gingrich for “scape-goating and race baiting,” which he referred to as “an old game that’s part of the southern strategy.”
Rev. Warnock’s anger and his racism radar were reportedly activated by recent comments by Gingrich. “More people were on food stamps today because of Obama’s policies than ever in history,” the GOP candidate has said. If invited to speak to the NAACP, he’d go “to their convention and talk about why the African-American community should demand pay checks and not be satisfied with food stamps.”
According to an authoritative government website, there were 44,708,726 people using SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the food stamp program) in 2011. According to the US Census Bureau, there are 312,862,687 of us residing here as of yesterday. That means that, by government estimates, about 14% of us are receiving nutrition assistance–not a difficult thing to do given the fact that a family of four can receive SNAP benefits on an EBT card while earning nearly $40,000 a year. For that same family, basic SNAP benefits add just over $8,000 of annual nutrition assistance (and beneficiaries may also qualify for other government assistance).
Before your eyes glaze over and I lose your interest because of so many numbers coming your way, let me get to the fact that matters most: as reported by the USDA, there are more people of European descent receiving SNAP benefits than those of African descent. So I can only assume, with my tongue planted firmly within my cheek, that Rev. Warnock is accusing New Gingrich of hating white people.
Or we could take a long, hard look at economic realities as they have hit the African-American community because of the failures of the Obama presidency. Americans of African descent need to ask themselves a question: who are the genuine race baiters in our nation’s political arena? Who’s manipulating whom? Whose support can always be counted upon–and is demanded by which party?
Conservatives have learned that they can’t always count on the Republican party. It’s time for our citizens of proud African heritage to realize that they can’t always count on the Democrat party.
Perhaps a quotation from Dr. King is in order: “Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ And vanity comes along and asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’ But conscience asks the question ‘Is it right?’ And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right.”
Oh, here’s one more tidbit of interesting information for the readers of this blog. It comes from the same news report that gave us the information about Rev. Warnock’s pulpit rant against Newt Gingrich. Let me quote it precisely so there is no misunderstanding: “White House Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President Valerie Jarrett was seated near the pulpit during the service.”
Huh. Imagine that.