“Glenn asked me about the philosophy and the strength to love that my uncle Martin had. I’ve been sharing that with Glenn and I’m hearing and seeing Glenn embrace those principles.” The “Glenn” that Alveda King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s niece, referred to in a recent interview conservative talk show host and provocateur Glenn Beck.
King’s bold declaration that she’ll proudly stand with Beck on the Lincoln Monument at his “Restoring Honor” rally on August 28 was tepid compared to an even more defiant press release she sent out to urge conservatives to boycott what she brands “America’s abortion industry.” In the release she said that the protest “is in my genes.” That was, of course, another not-so-subtle nod to the legacy of August 28, 1963 Dr. King-led march on Washington. None of this should really surprise anyone familiar with Alveda King’s history.
Alveda King has been on the campaign circuit for more than a decade pushing a discriminatory, anti-gay marriage, anti-abortion, hard right family values message. In 1998, she barnstormed the country speaking at rallies against gay rights legislation. Alveda wasn’t the only King family member to stump for a hard right agenda in opposition to abortion and gay rights. Her cousin, Bernice King, MLK’s daughter, has preached the hell and damnation line against what she considers heathens. In her view, that’s liberals, progressives, feminists, gay rights advocates, and modern day civil rights leaders. In case anyone missed the King family connection, her group was named “King for America.”
WATCH ‘TODAY SHOW’ COVERAGE OF THE GLENN BECK RALLY
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Gay rights groups everywhere countered King’s “repent and save yourself” message to gays by citing public statements by King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, in which she said that her husband would be a champion of gay rights if he were alive.
Alveda and Bernice, and other black evangelicals have marched, protested, written letters and petitions denouncing gay marriage and abortion. Some polls even show that black evangelicals’ hostility to gay marriage is much stronger than that of white evangelicals.
So Alveda’s decision to pair up with Beck in Washington was a natural one for her. Beck gives her a national stage and tons of media exposure to push her conservative values message. In turn, she gives Beck something just as valued, the cover of the King name. Beck’s repeatedly bragged to audiences in the build up to his rally that he and conservatives are the inheritors and protectors of King’s dream. In a preposterous flight of rhetoric he fantasized that he and other conservatives could see themselves beaten by police, set upon by dogs, doused with fire hoses, and jailed on trumped-up charges. What an imagination! But Beck wasn’t finished with King and the civil rights movement. He boasted to another radio audience that he was out to “reclaim” the civil rights movement and that his choice of August 28 as the rally date was “divine providence” and supreme proof that he’s doing Dr. King’s bidding. Alveda virtually cloned Beck’s words in her press statement, reminding that she had a right to stand at the Lincoln Monument on the anniversary of her uncle’s “I Have a Dream” speech to fulfill his dream.
Alveda King and Glenn Beck can get away with their blatant mockery of Dr. King’s Dream in part because nearly two generations are removed from Dr. King’s speech and for most of today’s youth it’s just a speech they hear every King holiday with no first-hand experience and knowledge of what the civil rights movement was fought for and about. And that includes younger blacks such as Alveda. In fact, her understanding of what her uncle fought for and how he fought for it is so stunted that she told a crowd at a rally sponsored by the National Organization for Marriage in Atlanta that “The courts can’t help me. I have to go to the highest place.” By that she meant that the streets and the courts are no place to wage her anti-abortion crusade but simply put it in the hands of God. That view of how to wage and win civil rights battles of course would be news to her uncle.
They also get away with their twisted vision in part because in Dr. King’s day, gay rights were invisible on America’s public policy radar, and homosexuality in both black and white communities was hushed up. There’s not a word about homosexuality in any of King’s speeches or writings. The civil rights movement was defined as a protest solely against racial discrimination, and to break down the barriers in housing, employment, and education. The underlying issue was always race.
Still, Alveda’s uncle believed that deeply embodied in the civil rights fight was a person’s right to be who and what he was. While King may have defended his niece’s right to speak out for her conservative beliefs, he never wavered in calling bigotry what is always is, namely bigotry, whether it’s about race or the rights of women and gays. Beck in a monumental delusional moment imagined that Martin Luther King, Jr. would stand by his side at his rally. He wouldn’t, and his niece Alveda being there with Beck wouldn’t change that.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He hosts a nationally broadcast political affairs radio talk show on Pacifica and KTYM Radio Los Angeles. Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson