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In my opinion, Martin Luther King Jr.'s only rival as the American South's greatest 20th Century benefactor was Willis Haviland Carrier—the father of air conditioning.
The South was long an economic backwater, due to the enervating burdens of heat, humidity, and Jim Crow—an expensive, time-wasting, and obnoxious state-imposed caste system.
After the 1965 Voting Rights Act, white Southern politicians' support for Jim Crow collapsed. And the South made a remarkably smooth transition to an efficient modern economy where the color of a man's money is more important than the color of his skin.
According to Michael Barone's 2004 Almanac of American Politics,
"Per capita income in Mississippi [traditionally the poorest state] was 36% of the national average in 1940; in 1999, it was 72 percent, well below the national average, but given the lower cost of living here, a level recognizably American."
King wasn't a saint. But he was a hero in this important process.
Martin Luther King Day is the least popular federal holiday—only 29 percent of employers give their workers the day off. Not many non-blacks care. This upsets African-Americans. Black comedian Chris Rock says, "You gotta be pretty racist to not want a day off from work."
The dead of winter, however, after Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year, is the stupidest possible time to offer another holiday.
To fix this, we should move Martin Luther King Day to the Friday before Labor Day to commemorate his "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963 … and, to give Americans a summer-ending four-day weekend.
(It's not as if a lot of business gets done on that day anyway.)
Then even the Grand Kleagle would be demanding Martin Luther King Day off from his foreman down at the hog-rendering plant.
And who was the genius who chose February for Black History Month? First you have the MLK Day frenzy in mid-January, and then two weeks later, boom, it starts all over again.
I bet that, by February 2nd, even Al Sharpton is sick of Black History Month.
I can picture the Rev. Al easing into his Barcalounger and flipping on his plasma screen:
"Let's see if there's anything good on television … Oh boy, another Harriet Tubman documentary [CLICK] … Uh oh, a panel discussion on W.E.B. Dubois [CLICK] … Hey, it's that groundhog, Pungobungy Pete, or whatever they call him … and he can see his shadow! Now, that's great TV!"
The raw cultural muscle of liberalism is awesome to behold. Getting rid of Jim Crow was about the last good thing liberals accomplished … and they will never ever let us forget it, no matter how badly they must bore us with their smug reminiscences.
Despite the ho-hum attitude of most American grown-ups toward Martin Luther King Day, children are furiously indoctrinated into the cult in the schools. MLK Day is a bigger deal than [furtive look, whisper] "Christmas."
For example, my son was just ordered to write a letter to Martin Luther King. This sixth grader had to describe two things he'd done that he was especially proud of.
Merging Martin Luther King worship with self-esteem boosting—a classic California-style educational timewaster.
There has been a concerted effort among conservatives to rewrite history and paint King as an opponent of affirmative action by repeatedly quoting a single line from his Lincoln Memorial speech:
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
The truth is that King advocated "compensatory" hiring of blacks. Overall, he was a conventional Sixties Socialist. He subscribed to most of the leftist nostrums that did so much damage to blacks—above all, boosting welfare payments to single mothers (the black illegitimacy rate is three times worse today than in the mid-1960s) and going soft on crime (despite the Sixties' crime wave and baby boom, the number of inmates fell from 212,000 in 1960 to 196,000 in 1970).
These were disasters for the black community that only grew worse all the way up until the mid-1990s.
Our crack squad of researchers here at VDARE.com has found no evidence that King took a stance of any kind on the immigration act of 1965, which opened the floodgates to the foreigners who have done so much damage to the economic standing of African-Americans.
So he shouldn't be blamed for that.
But his successors in the black leadership have blithely continued to support mass immigration despite its impact on their constituents' wages.
A diligent reader checked up on the immigration policy voting records of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus, as graded by Americans for Better Immigration, and found
So 28 out of 37 (with voting records) have F or F- grades, or 76 percent. This is almost as bad as that of Hispanics (78 percent), versus 21 percent of the Congress as a whole who had flunking grades.
Congratulations (of sorts) are due to Congressmen David Scott of Georgia for selling out his people the least rapidly of all black Congressmen.
He got the lone D+.
If conservatives want a minority hero whose views on current controversies have been vastly distorted by his admirers, labor leader Cesar Chavez is a much better choice.
During the prime of his career, Chavez fought illegal immigration, which furnished strikebreaking scabs. He advocated anti-illegal immigration vigilantism and even offered his United Farm Worker staffers to the Border Patrol as auxiliaries.
Now, of course, Chavez, a third generation American citizen, is always portrayed as the patron saint of the La Reconquista.
In this mendacious retelling of his life, La Raza triumphs over La Causa.
[Steve Sailer [email him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and movie critic for The American Conservative. His website www.iSteve.blogspot.com features his daily blog.]