I’m glad—thrilled may be a better word—that we now have strong evidence that Martin Luther King was not merely an unfaithful husband and compulsive dog (we already knew that, and so did J. Edgar Hoover), but that he was far, far worse. Of course, this doesn’t change in any way my assessment of King’s important contributions to civil rights, human rights, the culture and the nation. I just love to see people who have adopted an impossible and unethical standard for other important historical figures in order to preen, grandstand and mold history to their liking and purpose, to be hoisted—HARD–by their own petard.
King biographer David Garrow unearthed previously classified FBI documents showing that King was a bad guy in private by any measure, even using a Donald Trump or a Bill Clinton standard.
For those whose view of candidate Trump was permanently lowered by his being caught on video crudely boosting about “grabbing women by the pussy,” William Sullivan, assistant director of the FBI, wrote in a 1964 memo among many recently released that King joked to his friends that “he had started the ‘International Association for the Advancement of Pussy-Eaters’.” There is an incident recorded by FBI agents and held in a vault under court seal at the US National Archives showing that King “looked on, laughed and offered advice” while a friend who was also a Baptist minister raped a woman described as one of his “parishioners”.
Believe it or not, that story gets worse. The FBI reported that King joined Logan Kearse, the pastor of Baltimore’s Cornerstone Baptist church, who had arrived in Washington with what the FBI summary describes as “several women ‘parishioners’ of his church” in an orgy in Kearse’s hotel room at the Willard Hotel. The FBI, having neen tipped off about the visit and that King would be involved, bugged the room.
The civil rights icon and his reverend friend “discussed which women among the parishioners would be suitable for natural and unnatural sex acts.” One of the women protested, so Kearse raped her as King watched.
When one of the women in the orgy resisted engaging in an “unnatural act,” King and several of the men present discussed among themselves how best to initiate her into the kinky practice. King told her that to perform such an act would “help her soul.”
Garrow was and remains a great admirer of King’s deeds and legacy, but now says that he did not realize the depth of King’s depravity until he was hadaccess to the FBI files and investigation summaries. In a his article published this week in the UK magazine “Standpoint,” Garrow says that evidence of King’s indifference to rape “poses so fundamental a challenge to his historical stature as to require the most complete and extensive historical review possible.”
The Guardian paid Garrow for the article, then refused to publish it. In the U.S., The Atlantic and the Washington Post—WHAT??? I thought “Democracy dies in darkness’!—and other publications wouldn’t touch it. But Garrow persevered, and all the efforts to deny the evidence, or pretend that it is part of a racist plot appear doomed to fail.
“I wish none of this were true, and perhaps we will learn when the recordings are eventually released that these claims are not true, but I very much doubt it. David Garrow’s reputation as a civil rights movement historian is beyond reproach, and as a Democratic Socialist, Garrow cannot be said to have political motives for trying to discredit King. Given his professional background and political convictions, one imagines that it must have been excruciating for Garrow to have written this. But Garrow is a historian, not a hagiographer. Besides, it’s better to face the painful truth and to deal with it than to remain sheltered by a canopy of lovely lies.”
I’m not sorry this is true.
I want to see the ignorant, doctrinaire college students, progressive history censors and pandering politicians face this crisis and either live up to their alleged virtues and censorious standards, or admit that they were dead wrong, as I and many others have been saying all along.
Bill Cosby was still a great performer and TV trailblazer for African-Americans. John Wayne gave a foolish and racially offensive interview once, but his body of work celebrated American values while inspiring and entertaining millions. Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Jackson and others were slave owners, but they also made the United States possible. Teddy Roosevelt was an autocrat, an imperialist, a bully and hypocrite, but he made America a great nation, created the National Parks, defeated the worst of the giant trusts, and lived a life that legitimately inspired millions. Clarence Darrow bribed a jury, and he also accomplished more good in courtrooms than any lawyer before or since. Winston Churchill was an unapologetic white supremacist, but he saved civilization from the Nazis.
As a civilization, we must recognize and honor the many, many men and women of all races and origins who have made humanity better by their public deeds, intellectual advancements and accomplishments in civic life, war and peace. Few of them, if any, did not have serious flaws or engage during their lives in conduct that today, or even in their own times, would be considered reprehensible. Using these acts, and solely these acts, to assess which historical figures are worthy of being remembered by future generations leads to a societal suicide, embracing a culture without heroes or aspirations.
The old newspaper editor was not only wrong but also naive when he said, in John Ford’s “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,”
“When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”
It was naive because ugly truths inevitably come out. I find it truly hypocritical and disgusting, but not surprising, that the Washington Post decided to side with the old editor when King’s character was at risk of exposure. Journalists who think that way cannot be trusted.
Neither can ideologues, zealots and activists who pick and choose who to subject to their cynical and self-serving standards. So I’m genuinely glad to learn that Martin Luther King was, when he wasn’t leading his people and the nation toward justice and racial advancement, at least as unsavory as Jefferson, Robert E. Lee and others.
We have a national holiday named after King, and he was as flawed as Columbus. We have a massive sculpture of the man on the National Mall; there are more than a hundred busts and statues of King across the country, more than there are of General Lee and Thomas Jefferson combined. Come on, Pete Buttigieg! Let me see you thread this needle. You said that the Democratic Party shouldn’t honor Thomas Jefferson. Explain why it should honor King. Go ahead, you’re supposed to be brilliant. Can you avoid choosing between #MeToo and Black Lives Matter?
So now its time to decide, you historical air-brushers, you public censors, you Soviet-style designators of non-persons, you grandstanding, virtue-signaling, arrogant, power-seeking presentists and statue-topplers. Your move. What do you want to do now?
My suggestion: admit you were wrong and grow the hell up.
Pointer: Advice Goddess