Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2022 – When Dr. King Spoke to the APA

To remember Dr. King, I want to focus on his visit to the annual convention of the American Psychological Association in 1967. He was invited to speak to a division of APA – Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues – by Kenneth Clark, the first Black president of the APA.

According to Thomas Pettigrew, president of SPSSI at the time, the majority of the APA board did not want King to speak, saying his invitation was “too political” and warning that psychologists would not be interested in what he had to say. However, over 5,000 people showed up forcing the organizers to secure the largest meeting room in the venue.

The title of his speech was, “The Role of the Behavioral Scientist in the Civil Rights Movement.” Below are some excerpts:

For social scientists, the opportunity to serve in a life‐giving purpose is a humanist challenge of rare distinction. Negroes too are eager for a rendezvous with truth and discovery. We are aware that social scientists, unlike some of their colleagues in the physical sciences, have been spared the grim feelings of guilt that attended the invention of nuclear weapons of destruction. Social scientists, in the main, are fortunate to be able to extirpate evil, not to invent it.

If the Negro needs social science for direction and for self‐understanding, the White society is in even more urgent need. White America needs to understand that it is poisoned to its soul by racism and the understanding needs to be carefully documented and consequently more difficult to reject. The present crisis arises because, although it is historically imperative that our society take the next step to equality, we find ourselves psychologically and socially imprisoned. All too many White Americans are horrified not with conditions of Negro life but with the product of these conditions—the Negro himself.

White America is seeking to keep the walls of segregation substantially intact while the evolution of society and the Negro’s desperation is causing them to crumble. The White majority, unprepared and unwilling to accept radical structural change, is resisting and producing chaos while complaining that if there were no chaos orderly change would come.

Negroes want the social scientist to address the White community and “tell it like it is.” White America has an appalling lack of knowledge concerning the reality of Negro life. One reason some advances were made in the South during the past decade was the discovery by northern Whites of the brutal facts of southern segregated life. It was the Negro who educated the nation by dramatizing the evils through nonviolent protest. The social scientist played little or no role in disclosing truth. The Negro action movement with raw courage did it virtually alone. When the majority of the country could not live with the extremes of brutality they witnessed, political remedies were enacted and customs were altered.

In 2018, the Journal of Social Issues revisited the speech with a special issue titled, “Tell It Like It Is”: Commemorating the 5oth Anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Call to Behavioral Scientists.” Former  SPSSI president, Thomas Pettigrew contributed a piece summarizing his assessment of how social psychologists have answered Dr. King’s call to “tell it like it is.” He wrote, “Summing up all the papers, we can only give a mixed answer to the key question as to whether we have answered Dr. King’s 1967 call. ”

Pettigrew continued:

In general, SPSSI and social psychology have done reasonably well in researching much of what Dr. King called for a half century ago. But the hard truth is that we have failed to communicate our findings sufficiently to the public; thus, the full meaning of this large body of work has been effectively resisted by many white Americans…

National surveys provide a glimpse of the extent of our failure to communicate our findings to the American public. Recent Pew Research Center surveys show only 36% of White Americans think racial discrimination is involved in Blacks having “…a harder time getting ahead than Whites,” only 22% believe that Blacks “are treated less fairly in the workplace,” while 38% believe that the United States “…has made the changes needed to give [B]lacks equal rights with [W]hites.”

Generally, the development of critical race theory is dated after the assassination of King. However, one can see in his 1967 remarks the seeds of some of CRT’s points. King very specifically referred to “radical structural change” (systemic change) that was needed for Black Americans to achieve equity. King said white Americans were “poisoned” by racism and called on social scientists to document this. Now, social scientists are condemned by critics of CRT when they document and call out the poison and say exactly what King said in 1967. The bitter and discouraging irony is that many of these critics invoke decontextualized King quotes they like in order to criticize CRT and tell us King would also reject CRT. The APA address calls that project into question.

 

Martin Luther King, Jr. – Letter from a Birmingham Jail

Dated April 16, 1963, Martin Luther King wrote a letter from jail in Birmingham during the non-violent campaign there. In the letter, he defended the strategy of non-violence used in the Birmingham campaign.
One of the striking elements of the letter is King’s disappointment with the white clergy in the South. Here is a key passage:

Currently, white and black evangelicals are divided in obvious ways as we observe another MLK, Jr Day. For instance, African American Baptist churches are leaving the Southern Baptist Convention as white leaders there take aim at Critical Race Theory while yawning at Christian nationalism. White evangelicals as a group find themselves in much the same place as when King, Jr. wrote in 1963. I long for a change. I long for an end to concern for ideological purity and a striving for relational purity.

Liberty University Adjunct Professor Resigns Over Jerry Falwell’s Blackface & KKK Mask

In normal times, this story would rock the evangelical world. As things stand, it barely registered. However, examining the situation, it is incredible that Jerry Falwell is still president at Liberty University.

On May 27, Falwell tweeted:

In response, one of Liberty’s online professors, Christopher House, resigned. Dr. House, an African-American pastor and scholar rejected Falwell’s justification for the tweet. His full explanation is at his Facebook page.

Yes, the picture on the mask was taken from Gov. Northam’s medical school yearbook. It is also true that Gov. Northam is many years removed from medical school and apologized for his participation in the photo. He also faced widespread condemnation from his own party with numerous calls for his resignation. He disavowed it and is obviously ashamed of it.

Thus, Falwell’s use of the pic is opportunistic. He knows Northam doesn’t stand by the photo, and he knows numerous Democratic leaders called for Northam’s resignation. His use of that photo is now on him. He has to own it because he chose to use it. About the mask, he said he “designed my own.” He chose to use a photo of blackface and a KKK hood to make his silly political point.

So here we are. A Christian college president used some of the most painful imagery for African-American people that can be used to make his point. Apparently, it doesn’t matter who he hurts, offends, or angers, Jerry Falwell, Jr., large and in charge, must express his opposition to the inconvenience of a little mask on his face.

Falwell might protest that he is attacking the racist Northam. This is bogus. Northam disavowed it and is attempting to atone for his sins. Falwell appears to be oblivious to the pain this causes. He sins to make a point that could be made in so many other ways. In fact, his actions have now obscured the point he wanted to make.

Clearly, Dr. House experienced pain from Falwell’s choice:

There is very little that one can teach in an Intercultural class that can be taken seriously by students who seek to engage in a meaningful cross cultural, bridge building and improving race relations in the world when the President of the very same institution draws upon images of racial terror for political expedience, and without regard for people who look like me who will have to deal with the very real, social, economic and physical implications of those negative stereotypes long after his post is removed (or not as such is the case).

Symbols of racism are just that: symbols of racism. They aren’t analogies for perceived slights by white people. A mask using painful images of racism isn’t — will never be — an appropriate advertisement for your political grievances.

Good for Dr. House. I wish him well.

I Have a Dream Speech – Martin Luther King, Jr.

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. today, I link to MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech delivered August 28, 1963 in Washington, D.C. during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Be inspired.

For a transcript of the speech, you can consult the National Archives at this link.  It is fascinating to examine the draft of the speech. In particular, the phrase “I have a dream today” isn’t in the draft. He improvised the phrase.  He had used it before but it wasn’t in the prepared remarks. In the moment, inspiration came to him and he took the speech to another level. See this interview with Clarence Jones for more on that story.

Martin Luther King, Jr. – Letter from Birmingham Jail

Martin_Luther_King_Jr_NYWTS_4Dated April 16, 1963, Martin Luther King wrote a letter from jail in Birmingham during the non-violent campaign there. In the letter, he defended the strategy of non-violence used in the Birmingham campaign.
One of the striking elements of the letter is King’s disappointment with the white clergy in the South. If I could paraphrase King for today, I might ask the Trump evangelical advisory board, “Who is your God? Where are your voices of support when the president said fine people rallied with Nazis and white supremacists?”
Birmingham Jail MLK
Today, Donald Trump disbanded his group of CEO business advisors because many of them resigned over his remarks yesterday about Charlottesville. Not one of the evangelical advisory board resigned, nor did any of them condemn the remarks.  Is this how it is going to be? Is silence in the face of evil how evangelicals of this age will be remembered?
 

Southern Baptist Leaders Contradict David Barton's Claim about Confederate Symbols

(UPDATED to include Russell Moore’s comments…)
The religious right’s favorite self-styled historian David Barton has come out in favor of leaving Confederate statues in public view, blaming “the left” for the push to remove them. According to an article in World Net Daily, Barton sees “the left” at work:

David Barton, a historian and author of “The Jefferson Lies,” said the crusade against Confederate monuments is simply an attempt by the left to erase history. He said even monuments that some might think are offensive can be used for a good purpose.

Barton then says the next target for the leftists are monuments to abortion foes and opponents of slavery.

Soon we’ll have to take down Susan B. Anthony statues because even though she fought for women’s suffrage, she was openly pro-life; and, in today’s women’s movement, no one can be a true woman unless she supports Planned Parenthood and abortion. And of course Harriet Tubman statues will be taken down, for even though she was a leading conductor on the Underground Railroad bringing slaves to freedom, she was also a huge advocate for the right to keep and bear arms. For modern civil rights advocates, guns are anathema, and no true civil rights advocate can be for guns!
We no longer look at heroes as people or as complex individuals; rather we now judge them solely by one issue, whatever that issue happens to be at the time. We are creating a culture where we believe we have a right not to be offended or even have our misconceptions challenged; and we’re willing to use coercion to keep ‘me’ from being offended, even if that offends ‘you.’ What offends us now is so routinely redefined that probably no statue now will survive more than a generation before it becomes offensive to someone who will demand its removal.

Here Barton reduces monuments to slavery as a mere “offense” as if a tribute to slavery was simply offensive to the fragile sensibilities of left leaning people. I certainly don’t consider Jefferson Davis to be a “hero,” complex or otherwise. Barton’s minimization of slavery as a mere offense is in itself offensive and insensitive and demonstrates the need to remove these tributes to slavery from their place of honor.

Opposition to the Monuments Comes from the Right and Left

Barton’s narrative about the source of opposition to the monuments is contradicted by a prominent New Orleans pastor Fred Luter, Jr. Rev. Luter is pastor of the Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Luter is one of over 100 New Orleans area pastors who signed a letter supporting the removal of the statues.
Via Twitter, I asked Luter if he considered himself on “the left” or the right and he replied that he is “a part of the Right.” Also on the list of pastors supporting the removal of the statues is Rev. David Crosby, the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church. Crosby was nominated for the Southern Baptist Convention presidency last year. Being in leadership in today’s Southern Baptist Convention does not strike me as an activity of those who populate “the left.”
President of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Russell Moore told me he agrees with his New Orleans brethren:

I agree with Drs. Luter and Crosby. I’ve always said that we should not whitewash history in either direction, by denying that it happened or by commending what is not commendable. This was the position I took in regard to the flying of the Confederate flag and is applicable here too.

Finally, Barton again claims that Virginia state law made it “difficult, if not impossible” for Thomas Jefferson and George Washington to free their slaves. This is a bogus claim. The 1782 law on manumission not only made it possible, but enabled many slave owners in Virginia to free their slaves. Washington did so at this death but Jefferson declined to free his slaves and even sent slave catchers to hunt down those who ran away from Monticello.
To sum up, some pastors on the list of New Orleans pastors who support the removal of the Confederate statues may be left leaning or centrists politically. However, as I have shown, at least some come from the political right. Clearly, Barton is wrong about the sources of opposition to the public display of symbols which celebrate the Confederacy. People across a wide spectrum favor removal of the statues to be placed in museums or other place where people can learn from history. As with so many issues, Barton spins a narrative he likes first without regard to all the facts.
The irony here is that it is Barton who is at work altering truth, whether it be about Virginia slave laws, or the source of opposition to Confederate symbols.

Thoughts on Donald Trump's Speech at Liberty University on January 18

Jerry Jr. likes The Donald and thinks Trump is like Jerry Falwell. Falwell said Liberty wasn’t endorsing a candidate but the introduction certainly sounded like an endorsement.
Rev. Falwell, I think America is still great. We don’t need Donald Trump to make it great again. It is great now.
[youtube]https://youtu.be/E32ZPa4LGkM[/youtube]
John Fea on Donald Trump’s Two Corinthians.
Trump says he is going to protect Christianity. How about protecting all religions? Instead, he wants our country to get together around Christianity. Big fun if you’re a Christian.
Trump wants to knock the hell out of ISIS. He wants a big military to scare everyone. Actually, his simplistic, off the cuff policy statements are pretty scary.
Really? “When I’m president, you’re gonna see Merry Christmas at department stores, believe me.” What, he’s going to use executive orders for holiday greetings?
Trumps big policy planks – knock the hell out of ISIS, tough negotiations with terrorists, make department stores say Merry Christmas, build a Great Wall of China on our borders, keep companies from relocating overseas, stop common core, don’t restrict guns, get rid of Super PACs, and get rid of Obamacare.
I will vote for Trump for Crazy Uncle in Chief. Oy.
Open forum…
 
 

Jerry Falwell Jr.'s Irresponsible Machismo

For so many reasons, I am glad I don’t teach at Liberty University.
I can’t embed the clip so click through to watch Liberty University president Jerry Falwell, Jr. encourage students to carry guns on campus. He also seems to challenge “Muslims” (I assume he means radical Muslim terrorists) to come visit Liberty, and not for a college tour.
FalwellI have no problem with self-defense but this seems like an irresponsible challenge to people who are capable of responding to it. As a college president, your first duty is the safety and well-being of your students, not to go all John Wayne.
 
 

Response to IOTC – Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Speech: Our God is Marching On

On Monday,  I wrote about the Institute on the Constitution’s distortion of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s work and mission. The IOTC accuses those who cast King, Jr. as a civil rights champion of revising history. I addressed the basic problems in their arguments yesterday. Each day this week, I will post a link to another speech or article from King, Jr. which makes his position clear. Yesterday, I posted segments of his speech titled “Give Us the Ballot.” Today, I am posting a speech delivered in Montgomery, AL on March 25, 1965 titled “Our God is Marching On.”
King marched for racial equality but he did not believe such an outcome would happen with laws requiring equal treatment alone. He also asked the federal government for assistance with housing, jobs and income. King Jr. did not limit his mission to “God-given rights.” Agree or disagree, the IOTC assertion that King, Jr. sought only God-given rights (by their definition) is betrayed by his frequent calls for government intervention in housing, and poverty.
King, Jr. said:

Let us therefore continue our triumphant march (Uh huh) to the realization of the American dream. (Yes, sir) Let us march on segregated housing (Yes, sir) until every ghetto or social and economic depression dissolves, and Negroes and whites live side by side in decent, safe, and sanitary housing. (Yes, sir) Let us march on segregated schools (Let us march, Tell it) until every vestige of segregated and inferior education becomes a thing of the past, and Negroes and whites study side-by-side in the socially-healing context of the classroom.

Let us march on poverty (Let us march) until no American parent has to skip a meal so that their children may eat. (Yes, sir) March on poverty (Let us march) until no starved man walks the streets of our cities and towns (Yes, sir) in search of jobs that do not exist. (Yes, sir) Let us march on poverty (Let us march) until wrinkled stomachs in Mississippi are filled, (That’s right) and the idle industries of Appalachia are realized and revitalized, and broken lives in sweltering ghettos are mended and remolded.

That King was a champion of civil rights is beyond dispute.

Now it is not an accident that one of the great marches of American history should terminate in Montgomery, Alabama. (Yes, sir) Just ten years ago, in this very city, a new philosophy was born of the Negro struggle. Montgomery was the first city in the South in which the entire Negro community united and squarely faced its age-old oppressors. (Yes, sir. Well) Out of this struggle, more than bus [de]segregation was won; a new idea, more powerful than guns or clubs was born. Negroes took it and carried it across the South in epic battles (Yes, sir. Speak) that electrified the nation (Well) and the world.
Yet, strangely, the climactic conflicts always were fought and won on Alabama soil. After Montgomery’s, heroic confrontations loomed up in Mississippi, Arkansas, Georgia, and elsewhere. But not until the colossus of segregation was challenged in Birmingham did the conscience of America begin to bleed. White America was profoundly aroused by Birmingham because it witnessed the whole community of Negroes facing terror and brutality with majestic scorn and heroic courage. And from the wells of this democratic spirit, the nation finally forced Congress (Well) to write legislation (Yes, sir) in the hope that it would eradicate the stain of Birmingham. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 gave Negroes some part of their rightful dignity, (Speak, sir) but without the vote it was dignity without strength.

Others knew him as a “civil rights agitator:”

My people, my people, listen. (Yes, sir) The battle is in our hands. (Yes, sir) The battle is in our hands in Mississippi and Alabama and all over the United States. (Yes, sir) I know there is a cry today in Alabama, (Uh huh) we see it in numerous editorials: “When will Martin Luther King, SCLC, SNCC, and all of these civil rights agitators and all of the white clergymen and labor leaders and students and others get out of our community and let Alabama return to normalcy?”

Read the entire speech here.