Partisan Politics Creep Into “I Have A Dream” Anniversary

The agenda of the events commemorating the 50th anniversary of the march on Washington stands in contrast to the unifying nature of Dr. King

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Carolyn Kaster / AP

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

Decades after his death, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has become one of the few unifying figures in Washington. House Speaker John Boehner will say he  “showed how much good a single life could do in a short period,” while President Obama speaks of him as “quintessentially American.” But the realities of staging 50th anniversary celebration for King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and the 1963 March on Washington are a bit more complicated, with clear partisan divides.

While President Obama will join former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter to speaking at the “Let Freedom Ring” ceremony next Wednesday, Republican leaders have largely chosen not to take part in the week’s major events. Instead, Boehner held an event to commemorate the march last month, and Republicans will gather on Capitol Hill Monday for a separate luncheon honoring the march.

In a separate event on Saturday, activists plan to repeat the march on the mall with a rally that is welcome to all, but with an issue set, from immigration reform to voting rights, that strikes at the heart of Washington’s partisan divide. Called the “National Action to Realize the Dream” march and rally, the event will feature civil rights groups, labor groups, LGBT groups, and women’s rights groups that hope to continue the fight for justice King led throughout the 1960s. Democratic members of Congress John Lewis and Nancy Pelosi, along with Attorney General Eric Holder, are expected to attend and speak.

(PHOTOS: TIME Presents One Dream: The March on Washington)

Organizers say the event has no partisan design. “Like most great peaceful assemblies, I don’t think anyone is going to consider who is Republican or Democrat when they’re marching,” said Marc Morial, the president of the National Urban League, who is helping to organize the event. “This march will lead us to all build a stronger sense of public purpose and public will. We are hopeful for that.”

But Al Sharpton, whose National Action Network is hosting the rally in conjunction with Martin Luther King III’s Realizing the Dream organization, detailed the focus of the march in a piece for the Huffington Post on Tuesday. Many of the central issues he mentioned push partisan buttons, including voting rights, “Stand Your Ground” laws, stop and frisk practices by police departments, high rates of unemployment, and immigration reform.

“As a new generation that grew up in the aftermath of the ’60s movement, we’ve worked diligently to make Dr. King’s dream a reality,” wrote Sharpton. “But when jobs and justice are still key issues plaguing society today, we have no choice but to call on everyone to gather once again.”

(Cover Story: Martin Luther King Jr: Architect of the 21st Century)

In some ways, the liberal tone is an appropriate commemoration. The message of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was progressive, if not radical. Protesters held signs that read, “We demand and end to bias now!” at a time when it was illegal for blacks and whites to use the same public restrooms; “We march for higher minimum wages for all workers now,” when many African Americans across the south couldn’t even get hired.

Fifty years down the road the U.S. has seen great progress; but like the summer of 1963, the summer of 2013 has been marked with moments of stark divide across both race lines and party lines. Seventy-nine percent of black Americans and 44% of whites according to a recent Pew poll believe there is a lot to be done in order to achieve racial equality.

When the George Zimmerman verdict was announced, according to a Washington Post poll 86% of blacks disapproved of the verdict, and 31% of whites disapproved. When the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, Republican governors across the South pushed legislation that many felt hindered minority voters’ access to the polls, while many Democrats condemned the decision of the court.

“The march is distinctly about issues the civil rights community and the civil justice community think are important. These are values we all hold very close and dear,” Morial said.

(SPECIAL: One Dream: Explore MLK’s Historic Speech 50 Years Later)

70 comments
ivorymcneal44
ivorymcneal44

Yes, we were so much better in 1963.  We could be hanged for looking at a white woman. We were NOT allow to have a gun or weapon. We could NOT serve on a court unless you are in Florida, that just doesn't happen anymore. More Blacks are millionaires and billionaires and the number of Blacks in poverty has decreased. There are MORE Black men in college than in prison. If we were the a country, we would be the 6th richest country in the world.  Which is NOT a bad idea. Yes, we REALLY want to go back to 1963.


 Now let talk what white people have achieved in the last 50 years. You gave us Vietnam, Iraq and the Afghanistan wars and killed millions of people. You crashed the economy and yelled, it not our fault.  There are MORE white people who live in poverty. 

emmayu
emmayu

Except for a few at the top, used as "kapos" by the Ruling Class, blacks are worse off now than 50 years ago.  If you don't believe that, ask the blacks over 70 years of age.

BillPearlman
BillPearlman

Sharpton should have been in jail over Tawana Brawley and Freddies Fashion mart. Right now his national action network is just an instrument for shaking people down. 

RudyHaugeneder
RudyHaugeneder

I suppose nobody noticed the large number of visibly Black Muslim people at MLK's side while he delivered his speech. 
If he had lived and delivered a similar speech in Washington, DC, today surrounded by Black Muslim supporters, everybody from President Obama to the FBI, NSA, GOP, the Democrats, Baptists, Catholics, Mrs. Clinton, Protestants, the Legion, and most citizens would have called Dr. King a traitor, an anti-Christian, a devil, and other horrible names.

fitty_three
fitty_three

I like how Republicans whine about being perceived as racist.


DumbNiggerz
DumbNiggerz

If you ask me the blacks have moved backwards in most areas that count since MLK days. More blacks drop out of school than evr before, 75% of the babies have dads who rather gang bang or rap, that raise THEIR kid, 40% of the prisons are filled by blacks, despite being less than 13% of the population. Then when you look at their hero's you have clowns like Al Sharpton, who doesn't say squat unless it is racial and he can stir the brown turds and make a buck. The you have all the rappers who look like they just got out of prison and they language and topics they rap on, would get a white man shot if he said it to a black man (which is another reason why they are racist..they say the N word all the time. 


I could go on, but it would be nice to see more Herman Cains, and less Obama's who won't tell the truth if he doesn't like it or want to believe it. he is not only egotistical but narcistic as well and he likes to listen to himself talk more than anyone except for his side kid opie winfrey

john_rambo
john_rambo

Axe not what you can do for your country.......Axe what your country can do for you! Obama.

HeatherOMalley
HeatherOMalley

Black racism and violence is rampant, yet Obama is silent. Obama is a dream killer.

dgard1125
dgard1125

"Decades after his death, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has become one of the few unifying figures in Washington".

Well, not really. One side has tried to steal his legacy and twist it into something that would facilitate exactly what he fought against.

littleredtop
littleredtop

Forget the politics and just have a ceremony commemorating the anniversary.  

john_rambo
john_rambo

Can't wait for Jesse Jackson's apology.

SarahConfran
SarahConfran

The more things change the more they stay the same.

john_rambo
john_rambo

This is a great opportunity for the charlatan-in-chief to make a race-baiting speech.

DavidStrayer
DavidStrayer

The Republican party was the original party of civil rights.  It has now become the main obstacle to the realization of one of the most fundamental rights of all Americans, the right to vote.  

Thus, their decision not to participate in the commemoration of Dr. King's historic march and speech reflects one of the few flashes of honesty in their recent, thoroughly disgraceful, record.  

For  party that is steeped in symbolism -- how many pointless "bills" have they passed in the House to repeal Obamacare, solely for the purpose of right wing symbolism?- the fact that they'll abandon the commemoration of this occasion represents the ultimate in symbolism: they have totally abandoned the cause of equality of rights for all Americans.  Nowhere is that more evident than the states-rights rhetoric that Texan politicians  including the senior Senator from Texas, decrying federal enforcement of equal access to voting for all Americans.  Cornyn used exactly the same type of rhetoric that Southern governors and legislators did in the era of segregation when they wanted to defend their ability to exclude some Americans from participating in the life of this country.  

Essentially, the GOP has become the party of the segregationist South, to its eternal ignominy and shame.

Their lack of participation in the events commemorating this occasion thus represents an honest acknowledgment of that fact.

FlowerJasmin
FlowerJasmin

"I have a dream' said Dr. M.L. king and plagiarized somebody else dissertation and nobody revoked his degree. An honest man he was with big dreams.

united_we_stand
united_we_stand

I have a dream of highlighting our racial divisions for 50 years until we arrive at the point where anyone who believes in the classic liberalism of our nations founders will be declared a racist hate group by the splc and the adl. At this point we can declare the republican party as dying, and facillitate our Change to the more efficient model of a one party system. Its ok the Democrat Party  supported slavery and jim crow and opposed civil rights because they understand this class warfare is necessary to lead us to communist unity in the end. 

united_we_stand
united_we_stand

@ivorymcneal44 Try not to let these racist articles push you towards racist thinking yourself. The point of these articles is to divide us into political groups based on race (complete marginalization) rather then allow us to join political groups based on our individual political views. 

fitty_three
fitty_three

@emmayu  

I unliked this because it is not true.  Not by a long shot.  Unfortunately I misread your statement, and I believe that it is firmly grounded in ignorance.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@BillPearlman  

I like what he did for Jena.

Too bad the South has to bear such scrutiny, but maybe it's your "way of life" that needs retooling.

fitty_three
fitty_three

Thanks to the GOP and Southern Strategy, and without the Black Muslim's help, many people on the right still do.

Look below if you don't believe me.

bobcn
bobcn

@RudyHaugeneder

"If he had lived and delivered a similar speech in Washington, DC, today..."

50 years ago was not today.  If you had been on the receiving end of the overt racism of that time you'd probably not care too much about the fashion choices of the people who also wanted to end the abuse that was happening.  But then, you're probably too young to understand what was going on then, so you fixate on superficial things like people's apparel.

bobcn
bobcn

@fitty_three

These people celebrating MLK are playing the race card!   They're acting like King had some kind of concern about racism.  How dare they!!

fitty_three
fitty_three

@HeatherOMalley 

Keep driving away black American conservative voters. Hey, why not?

You're politically down the tubes anyway.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@john_rambo 

Did you know that while your party is in a tailspin, just when the need support, you're doing a great job of cutting your nose off to spite your face.

Imagine all those 7,000,000 or so conservative black American voters you're convincing to not vote GOP.

Taste the waste, @john_rambo ...

aliberaldoseofskepticism
aliberaldoseofskepticism

@john_rambo This is a joke, right? I'm pretty sure not taking part in the anniversary of the March on Washington is race-baiting.

Seriously, right-wingers? How important is the "unrepentant racist" demo?

DanBruce
DanBruce

@john_rambo Yes it is, but guess what? Like he has done for the past six years as president, he won't take the bait. He will continue to be the president of all the people. Only those with too much hate in their heart can't see that truth.

littleredtop
littleredtop

@DavidStrayer  Get serious.  Haven't we already had enough cheating and corruption at the polls?  What's the big deal about proving who you are?  You have to do it at the airport, liquor store, bank, doctor's office and when pulled over by a cop - why don't I hear you complaining about that? 

DavidStrayer
DavidStrayer

@united_we_stand 

Care to add something intelligent to this discussion?  

Or are you just on a rant and need to vent your hatred of everyone who isn't white, bigoted, old and mean?

Hollywooddeed
Hollywooddeed

@united_we_stand

Not only did you fail to mention teleprompters, you have used a very tired evasion. The ideology that was represented by the Democratic Party which oversaw the racism of the pre- and post-Civil War eras was subsequently renounced by the party that bears the name 'Democrat' today.

The fact that the regressives have to reach back to a history that is not representative of the real world of today says a lot more about those regressives than it does about Democrats.

In one breath regressives sneer and snarl about how socialist and 'coddling' liberal Democrats are when it comes to minorities... and then in the very next breath they try to score points against those very same liberals and Democrats by trying to tie them to the worst examples of racism and minority oppression.

RudyHaugeneder
RudyHaugeneder

@bobcn @RudyHaugeneder Actually been collecting my government seniors' pension for two years now.   Remember much and of course the faith of people working towards equality was not important then, but today it would, in America at least, mean discrimination and no job if you are Muslim -- especially if you are Black or any other visible minority, and Black.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@dgard1125 

His politics were necessary to implement Civil Rights - something we had to get through bloodlessly.

We are the only country that succeeded.

dharrisphotome
dharrisphotome

In case you didn't notice, Michelle has two wonderful daughters, who appear to be doing quite well, even under the microscope that comes with public life. I hope they aren't exposed to all the hateful speech directed at their parents.

aliberaldoseofskepticism
aliberaldoseofskepticism

@fitty_three @dgard1125 Besides, well, Canada for starters.

Though how does one define "bloodless"? If the opposition to a movement is violent, such as, I don't know, shooting one of its leaders, is it still bloodless?

fitty_three
fitty_three

@john_rambo 

He's doing better than you, but hey, go for it.

After all, wasn't it that Dilettante Dittohead Deity that said "We don't need diversity".

Go for it. And we'll thank you everyday for convincing those 7,000,000 or so black American conservative votes that you could have had...

aliberaldoseofskepticism
aliberaldoseofskepticism

@john_rambo @aliberaldoseofskepticism  I actually have a job. You, you continue to live vicariously through action movies based on ridiculous urban legends about Vietnam. (It would be hard to get off the plane and be spat on by protestors at a military airport. But since right-wing leaders more often than not have no military experience to speak of, I'm not surprised.)

aliberaldoseofskepticism
aliberaldoseofskepticism

@HeatherOMalley @DanBruce @john_rambo Do you have any evidence to back up this assertion? OTOH, right-wing hero Ronald Reagan made up stories about welfare queens, and funneled money to genocidal despot José Efraín Ríos Montt. And his whole South Africa dealie. You might remember Reagan as a part love, but the rest of the world remembers him as *puts sunglasses on* apartheid.

YEEEEEAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!

FWIW, if I had my way, I would've had someone other than Obama. I don't know who, but Obama labors under this delusion that he can get racists, such as the Republican Tea Party, to like him.