The left-wing identitarian trend we are witnessing in the UK, somewhat influenced by American socio-political discourse surrounding matters of race, is serving to undermine the legacy of the old-fashioned anti-racist politics promoted by a historical figure I admire a great deal – Martin Luther King Jr.
This traditional anti-racism was ultimately rooted in the fair allocation of political, legal and social rights, along with the spreading of wealth and ownership. At the heart of this was the principle of equality of opportunity. This is reflected in one of Martin Luther King Jr’s address to The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) at one of its annual conventions, where he spoke about “a dream of equality of opportunity, of privilege and property widely distributed; a dream of a land where men will not take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few”.
At the core of MLK’s vision of a post-racial American nation-state was the combatting of rampant socio-economic inequalities regarding access to opportunities, high-quality public services, and private ownership. MLK’s progressive politics did not only appreciate the human desire to be treated fairly, irrespective of racial background – it also understood that the widespread distribution of ‘privilege’ and ‘property’ would benefit economically impoverished and politically marginalised Americans of all races.
The breakdown of legal racial segregation and the allocation of citizenship rights for black Americans was the first and foremost objective of MLK’s anti-racist agenda – but a thorough examination of MLK’s public speeches demonstrate that he desired a radical redistribution of economic and political power. Through mass non-violent action, MLK saw an opportunity to avoid a national disaster and create a new spirit of ‘class and racial harmony’.
This a far cry from the segregationist tendencies and forms of hatefulness which has come to characterise contemporary racial identity politics in the West.
The toxic mixture of pseudointellectual race theories and racially-motivated discrimination which increasingly defines modern ‘anti-racist’ activism is far removed from traditional MLK-style anti-racism.
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