Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

On October 16, 2011 the new memorial for Martin Luther was finally completed. There was only one problem with the work. The wrong words were carved on the statue. The tone of the phrase misrepresented “the spirit” of the fallen leader. After a huge controversy, the memorial leadership decided to change the writing on the statue.

This change was legitimate. Unfortunately an illegitimate expression occurred this past week. Politico reported that Tavis Smiley had been disinvited from the 20th annual MLK luncheon, hosted by the Peoria Civic Center. Why? Mr. Smiley has said publicly that President Obama had not done enough for black Americans which, according to the Center, upset some people. He was replaced by reliable liberal Michael Eric Dyson.

In later interviews, Mr. Smiley noted that only a small handful of the 1500 ticket holders for the event complained about his comments, resulting in his ouster from the luncheon. He also made it clear that he supports President Obama, but as a journalist feels obligated to hold him accountable for his actions in office. While I may disagree with Mr. Smiley on some issues, I certainly agree that his honest appraisal of President Obama’s performance should not disqualify him from speaking at a luncheon honoring Dr. King.

In fact, Smiley’s dismissal from the event dishonors Dr. King’s legacy of holding all political leaders accountable for their actions and judging people based on their character, rather than their skin color. As I have written before, this is yet another example of the totalitarian attempts at thought control by leaders in the black community who purport to speak for Dr. King and African Americans in general. We blacks who refuse to kowtow to the extreme left are not only disinvited from events, but often publicly excommunicated from our own race.

True students of history understand that Dr. King, during his life, defied our current labels of “liberal” or “conservative.” This holds true for both his personal sentiments as communicated in his speeches and writings, as well as for the policies he advocated. On social issues, he—like the vast majority of black Americans—was unequivocally in line with conservative biblical teaching and traditional American values. On economic and foreign policy issues, some of his statements were so far to the left they would make today’s liberals blush. It is impossible to say that either of the two major political parties today has a monopoly on King’s legacy: if anything, they are both failing to live up to it.


Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.