Historians on The Political Misuses of King's LegacyHistorians in the News
tags: Martin Luther King, African American history, holidays, Mike Pence
Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy is eroded every year by the way Americans celebrate the slain civil rights icon, experts on the nation’s civil rights history say.
Without fail, King, a minister and civil rights activist felled by an assassin's bullet at the age of 39, is recast each year as a national hero in his own lifetime and as a champion of causes that he would not have supported, in the view of King scholars and, when they can agree, his children. In the process, America is often affirmed as a nation perpetually interested in justice and equality, even as the validity of modern day civil rights struggles are often called into question.
Chief among this year’s offenders was Vice President Mike Pence, according to Ibram X. Kendi, a professor of history and director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center. One day before the 2019 MLK holiday, Pence told those watching the CBS Sunday morning politics show, “Face The Nation,” that Trump, in his battle over the border wall and the resulting partial government shutdown, is much like King.
“One of my favorite quotes from Dr. King was, ‘Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy,'” Pence said Sunday. “You think of how he changed America. He inspired us to change through the legislative process, to become a more perfect union.’"
The comment prompted Kendi to tweet: “They “honor” MLK every year by assassinating who he was.”
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