“Al Sharpton condemns President’s decision to ‘pay tribute’ to Martin Luther King with rug ‘everybody’s gonna be steppin’ on!!'”
As you’ve probably heard by now, his Oval Office remodel, in addition to reminding some (myself included) of generic conference rooms and hotel lobbies, has a major inaccuracy in it: the specially designed carpet incorrectly attributes a quotation to Martin Luther King. Martin Luther King did indeed say that “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
The problem with the Oval Office carpet is that he didn’t originate those words. Instead, Theodore Parker, an abolitionist who died on the eve of the Civil War, spoke those lovely words.
Someone ought to have taken the time to do a little investigation to make sure that all was accurate. Indeed, anyone with any depth of knowledge when it came to King should have been especially care, since King was known to borrow words, both legitimately (as here, where he never claimed that Parker’s were his words, although he didn’t attribute them either) and illegitimately (as with his lifelong plagiarism problem).
Up until recently, those inconvenient plagiarism facts were otherwise only discussed anonymously at horrible, evil “white supremacist” websites.
Like I say, up until recently:
King received a doctorate in systematic theology from Boston University in 1955 on the strength of a dissertation comparing the theologians Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Weiman.
In a 1989–1990 review, though, the university discovered that King had plagiarized about a third of his thesis from a previous student’s dissertation.
And although it was closer to liberal adaptation than outright plagiarism, King’s seminal “I Have a Dream” speech was, well, let’s say “inspired by” a speech that an African American preacher named Archibald Carey Jr. gave to the Republican National Convention in 1952.
In the course of the Senate debate on the King holiday, the East office received a letter from a retired FBI official, Charles D. Brennan. Mr. Brennan, who had served as Assistant Director of the FBI, stated that he had personally been involved in the FBI surveillance of King and knew from first-hand observation the truth about King’s sexual conduct—conduct that Mr. Brennan characterized as “orgiastic and adulterous escapades, some of which indicated that King could be bestial in his sexual abuse of women.”
He also stated that “King frequently drank to excess and at times exhibited extreme emotional instability as when he once threatened to jump from his hotel room window.” (…)
Mr. Brennan also acknowledged:
“It was muck the FBI collected. It was not the FBI’s most shining hour. There would be no point in wallowing in it again. The point is that the muck is there. It is there in the form of transcripts, recordings, photos and logs. It is there in great quantity. There are volumes of material labeled ‘obscene.’ Future historians just will not be able to avoid it.”
It is precisely this material that is sealed under court order until the year 2027 and to which the Senate was denied access prior to the vote on the King holiday.
One instance from King’s life that perhaps illuminates his character was provided by historian David Garrow in his study of the FBI’s surveillance of King. Garrow recounts what the FBI gathered during a 48-hour surveillance of King between February 22 and 24, 1964 in the Hyatt House Motel in Los Angeles.
“In that forty-eight hours the Bureau acquired what in retrospect would be its most prized recordings of Dr. King. The treasured highlight was a long and extremely funny [?!] storytelling session during which King
(a) bestowed supposedly honorific titles or appointments of an explicitly sexual nature on some of his friends,
(b) engaged in an extended dialogue of double-entendre phrases that had sexual as well as religious connotations, and
(c) told an explicit joke about the rumored sexual practices of recently assassinated President John F. Kennedy, with reference to both Mrs. Kennedy, and the President’s funeral.”
“Up until recently…”
I don’t like it much, either, but quite simply, that’s how life works: it goes in what seems to be the opposite direction than it should. But if you can accept that, lots of stuff either starts making sense or else you remind yourself you’ll just have to wait out the b.s.
In fact, that’s all just another way of observing that, well…
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
It takes a while, but I tend to win, because I try never to let the words “up until recently” out of my mind.