I am a leftist. A rather far-one, too. I’m not trying to virtue signal, nor to say “Hey guys, look at me, I’m on your side!” It’s just who I am, what I believe and where I’m coming from. I’m not trying to pander to some people by playing the liberal card. In fact, I’m writing this to talk about something that’s been bothering me: mainstream “moderate” liberals need to stop taking the hard work of the leaders of the past and bending it to fit their own agenda. Simply put, they need to stop deradicalizing our heroes.
There is a growing sentiment among the mainstream, so-called “moderate” liberals (which are, to say, predominately white middle-to-upper class) to be an ally to oppressed people of all kinds. To be someone who can be trusted to stand by you in the face of adversity. And this is a positive sentiment and a very noble one. However, if you want to be supportive, if you want to show you’re really behind others, stop rewriting the words and the thoughts of their heroes because it fits your belief system. Our schools, our textbooks and our media are ordained with heroes of the past, whose courage and resolve we admire and wish to carry on. Do not do those heroes a disservice by picking and choosing which beliefs that they held serve your personal interest. For example, let’s talk about MLK revisionism.
Moderate liberals are not the only ones guilty of MLK revisionism; in fact, Dr. King’s own niece, religious right-wing activist Alveda King, once stated her father was a lifelong Republican and has used his name as a dog whistle to oppose same-sex marriage, Planned Parenthood and to throw in the hat for President Trump. Alveda King either has no respect for her uncle’s work or she is a total pragmatist who doesn’t mind twisting his legacy to support her own career. Apparently, she has never heard of Dr. King’s disavowment of the partisan system, nor of his belief in “radical redistribution of economic and political power” nor of his campaign against poverty and discrimination that the American establishment repeatedly and illegally (see COINTELPRO) tried to undermine. Either that, or she is simply ignoring this because it suits her.
And in that way, she certainly shares the guilt with moderate liberals. This is especially apparent in the way white liberals have disavowed Malcolm X, choosing Dr. King instead as an agreeable, less radical hero to uphold. Nevermind the fact that Malcolm X and Dr. King were friends, and although they disagreed on some issues, held each other in solidarity. I think this is moreso because they simply can’t bend Malcolm as easily to fit their agenda. He was too radical, too outspoken, too uncompromising, too militant. It’s easy for moderate liberals to quote Dr. King’s many speeches and sort of say, “See! We can all get along!” but they simply won’t accept any of Malcolm’s talk about the rights of oppressed people to defend themselves, nor their right to seek justice and compensation for their tribulations (something which Dr. King would certainly agree with). They view it as unnecessary, bothersome, “too far” and idealistic.
And you know many of these liberals, I’m sure. They’re the ones who viewed Hillary Clinton’s campaign as a landmark for our civilization, who dismiss Black Lives Matter and other protest groups as “troublemakers,” who will rush to defend capitalism as “our best option,” who think Silicon Valley billionaires and corporate masters are just “dandy” and whose “progressive values” are afforded to them not by a need for survival and justice, but by their comfort and privilege in society. How is not hypocritical for these same people to revise and distort those they claim to hold in such high regard?
This extends beyond the civil rights leaders of the 60s. Mark Twain, Gandhi, Leo Tolstoy, Jane Addams … all people whose beliefs have been appropriated by centrists and moderates who are willing to cut and choose which quotes serve them best. If you respect any of these people, if you want to carry on their work, if you want to pay homage to their legacy, do the right thing and accept them as they were.