by Ben Barrack
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When Bill Ayers made the statement during a radio interview on December 1, 2010, that Hillary Clinton created Jeremiah Wright during the Obama campaign of 2008, the outlandishness of that portion of the interview is what got the most attention in the blogosphere. However, that wasn’t the claim that should have grabbed the headlines.
In an attempt to diminish Wright’s fiery rhetoric – which notoriously included shouts of “G** D*** America,” to his congregation – Ayers said that Barack Obama’s one-time pastor was “very moderate compared to say, the speeches of King Martin Luther King between ’65 and ’68.” In particular, Ayers pointed to a speech King gave in Memphis on March 18, 1968, called “America will go to Hell unless….”
Where is the uproar from the Left? A white male accused MLK of being more radical than a man who called for God’s condemnation of America from the pulpit. Ayers was saying that the rhetoric of Wright – an anti-Semite – was tame compared to that of the man whose legacy includes countless streets named after him.
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In the interest of checking on Ayers’ credibility with regard to this claim, I looked up the transcript of the speech he referred to. In it, King said:
I come by here to say that America too is going to Hell, if we don’t use her wealth. If America does not use her vast resources of wealth to end poverty, to make it possible for all of God’s children to have the basic necessities of life, she too will go to Hell.
Of course, when King was demanding equal treatment for oppressed blacks in the early 1960’s, he did so from the moral high ground. When he demanded on June 25, 1967, that the solution required redistribution of wealth, he would unwittingly bolster the claims of Bill Ayers in 2010 while ceding some of that high ground. King said:
It didn’t cost the nation one penny to integrate lunch counters. It didn’t cost the nation one penny to guarantee the right to vote. The problems that we are facing today will cost the nation billions of dollars in order to solve these problems. In other words, we are in a period where there cannot be a solution to the problem without a radical redistribution of economic and political power.
Did Ayers have a point? If Ayers is still viewed as a hero of the far Left after claiming that MLK was more radical than Jeremiah Wright, should conservatives be allowed to agree with his assessment of King without being demagogued by the same people who gave Ayers a pass?
American Radio Works produced a documentary about MLK in 2008 entitled King’s Last March, which presented a slightly different view of King. The producer of that documentary, Kate Ellis, granted an interview to American Public Media’s Desiree Cooper, and Cooper raised the comparison between Wright and King. Ellis responded:
At the same time, King was always careful to say, “I love America. I love America so much I’m going to tell you when you’re wrong.” And so, in some ways, I would have to compare him more to Barack Obama, who says, “We’re not perfect, but we can be perfected.” And I think that’s a closer connection to King’s message than some of what I’ve heard Reverend Wright say.
That interview took place at the height of Obama-mania – in March of 2008. In the years since, it’s clear that Obama has had absolutely no problem enunciating America’s imperfections or telling nations that America is wrong.
So who is right, Ayers or Ellis?
If Ayers is right, America needs to seriousy rethink some of its most entrenched paradigms regarding Martin Luther King Jr. If Ellis is right, MLK shared Obama’s vision of wealth redistribution that is currently destroying the American economy. Either way, neither Obama nor Ayers is doing the MLK legacy any favors.
Ben Barrack is a talk show host on KTEM 1400 in Texas and maintains a website at www.benbarrack.com.