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Awkward: White Conservatives, Black Leaders, MLK Day & Obama’s Second Inauguaration (Miniblog #169)

by Carson T. Clark on January 21, 2013

After going on Baylor’s Civil Rights Tour last spring, this year I counted it a privilege to take part in today’s Martin Luther King Day celebrations. The events included a march across Waco’s historic suspension bridge, a rally at MLK park, giving a speech to a group of college students, and a day of service in a local community garden. Everyone knows this also coincided with the presidential inauguration. Never one to shy away from a little controversy, I’d like to address the elephant in the room. There was palpable awkwardness among the racially sensitive, white conservatives whenever the African Americans leaders tied the two together; specifically, when they said Barack Obama helps fulfill, or even embodies, Dr. King’s dream. From my perspective as a hardlining moderate, I’d like to briefly speak to that issue in a charitable manner. It seems to me that in the same way we can be glad the U.K. had a female prime minister without agreeing with Margaret Thatcher’s conservatives political beliefs, so we should be able to be glad the U.S. has a black president without agreeing with Barack Obama’s progressive political beliefs. That should be obvious. We need to learn how to be more precise in our thinking, appreciating and supporting the historic significance of the “form” without having to appreciate or support its present “matter,” if I might co-opt a Platonic framework. And, yes, this is probably the single occasion in human history in which those two will ever be favorably compared.

  • Drew Downs

    “And, yes, this is probably the single occasion in human history in which those two will ever be favorably compared.”

    Is that because MLK’s radical dream and practice has been domesticated and the President’s moderate approach to governance has been vilified as radical? The challenge of King’s legacy is that it won’t be realized until the Kingdom of GOD is realized–which won’t happen with drone strikes and a right-leaning pro-corporate agenda.

    • Carson T. Clark

      Glad you’re able to remain relatively objective 😉

    • Drew Downs

      No problem! Though I do get the problem of dealing with historical moments objectively. Partly because of our proximity to the now and our distance from the past. Good post!

  • SamHamilton

    Totally agree. I disagree with a number of things that President Obama has done while in office and didn’t vote for him, but I am still very proud that our country elected a black man as President. It’s huge! How many other nations have elected someone who is a member of a once-oppressed (or still-oppressed) racial or ethic group to its highest elected office?

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