The Sordid Legacy of Dr. King

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The Sordid Legacy of Dr. King

After he left the Church of Scientology, Hollywood screenwriter Paul Haggis recalled a discussion he had had with his fellow Scientologists. If great leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. can err, Haggis suggested to his zealous peers, so too can the cult’s leader, David Miscavige.

“How dare you compare a great man like David Miscavige to Martin Luther King!” a senior church official allegedly replied, to Haggis’ shock. Former parishioners have accused Miscavige and his followers of everything from moral hypocrisy to verbal, physical, and sexual abuse.

Unfortunately for both Haggis and Scientologists, that means Miscavige has a few things in common with the Reverend Martin Luther King. 

Hitherto unseen FBI surveillance records reviewed by King biographer David J. Garrow in 2019 surfaced shocking allegations about King’s personal life that are in stark contrast to his reputation as an icon of social justice and Christian morality. Apart from more graphic details about numerous extramarital affairs, these documents allege King participated in the rape and sexual abuse of a female parishioner by a fellow minister. “King looked on, laughed and offered advice,” during the rape, according to the files.

Evidence about King’s true character as revealed in these FBI records has been excluded from the hagiographic treatment of his legacy embraced by Democrats and Republicans alike. Indeed, the latter seem most willing to ignore the more unsavory parts of his story to serve their own ends.

It was, after all, a Republican president, Ronald Reagan, who consecrated MLK Day as a federal holiday. After he elevated King to the official pantheon of conservatism, even above figures like George Washington, the commentariat on the right subsequently absolved him of his social radicalism and communist sympathies. Conservatives believed that by strategically claiming King as heir to “the principles of the American Founding,” as Heritage Foundation researcher Carolyn Garris argued he was, we could be redeemed from the left’s charges of America’s crimes against history and man.

King’s conservative admirers attempted to wield a whitewashed version of him against “woke” policies like affirmative action. An “agenda that advocates quotas, counting by race and set-asides takes us away from King’s vision,” Heritage’s Matthew Spalding once asserted in National Review. But the colorblind caricature of King is a distortion of the truth.

The real Martin Luther King supported imposing equity by force of law and chastised “white moderates” for thinking “justice” could come any other way. “I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice, and that when they fail to do this they become dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress,” he wrote in “A Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

And contra Spalding, King explicitly supported racial hiring quotas. In an initiative called “Operation Breadbasket,” ministers associated with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference gathered racial employment statistics from businesses to assess and formulate hiring goals. “For instance, if a city has a 30 percent Negro population, then it is logical to assume that Negroes should have at least 30 percent of the jobs in any particular company, and jobs in all categories rather than only in menial areas, as the case almost always happens to be,” King explained in a 1965 interview with Playboy magazine. Those who failed to meet desired quotas would be subject to boycotts and picketing by parishioners, King said, foreshadowing today’s present-day diversity and inclusion racket, as run by King acolyte Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition, among others.

While Republicans and Democrats have been able to selectively quote King to fit their policy and propaganda needs, what may soon be indisputable is his reputation as the vilest kind of abuser, as revealed by Garrow’s 2019 research. Garrow is no right-winger eager to trash King’s reputation. On the contrary, Garrow is a democratic socialist, who won a Pulitzer Prize for an earlier glowing biography of Dr. King. Garrow spent weeks poring over never-before-seen FBI documents, publishing his shocking findings in the British magazine Standpoint. They reveal the agency’s surveillance of King in new detail, which began due to his connection to Stanley D. Levison, a New York attorney with Communist Party ties, who gave King $10,000 in cash over two years, or nearly $90,000 in 2021 dollars.

Garrow reviewed one report showing that King’s friend, Logan Kearse, the pastor of Baltimore’s Cornerstone Baptist Church, brought several of his female “parishioners” to Washington. He offered King and his friends an introduction. “The group met in his room and discussed which women among the parishioners would be suitable for natural or unnatural sex acts,” the report states. “When one of the women protested that she did not approve of this, the Baptist minister immediately and forcibly raped her.” King “looked on, laughed and offered advice” as the minister raped the parishioner. 

Garrow added that the agents who captured the incident on a microphone-transmitted tape-recording “would not have had any apparent motive … to inaccurately embellish upon the actual recording and its full transcript.”  

King and his friends rendezvoused the following evening at a hotel and resumed their lewd soirée as a dozen people “participated in a sex orgy.” Assistant Director William C. Sullivan, head of the Domestic Intelligence Division, noted the night’s entertainment included “‘acts of degeneracy and depravity … When one of the women shied away from engaging in an unnatural act, King and several of the men discussed how she was to be taught and initiated in this respect. King told her that to perform such an act would ‘help your soul.’”

Behold a “fundamentally conservative” hero and the man at our nation’s moral center, to whom Americans are supposed to pay homage to every year.

Paul Eckstein, a lawyer who helped force recognition of the MLK holiday in Arizona, wrote in the Los Angeles Times that King “brought an end to our national shame” and deserved celebration as a result. However, the shame was just beginning, and for King, shame was the point. Of his approach to influencing white people with protests, he said in a 1963 interview with a Massachusetts public television station:

I think it arouses a sense of shame within them often. In many instances, I think it does something to touch the conscience and establish a sense of guilt…. This approach certainly doesn’t make the white man feel comfortable. I think it does the other thing. It disturbs this conscience and it disturbs this sense of contentment he’s had.

The MLK Day holiday, as journalist Christopher Caldwell observed, “marked not the end but the beginning of shame, of an official culture that cast their country’s history as one of oppression, and its ideals of liberty as hypocrisies.” Of course, King himself was defined by hypocrisy worthy of the utmost shame.

Garrow believes that “a profoundly painful historical reckoning and reconsideration inescapably awaits” King in 2027, when all the tapes and documents will be unsealed, such that “poses so fundamental a challenge to his historical stature as to require the most complete and extensive historical review possible.”

That day can’t come soon enough, but it’s hard to see the approved historians of the American establishment entertaining a threat to a regime icon like King, on whose saccharine myth so much of the current political order stands.

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