“Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”

Martin Luther King
Nobel Prize Acceptance speech, 1964

This week we celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday. He would have been 84. There are tributes and speeches. After all, we have a (sort of) African-American President.

1968 and beyond

King was murdered in 1968 – what an incredible, tumultuous year. Anti-war hysteria and conflict. The disastrous Democratic convention in Chicago. And TWO political assassinations (Bobby Kennedy, remember?).

First there was JFK in 1963. It seems that one assassination establishes, at least in the minds of other psychotics, that taking out a major political figure is a way of making a statement, redeeming a useless life, impressing Jodie Foster, or whatever. Political murder became legitimate, if only briefly.

I’m glad it’s gone out of style in America. We have enough external enemies to deal with. Bush found a way to make himself assassination-proof: Cheney. I always thought of Cheney as Bush’s assassination insurance. Who wants a President who’s worse than the jerk you killed?

The progress that Blacks have made since 1968 is truly impressive. Much of the reason why they endured 100 years of Jim Crow after slavery was government – the racist politicians who pandered to racist voters, allowed segregation to stay in place, and refused to lead bigoted whites out of it by proposing the kind of bold changes that the civil rights movement had to initiate.

It was the federal government that reversed the situation, but only after the brave and sustained protests of Dr. King and his contemporaries. Politicians are followers, not leaders.

And can you imagine, some elements of American society were so enraged at the thought of Black equality that they murdered Dr. King, as if that would end it? Such murder is vile – and futile. You can “decapitate” a movement, but it still lives.

How America used to be

I CAN imagine that kind of hatred. I grew up in an America where Blacks and Jews knew their place. My father had two Black pharmacists working for him. He was the only druggist in town who would give them jobs.

Outrageous truth

But in college, I really found out the truth. I read the works of James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, and others, as research for my Honors Thesis, a study of African-American dialect in literature.

The books were an eye-opener. Up to then, I really did not know what was going on: the terror, the violence, the lynchings, the countless everyday insults and humiliations big and small. Separate drinking fountains and movie seats. No Blacks in the major sports leagues. How the fuck could these things happen in America?

As a jazz musician, I was and am particularly outraged at the treatment of Black artists, restricted from countless performance venues, abused by the police (because of drug prohibition), and generally denied the recognition due them (eventually, that changed).

The mind and career of Bud Powell, an early jazz piano genius, were ruined by a police beating. Just one more victim of the race hatred that poisoned America for so long.

So the persistence of Blacks and the indignation of whites at the suffering of their fellow Americans eventually brought the government into it, to FINALLY grant Black Americans the privilege of “liberty and justice for all.”

Still enslaved

Yet Blacks remain enslaved. As Jesse Jackson might say, the freedom process is not yet complete.

They remain enslaved to the double standard and racial preferences promoted by the government. The smiley faces of “diversity” and “affirmative action” are everywhere the rule in corporate and academic America. After 30 years of it, after a whole generation has grown up with it, shouldn’t things be about equal by now? When is enough enough?

Diversity is a HUGE business, with many consultants and publications. I received an e-version of Diversity Business, which caused in me the same disgust and revulsion as would a similar communication from the Aryan Nation or the KKK (with chirpy articles like “Ten More Reasons Why It’s Right to be White”).

But at least you can ignore these groups. No one is forced to pay attention to them, whereas MANY employees (some, I promise you, inwardly sullen) do have to go through communist-style “Diversity Awareness” training.

Companies brag about their numbers of Blacks, Hispanics and women, as dog breeders would boast of prize hounds in their kennel. Sharp Black or Hispanic women can practically write their own ticket. In the diversity tally, they count double!

In addition, governments and companies have “minority supplier programs” or “supplier diversity programs” that discriminate against white male enterprises, small businesses, and consultants. A large company can have hundreds or thousands of such suppliers. That’s a lot of discrimination and a lot of fatuous self-congratulation.

Race hatred

It is inhumane and reprehensible to make white males pay for the sins of other white males. It is the same kind of race hatred we Jews have experienced for centuries. It is the kind of self-righteous vengeance that Dr. King abhorred.

Blacks continue to be enslaved to their second-class status and the notion that they need special treatments and standards. How are they ever going to get the respect they need and deserve if they can never shake the suspicion that their race was a factor in their success?

Double standard continued indefinitely?

So…now that a (sort of) Black man occupies the Oval Office, how long can we expect the double standard to continue? As long as it benefits the politicians who play to Blacks’ sense of helplessness and entitlement to government rescue? Well, that’s forever. As long as there’s a racist thought or perceived racial slight in America? That too will be forever.

I’m with Milton Friedman. Companies should obey the law, create jobs, and make money. That’s quite enough. They are not social-engineering organizations.

American companies waste tons of time and money on diversity activities and on recruiting minorities; all of this useless expenditure (including “diversity conferences” and much else) takes resources and energy away from the actual business and makes companies LESS competitive in a global marketplace that doesn’t give a damn about “proportional representation.”

Blacks should stop pretending they can’t do it without special benefits. Black intellectual achievement and entrepreneurship go back to the 19th century, at least. Read up on John Johnson, one of the greatest Black businessmen ever. Or Bessie Coleman, the aviatrix. There were many others. (Fact check: Many Black “firsts” and accomplishments are open to question and dispute. But many are undisputably real.)

Blacks already have tremendous successes everywhere in American life, AND, very importantly, because of that success, there’s now a huge number of professional organizations that educate, sponsor, network, mentor, and promote ONLY BLACKS. There are associations of Black lawyers, doctors, accountants/finance people — groups for practically every profession. Can you imagine if white people did the same? If Hispanics can combine dozens of nationalities under one label for poltican purposes, why can’t we?

Enough already. The mechanism for even more Black success is in place. But as long as Black people continue to depend on government and white guilt, much of that success is and will be tainted.


Elimination of all special preferences is the key to what Blacks seek: success WITH RESPECT (as in merit-based pursuits like sports and the arts). People should be judged on the content of their character, not the color of their skin – remember Dr. King saying that?

The other chain that drags Black people down is their religion. Unfortunately, there’s even less hope of change here than in politics and the workplace.

People whose situation is desperate, who lose faith that there is an end to suffering and indignity in this world, take refuge in fantasy. Jews have done it too. They give up on reality and people – which is most unfortunate, since that is the only way Black salvation has ever taken place.

Black salvation

If brave civil rights workers had not stood up to the fire hoses in Selma, Alabama…Jesus or Mary would not have done it for them. Martin Luther King put himself in the line of fire, but Jesus didn’t take the bullet for him. God did not deliver Blacks from slavery – or Jews from Hitler.

Not that Black churches don’t do good things. The impulse for civil rights came from the churches, among other places – and it’s really a shame that people couldn’t figure out for themselves that we’re all created equal, but had to rely on ancient authorities and the accompanying myths. Plus, all that time spent singing and talking to Jesus could be devoted to improving society and the world.

Morality and myth

But now Blacks are wedded to the morality AND the myths. For most Blacks, they’re inseparable.

You go to church to learn to be good AND to talk to and sing about God and Jesus. The overpoweringly emotional music and hypnotic cadences of the preacher (which King used so well) help make sure of that.

There are a few Black freethinkers who know that Blacks’ salvation lies in themselves and their fellow human beings – not imaginary deities and hypocritical politicians.

When they realize this, they will achieve the freedom that Dr. King dreamed of. Until then, the government and the Black clergy, in exchange for all the false reassurances and paternalistic benefits, will keep them subordinate and dependent.


Alan M. Perlman is a secular humanist speaker and author — most recently, of An Atheist Reads the Torah: Secular Humanistic Perspectives on the Five Books of Moses. For information, go to

5 Responses to “In memoriam, Martin Luther King, Jr.: 45 years later, Blacks still enslaved”

  1. on 17 Jan 2012 at 1:02 pmRich

    It’s remarkable to me that, from the very Founding of our Nation, the issues/situations/crises regarding Af-Ams have been on the front burner.

    The Founders (see “Founding Brothers”) saw that it could destroy the Union before it even was born. They deliberately left it to future generations.

    And so, 4 score & 7 later, the Catastrophe came. The flower of our youth slaughtered & mangled (millions of their potential descendants were never born). The South was 3d world for a century.

    “The American Dilemma” has never been solved.

    I know that anti-AA racism, virulent to casual, exists. My parents (one a Mexican) were incredible bigots. I didn’t understand. AA’s never harmed them, and I didn’t even see AAs till college.

    A former friend surprised me by bitterly mocking AA accents when we watched TV.

    I dated AA women, & met AA men. I was struck by how being AA seemed to be a 24/7 job & concern to them. Must be v exhausting.

    WEB Dubois wrote of AA “doubleness”. 1. Seeing themselves as they are. 2. Seeing themselves through White eyes. He said it was an awful torment.

    I wrote speeches for an AA honcho for 3 years. It was challenging. Different style, perspective, subject matter. Taboos & sacred cows. A minefield.

    The US military has AA officer organizations.

    I love AMC’s new “Hell On Wheels”. Transcontinental RR, 1880s. Major themes are AA’s, Civil War, Indians, & bigotry.

    My anti-hero, Rumsfeld: “If there’s no solution to a problem - it’s not a Problem. It’s a Condition.”

  2. on 17 Jan 2012 at 4:59 pmRich

    Dammit! I forgot. “Hell On Wheels” also has a religious theme.

    Last episode. The night before, The Preacher hacked off the head of a Cavalry officer who was about to kill an Indian convert.

    The (Hero) Killer of Bad Guys & Indians comes for guidance next day.

    Preacher: “God exists. So does the Devil, who cut him to pieces leaving only God’s ears.”

    “So God can hear your cries and lamentations - but He can’t do anything about them”.

    “Choose Hate. Yes, Hate. It’s soooo much easier”.

  3. on 17 Jan 2012 at 5:46 pmAlan

    The Founders were caught between the dawning implications of the Enlightenment — that all are created equal — and the kill-em-all-if-they’re-not-like-us school of race relations that had persisted since the beginning of civilization (see Deuteronomy). They “kicked the can,” as modern pols say.

    Enthusiastically agree that for many, being AA is a full-time business, just as with Orthodox Jews. They have to use the dialect and learn the proper AA mannerisms, dances, attitudes, including a disdain for knowledge (Chris Rock says that to hide your money from a a nigger, just put it in a book) and everything else that makes them “seem white.” It sounds all-consuming, exhausting, and highly counter-productive.

    I continue to call for the abolition of double standards and preferences. If after all this time, AAs can’t compete equally in anything but sports and entertainment….well, per your quote (I heard it attributed to Shimon Peres), let’s face facts and move on.

    I ran out of white guilt long ago. Yet AAs keep playing on it, led by profesional AAs like Al Sharpton. Jesse Jackson (who once admitted he was relieved to see that the group of youths following him was white) and Cornell West.

  4. on 17 Jan 2012 at 6:53 pmRich

    My desultory knowledge of pre-Civ groups & cultures finds them extremely hostile & lethal to out-groups. Am Indians mostly lived to kill other tribesmen.

    Most that I know of called themselves variants of “The Human Beings”. Berger’s “Little Big Man” (an Am. classic) had fun w/that.

    The majority of AA popular culture & folkways are fearfully deleterious in myriad ways. They have influenced alarming proportions of immigrant browns and prole whites.

    Browns (I am one) and some white groups have “illegitimacy” rates 50%+, HS dropout rates even bigger. Many graduates are functionally illiterate. Immense social disasters.

    Note: Tattoos mark people like slave brands. Truman Capote visited many prisons to i/v murderers. He found them highly diverse, tycoons to thugs, w/only one commonality. They ALL had tattoos.

    Affirmative Action hurt my career (Diversity Czars thought my surname was from Dr. Zhivago, I looked Levantine - heck, Jewish, in my youth). Yet methinks if done rightly (forlorn hope) it cd do good. Like Gen. Colin Powell.

    I’ve never been tempted to guilt. It’s smug, condescending, and superior. Insulting to AA’s, in my opinion.

    Besides, so many fine Illinois lads in the Civil War. They and their grieving families paid w/agony, blood sacrifices for our “National Sin”.

  5. on 19 Jan 2012 at 6:36 pmAlan

    Affirmative action, like burglary or genocide, can be done right, but that doesn’t make it right.

    It hurt my career too. The obscene part was that our dept. was 80-90% female for 10 yrs. and others got career-boosting assighnments that I was fully qualified for, but since our diversity numbers were merged with the Law Dept. (reported to the same persion), they looked great.

    Once again: after 30 years of favoritism and reverse diuscrimination — a whole generation — if they can’t compete fairly, just let them continue to entertain us and don’t expect them to become astrophysicists…or professors of anything except AA studies.

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