Matt Towery

This past week, America celebrated the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 As usual, the most prominent of official celebrations was at the church in Atlanta where Dr. King was pastor.

 On the surface, this distinguished gathering of political dignitaries and civil rights leaders was a celebratory promotion of humanity and goodwill. Beneath the still waters, however, it was anything but.

 For context in this examination of "King Day," let's first note that recent surveys conflict on whether Americans believe their country has made significant progress in race relations since the tumultuous 1960s.

 Either way, few will deny that the nature of the race debate has evolved to new conflicts. There remains at least a difference in how most white and most black Americans feel about political philosophy and party identification.

 These split opinions don't end with whites and blacks. They extend into the King family itself; and this leads us to the story of the 2006 MLK memorial service in Atlanta.

 Dr. King's widow, Coretta Scott King, is recovering from a stroke and was unable to attend.

 Even the barest acquaintance of Mrs. King can attest that she is a strong and assertive person, sometimes to the point of haughtiness. To her credit, it was partly this iron constitution that helped her to successfully raise her children without a father; to successfully lobby Congress for a King national holiday; and to be instrumental in the creation of the Martin Luther King Center For Non-Violent Change in Atlanta.

 Sadly, it's the King Center that is the crux of the present-day battle. This fight isn't among political, social or racial groups, but among the Kings themselves.

 On one side is Dr. King's son Dexter. He is the apparent head of the King Center, which is located in Atlanta's Martin Luther King Jr. National Site, where his father is buried and which now belongs to the National Parks Service.

 Dexter wants to sell the center, as do many family members.

 On the other side is Dexter's brother Martin III, and another set of family members. They oppose a sale, believing that the many efforts to advance Dr. King's philosophy are most effectively promoted by its belonging to MLK's family instead of to the U.S. government.

 You might be speculating on which side I'm going to take. Is it wrong for the U.S. government to buy treasures like the King Center, or is it wise? After all, the center's appearance has deteriorated to the point that algae and other filth often cover the reflecting pool that dominates the area near Dr. King's crypt.

Matt Towery

Matt Towery is a former National Republican legislator of the year and author of Powerchicks: How Women Will Dominate America.
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