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The Tea Party, Civil Rights, and Glenn Beck's Rally on MLK Anniversary

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August 28 will mark the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King's seminal "I Have a Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The occasion, however, will be marked by an orator of a decidedly different stripe standing at the foot of the memorial's marble steps: Glenn Beck, frontman of the populist conservative Tea Party movement.
The event is a rally for Beck and his supporters, dubbed "Restoring Honor," where the talk show host will present his "100 Year Plan for America" and which will include an address by former Alaska governor and Mama Grizzly-in-Chief, Sarah Palin.
Beck, asserting that whites "do not own" the legacy of Abraham Lincoln and, by this logic, "blacks don't own Martin Luther King," said on his own radio program in June that he initially chose the day by default. Originally planned for Sunday, Sept. 12, Beck changed the date because he was not "going to ask anyone to work on the Sabbath." When one of his staff members informed him of the significance of Aug. 28, Beck says he thought the coincidence was "divine providence."
Civil rights leaders, including the Rev. Al Sharpton and NAACP President Benjamin Jealous, have decried the timing of the rally. National Urban League President Marc Morial called the "Restoring Honor" event "an effort to embarrass and poke a finger in the eye of the civil rights community because Glenn Beck and his public utterances don't necessarily demonstrate a consistency with the vision of King."
Sharpton and the NAACP, the Urban League and Martin Luther King III are planning a "Reclaim the Dream" march the same day as Beck's rally. Their event will begin at D.C.'s Dunbar High School and end at the future site of the Martin Luther King memorial. A press release for the march describes "the Tea Party and allied conservatives" as "trying to break the crux of what the civil rights movement symbolized and what Dr. King fought and literally died for," but Sharpton was quick to say the event was not a "countermarch" or confrontation with Beck. "At no point will we interchange [with Beck and his supporters]," said Sharpton. "We will not desecrate the march and what King stood for."
But what of Beck's assertion that the Tea Party and its followers have as much right to King's legacy as anyone else? Garrett Epps, a University of Baltimore law school professor, said, "I think that the embrace of King is a real problem for people like Glenn Beck because [King] is a very powerful moral and political figure" -- and one who doesn't easily fit into the Tea Party rubric.

Because of this, Epps argues that Beck presents a revisionist history that allows ultraconservatives like Beck -- a man who once asserted President Obama harbors "a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture" -- a seat at the table of brotherhood that King memorialized in his speech.
Beck, for his part, posited that "far too many" people "have either gotten just lazy or they have purposely distorted Martin Luther King's ideas of 'judge a man by the content of his character.' Lately, in the last 20 years, we've been told that character doesn't matter. Well, if character doesn't matter, then what was Martin Luther King asking people to judge people by?"
But in Epps' view, to recall King's credo that people should not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character -- as Beck does -- is a distortion of the civil rights leader's message.
"I tell people to look back at the Montgomery bus boycott," says Epps, "and the demands of the Montgomery Improvement Association. Their first demand was that segregating buses be stopped. But their second demand was that [they] wanted the bus company to commit that every new bus driver they hired was to be [a person of color] -- to have a proportion of the drivers match that of the population."

In other words, King himself was acutely aware of the politics of race, and Beck's invocation of his "creed, not color" message is an oversimplification of his legacy -- one that some would argue is being used for political expedience. Epps adds, "It is very common for powerful people to want to steal the history of the less powerful and sell it back to them."
While race relations in America have advanced by leaps and bounds since the days of Jim Crow -- Obama is prime evidence of just how far the country has come -- recent controversies like the one involving Shirley Sherrod and its resulting backlash show that the subject of race in America still teeters on a knife's edge.
On Tuesday, the NAACP posted a letter from Sherrod, who lost her job with Agriculture Department over a misunderstood video posted by a conservative activist, reaffirming her commitment to the rights organization and blasting the Tea Party for its tactics. "I'm surely not going to yield because some Tea Party agitator sat at his computer and turned everything I said upside down and inside out," wrote Sherrod.
Whatever happens on Aug. 28, it's certain that Sherrod's message to "pull together and overcome racial divisions" will be put to the test.

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arklight99

As usual, the specific 'Tea Party' offshoot/wannabe/pretender was not identified, so the implication that the Tea Party Movement is out to get Dr. King's legacy falls pretty flat, with me. I doubt very much that the Tea Party Movement was much engaged, but I notice all the time that 'Tea Pary Blivets', 'Tea Party Carnivores', 'Tea Party Vegans' and all sorts of off-the-wall 'Tea Party Suffixes' put their broken oars in every bit of water available, contributing nothing positive to anything. In my opinion, Dr. King was the real McCoy, while Sharton and Jackson (leading cacaphony of lesser anti-illuminaries) are opportunists, thriving personally upon the quest for identity by other folks who range anywhere from black-black to very lightly colored. Dr. King was correct in asserting that each individual has an expectation to be assessed upon the basis of his or her words and actions, and not have his or her worth predetermined by the pigmentation of his or her skin. People who feed upon the self enslavement of a segment of our population; those who don their great grandparents chains because of an inwillingness or inability to shine forth their own light, are pathetic creatures, in my opinion, an horrific condition which Dr. King engaged head on and toe to toe. Orchids to Dr. King, onions to Sharpton and his cabal.

August 28 2010 at 11:52 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
mrzipp5428

What do you figure? He has maybe 3 , 4 , hundred thousand rabid followers, O K lets be generous and say 9 Out of 350 million citizens I really don't know why the media gives hin so much attention , he is entertaining ,kinda like madonna , or other pop idols

August 27 2010 at 10:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
c3ason3

Glenn Beck's comment to me seems like he is having a hard time. The comment that blacks should not have the rights to doctor King is a in a way ignorant.Same as for the comment about President Lincoln was not appropriate in. I do not if he is talking about the MLK holiday or the ideas that doctor King stood for but he did not do his homework. If he did he would understand the speech and message doctor King was trying to send. But I guess people like him would try anything to stir the pot in any way the can. Even taking a comment and twisting it to their own means.

August 18 2010 at 8:21 PM Report abuse -21 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to c3ason3's comment
Maria Clara

I totally agree with everything you said. It bothers me that he twisted one of the most well known messages of MLK's speech: "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." So now Mr. Beck is trying to install himself in a seat at MLK's legacy table. Where he DOESN'T belong. How sad.

August 18 2010 at 9:43 PM Report abuse -15 rate up rate down Reply
jrylyn

Beck did NOT say that blacks should not have the rights to Dr. King....he said that blacks should not have EXCLUSIVE rights to Dr. King. Dr. King would probably agree with that. I think that YOU are the one that didn't do YOUR homework. Get your facts straight before you put your mouth (computer) in motion.

August 18 2010 at 11:26 PM Report abuse +10 rate up rate down Reply
linkin park rock

Why put The Pussycat lounge 2 blocks from ground zero? Just in case you didn't realize........ that's a strip club!!!!

August 18 2010 at 8:11 PM Report abuse +8 rate up rate down Reply
getgary01

Beck has every right to hold this event where ever he wants. And if the NAACP or anybody else doesn't like it, well they move to Iran.

August 18 2010 at 7:28 PM Report abuse +20 rate up rate down Reply
snrar

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO BECKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

August 18 2010 at 6:56 PM Report abuse +9 rate up rate down Reply
ca2474

amazed that the conservitives are the ones catching heat here for this....the libs play the race card left and right, and are the ones who have zero, zero polices that work. all they do is blame blame blame blame and play the race card...viel is gone left trust me, america woke up, and it is very angrey at the left....did you think youd hold power for more then one year? come on) country is center right, center left, not left left left

August 18 2010 at 6:32 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
skacorerob

coming from a man who actually beleives josheph smith found golden tablets recanting an appearance of Jesus Christ in the americas...well, let's just say i'm not suprised.

August 18 2010 at 3:59 PM Report abuse -17 rate up rate down Reply
bittereggnog

The Tea party is about liberty and freedom. It's typical of this lowly creature known as Al Sharpton, on of the most outspoken racists in the US, to try and attack anyone he doesn't agree with.

August 18 2010 at 1:00 PM Report abuse +50 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to bittereggnog's comment
Leslie

@ John Black YOu just made a statement that the mantra of the conservative movement is attacking and mocking people they don't agree with. Just how can you say that with a straight face, fingers and toes crossed....when each time I hear the President speak, he is, in essence, putting down every American who happens to have different ideas than himself......and he condescendingly laughs while he is making his statements. What he says to America is that if you don't believe in what I say, my vision......you all be damed.

August 18 2010 at 5:08 PM Report abuse +28 rate up rate down Reply
revblueroof

Leslie, the tea party is an elitis group that claims it has the only real truth locked up in their heads. They claim that their perverted version of history is the way it actually happened. They misquote the founders of this nation, they imply that constitutional protections are only form themselves, and that all who do not agree with them are unamerican. The local group in my area calls themselves the "patriots" which makes all of those who do not agree with them what? traitors? Remember that the Boston tea party was about more than taxes, in fact the taxes the colonies paid were less then those paid in England, it was abour taxation WITHOUT REPRESENTATION. The last time I checked, no one was preventing these folk from voting, they fact that they could not concince the majority to support their ideas, does not mean tha they do not have representation, just that they are out of step with America.

August 18 2010 at 6:39 PM Report abuse -6 rate up rate down Reply
stultztbear

Glenn Beck reaches out to Joe and Josephine Six Pack which is OK as that is his right. The same for Ms.Palin. The Tea Party people is not what the majority of Americans and those with an education believe in.

August 18 2010 at 12:58 PM Report abuse -36 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to stultztbear's comment

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