The Dangers of Misappropriation: Misusing Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Legacy to Prove the Colorblind Thesis
This Article focuses on one particular aspect of the colorblind thesis: the misuse of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s image and legacy by liberals, neoliberals, conservatives, and neoconservatives "who cheaply invoke Dr. King's words even as they kill the substance and spirit of his radical message." The campaign supporting the adoption of Proposition 209, the California Civil Rights Initiative ("CCRI"), directly illustrates the misappropriation of King's legacy. Supporters of this anti-affirmative action proposal which calls for racial neutrality and a colorblind America, regularly invoked King's name, suggesting that he would have embraced such a measure. The California Republican Party prepared a television commercial in support of the proposition that included King's reference to his dream of a colorblind and a content-of-character world. After opponents of the measure and civil rights leaders, including Coretta Scott King, denounced such use of King's words, complaining that King's legacy was being distorted, the "I Have a Dream" segment was removed from the commercial. The dangers of this misappropriation of "King-as-icon" and his legacy are illustrative of the ways in which facts and historical figures are distorted and in which iconolatry is substituted for reasoned argument. These dangers, as well as the need to identify and refute inaccurate distortions of history, are discussed in this Article.
The Dangers of Misappropriation: Misusing Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Legacy to Prove the Colorblind Thesis,
Mich. J. Race & L.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mjrl/vol2/iss1/3