Glenn Beck's "Rally to Restore Honor," set for Saturday at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, has stirred controversy
because of it's timing (the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech) and its location (the same spot where King delivered that speech).
While plenty of people are also questioning Beck's motives
, some black conservatives have been outspoken in their support.
Alveda King -- Martin Luther King's niece -- will participate in the rally. She recently wrote
: "When I join Beck and all gathered at the Lincoln Memorial this weekend, I will talk about my Uncle Martin and the America he envisioned. I will talk about honor and character and sacrifice. I will be joined by those who represent the diversity of the human race."
In this sense, many view the "Restoring Honor" event as a chance to continue the spirit of King's dream, even if most of the attendees are white.
Asked for his opinion of the rally, Herman Cain
, former CEO of Godfather's Pizza who is considering a run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012, said, "I think that's great! I find it amusing that some people would even raise the question [of its appropriateness]."
Others note that Saturday's gathering is consistent with King's legacy, which many observers argue was patently conservative
, especially his belief that people should be "judged not by the color of their skin, but the content of their character."
"Doctor King had a reverence for human dignity and freedom," said Ken Blackwell, a senior fellow at the Family Research Foundation who was also the first African-American elected to a statewide office in Ohio. "He believed that our human rights came from God, that they were not granted from government. Those who go to the Mall to protest the trampling on our human rights and the sovereignty of the individual by big government do so in the finest tradition of Doctor King."
Other black conservatives pushed back against the notion that anyone -- regardless of any race or political ideology -- "owns" the legacy of Martin Luther King.
of the Media Research Center, argued that both King and the Lincoln Memorial are icons that belong to all Americans: "Since Dr. King never declared ownership of black people, like liberals [do] today, especially those who denigrate anyone of color who doesn't think and vote the way they so authorize, I don't believe he'd be a narcissist and declare that location and date his and his alone."
As conservative blacks voice support for Beck's rally, at least one is concerned that blacks may feel pressured to attend the Rev. Al Sharpton's counter-rally, "Reclaiming the Dream," which will occur simultaneously. Bishop Harry Jackson, the pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., who plans to attend Beck's rally, wrote
"Rallying with Beck may temporarily bring a backlash of ridicule and rebuke to many of the black civic and religious leaders who join me. Long term, however, the courage of these leaders will point the way and embolden others. Despite any personal discomfort, we feel that it is time to make a real change."
The fact that Beck's rally has become a divisive issue is evidence that Dr. King's dream of a colorblind society has not been fully realized. Yet it's also abundantly clear that when members of both political parties claim ownership of King's legacy, the civil rights leader truly belongs to the ages -- and that's a very good thing. You know your ideas have gone mainstream when everyone cites you as a hero.
Those with a liberal political agenda, of course, may fear King's legacy is being co-opted, but shouldn't the fact that a white conservative is choosing to honor King -- ostensibly, that will be at least part of this rally -- be applauded, not condemned?
One hopes that both events serve to unite Americans around Dr. King's dream, and to put the divisive racial politics of the past behind us.