Assassinating the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

The sad fact is that Black Lives Matter members and supporters now scoff at his notions, even while paying lip service to King as a paragon.

Martin Luther King Jr. at the civil-rights march in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 28, 1963. Credit: National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Md.
Martin Luther King Jr. at the civil-rights march in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 28, 1963. Credit: National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Md.
Ruthie Blum. Credit: Courtesy.
Ruthie Blum
Ruthie Blum, an author and award-winning columnist, is a former adviser at the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A petition demanding that accounting professor Gordon Klein be fired from his position at UCLA’s Anderson School of Business, where he has been teaching for nearly four decades, has garnered more than 21,000 signatures since it began circulating earlier this month. In the meantime, the university has suspended him until June 24, as death threats against him and his family multiply.

Klein’s transgression? Rejecting a request by students—self-described as “non-black allies” of their African-American peers—that he extend the blacks under his tutelage extra leniency on their final exams.

The stated reason for the plea was the trauma that black students are suffering in the wake of George Floyd’s killing on May 25 by a Minneapolis police officer and in the face of ensuing civil unrest throughout America.

Klein responded to the June 2 e-mail asking that he forego normal standards and procedure by invoking Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech.

“Thanks for your suggestion … that I give black students special treatment, given the tragedy in Minnesota,” he wrote. “Do you know the names of the classmates that are black? How can I identify them since we’ve been having online classes only? Are there any students that may be of mixed parentage, such as half black-half Asian? What do you suggest I do with respect to them? A full concession or just half? Also, do you have any idea if any students are from Minneapolis? I assume that they probably are especially devastated as well. I am thinking that a white student from there might be possibly even more devastated by this, especially because some might think that they’re racist even if they are not … One last thing strikes me: Remember that MLK famously said that people should not be evaluated based on the ‘color of their skin.’ Do you think that your request would run afoul of MLK’s admonition?”

Rather than appreciating their professor’s aversion to discrimination, the students in question called Klein’s decision “extremely insensitive, dismissive and woefully racist.”

Such charges are so ridiculous that they barely warrant a rebuttal. Another of their accusations, however—that he was being “tone deaf”—is worth taking seriously. For what it reveals is that MLK’s legacy is out of fashion, if not obsolete.

Though obfuscated by the noise of the Black Lives Matter movement, King’s lifelong dream—that his children “one day [will] live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”—has become his successors’ nightmare.

Yes, the sad fact is that BLM members and supporters now scoff at such a notion, even while paying lip service to King as a paragon. Indeed, if they weren’t in the process of renouncing his philosophy, Professor Klein would be hailed for his moral stance, not persecuted and placed on leave.

Nor is the aspiration to an America that puts character over color the only aspect of King’s ideology that the current climate has eradicated. His views on Israel, too, are ignored or denied by BLM anti-Zionists and their Jewish fellow travelers.

In a letter to Jewish Labor Committee national chairman Adolph Held on Sept. 29, 1967, less than four months after the Six-Day War, King denounced an anti-Israel resolution introduced at the Chicago Conference of New Politics.

“If I had been at the conference during the discussion of the resolution,” he wrote, “I would have made it crystal clear that I could not have supported any resolution calling for black separatism or calling for a condemnation of Israel and an unqualified endorsement of the policy of the Arab powers.”

He went on to say, “Israel’s right to exist as a state of security is incontestable,” adding, “It is not only that anti-Semitism is immoral—though that alone is enough. It is used to divide Negro and Jew, who effectively collaborated in the struggle for justice. It injures Negroes because it upholds the doctrine of racism which they have the greatest stake in destroying.”

How King would have reacted to the way in which black and Jewish radicals are distorting the spirit of the joint effort that he had championed is anyone’s guess. Though their endeavor does involve “struggle,” it bears no resemblance to “justice,” certainly not where color-blindness and Israel are concerned.

Three years after its establishment in 2013, BLM and an alliance of more than 60 affiliated groups issued a policy platform labeling Israel an “apartheid state” that perpetrates “genocide” against Palestinians, and therefore should be subjected to a complete academic, cultural and economic boycott.

Experiencing pangs of unrequited love, liberal Jews were miffed. After all their efforts to equate racism and anti-Semitism, viewing their battle against blanket hatred as being shared by their black counterparts, they were (foolishly) surprised at the vitriol.

Left-wing Jewish ideologues, on the other hand, had no problem with the platform, as it jibed sufficiently with their politics.

This explains the attitude of the latter to today’s protests, riots and looting spurred by and in the name of BLM.

Take the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), for example. In a June 12 statement titled “Black Lives Matter is a Jewish value,” URJ announced, in part: “Throughout the past 400 years, Black people in America have been enslaved, subjugated, disenfranchised, murdered and discriminated against. From generation to generation, white Americans, including white Jews, have failed to own and end the systemic racial injustices on which the nation was founded, and instead have actively or passively perpetuated these injustices …

“To affirm that Black Lives Matter is to commit to a human and civil rights movement, working to end systemic racism against Black people and white supremacy …

“To affirm that Black Lives Matter is to accept discomfort, knowing that actions or inaction of white Jews have contributed to ongoing racial injustice…

“To affirm that Black Lives Matter is to acknowledge that Black people risk their personal comfort and safety every day in white dominated institutions, and that white Jews must commit to risking their personal comfort and even safety in the struggle for racial justice …

“To affirm that Black Lives Matter is for white Jews to reflect on their own thoughts and behavior, to build meaningful relationships with Jews of Color and People of Color generally, and to work for reforms that will achieve real, lived freedom for Black people.”

Stuck in the middle of the peculiar declaration is the following: “To affirm that Black Lives Matter is to recognize the imperative to live with complexity and know that we can be steadfast in our love of and support for Israel while working side by side with those who hold differing views and express them respectfully.” As though BLM’s dim view of the Jewish state is merely a “differing” one.

Perhaps the URJ believes that its mea culpa manifesto will grant it immunity from the movement’s anti-Semitic elements. It won’t, of course, but a far more significant point about the document is that it goes against everything that Martin Luther King Jr. stood and fought for throughout his career.

MLK was gunned down in 1968 by a confirmed racist. Today, his legacy is being assassinated by racists in denial.

Ruthie Blum is an Israel-based journalist and author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’ ”

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