what if MLK had been white?
(originally posted 1/20/2020)
Today is always an awkward day. Martin Luther King Jr Day. Schools are closed. The Post Office is closed. All out of reverence for an influential civil right leader from the 60’s.
A good thing right? How can anyone have an issue with this?
The problem, as some see it, is that this leader was also a binge-drinking alcoholic and serial adulterer who constantly used his position as a supposed man of God and civil rights leader to sexually exploit women. King is also alleged to have physically attacked a number of his sex partners, many of them prostitutes, and stood by laughing as a friend (and fellow pastor) raped a woman.
Not really the stuff that befits a beloved historical figure.
But you know who doesn’t seem to care?
The #metoo movement.
You don’t hear a peep out of them… which makes them seem a little bit hypocritical. A lot of folks would see this as an indication that, similar to what happened to the National Organization of Women, the group is no longer about women’s issue and has instead been co-opted by people who want to weaponize these same issues for political purposes.
A friend of mine asked me a very interesting question; “What if MLK had been white?”
“Obviously” I began, “If we are to apply the same standards of behavior as we do to white people the statues and monuments would have been torn down decades ago.”
He nodded his approval vigorously.
“But here’s the thing to consider” I continued, “I doubt very much if there would be any statues or monuments to tear down if MLK had been white.”
He did not see this particular point coming.
Hoping to clarify my position I went on. “Given the mood of the times, I’m not sure that the black community would have embraced a white guy saying all the things that MLK did. Do you follow?”
He did not.
“If you watch most of his speeches and rallies and such, the crowd is largely black. A few white faces sprinkled in now and then. The topics were usually about the black community and the problems they were facing. If a white guy had stood there saying the same words, I doubt they would have had the same impact. Even if he stole them from the same sources that MLK did. He might not have seemed credible. They probably would have wrestled the mic away from him or even booted him from the auditorium.”
You could see the gears trying to turn in my friend’s head. “I know that. What I meant was….” And then he stopped for a moment. I allowed him to collect his thoughts. “I didn’t mean if he was actually white.”
“You mean if he turned white sometime afterwards… like Michael Jackson?” I asked, trying to help him along.
He seemed irritated. I presented my best ‘was it something I said?’ face.
“I meant that if MLK were white people wouldn’t be so scared to talk about his violent behavior towards women.”
“Yes, I know. That was my first point” I said. “But then I was more interested in the ramifications of MLK being white. He would have been one of the first white men to openly date black women. That’s something isn’t it?”
My friend had had his fill of the conversation. “No! Because he was black.”
“But you asked how things would have been different if he’d have been a white man. Did I misunderstand the question?” I offered innocently.
He wrapped up any further inquiry by adding “You’re a fucking moron Lance.”
Like I said, today is always an awkward day.