In another attempt to co-opt the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., Glenn Beck attacked Al Sharpton for "telling people that Martin Luther King's dream was really about redistribution of wealth." In fact, Sharpton accurately reflected the sentiments of King, who advocated for the "radical redistribution of economic power."
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Beck suggests Sharpton has "perverted" King's legacy
Beck: The civil rights movement "has been perverted and distorted" by people "like the Reverend Al Sharpton." On the July 16 edition of his Fox News show, Beck claimed that "the movement of the 1960s has been perverted and distorted" by people "like the Reverend Al Sharpton telling people that Martin Luther King's dream was really about redistribution of wealth." Beck aired a video clip of Sharpton, who stated that the "dream was to make everything equal in everybody's house." Beck responded by saying, "I don't remember that. Really?"
King advocated for the "radical redistribution of economic power"
King: "We are dealing with issues that cannot be solved without the nation ... undergoing a radical redistribution of economic power." In his book, Judgment Days: Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Laws That Changed America, author Nick Kotz writes that during a 1968 trip to Mississippi, King stated: "It didn't cost the nation one penny to integrate lunch counters" and "[i]t didn't cost the nation one penny to guarantee the right to vote." However, he concluded that "now, we are dealing with issues that cannot be solved without the nation spending billions of dollars -- and undergoing a radical redistribution of economic power."
Sharpton's comments accurately reflect King's sentiments
Sharpton: "The dream was to make everything equal in everybody's house." The video of Sharpton that Beck aired was from a May 2 address Sharpton gave at the New Hope Baptist Church in Danbury, Connecticut. In the speech, Sharpton stated that "the dream was not to put one black family in the White House. The dream was to make everything equal in everybody's house." From Sharpton's May 2 speech: (around 11:50 -- text from the portion Beck aired in bold):
SHARPTON: What bothered me then as I came -- I flew in from Washington -- and came straight to the church and was talking to the Reverend Pitts about right here in Connecticut. We're still faced with such social problems and social inequalities where the achievement gap in the schools is still so high between those that are making it and those that are not. And where you have 20 percent of the population in Connecticut black, but 70 percent of the folks in jail are black. I'm talking about in 2010.
So many of us that act as though the struggle for social justice and the struggle for right is over don't realize that the struggle is not over until we achieve equality. Someone was saying to me the other day, "Reverend Sharpton, we've got an African-American president; we've achieved the dream of Dr. King." And I told him that was not Dr. King's dream. It's a great thing. I've been working with the president and supporting the president, but the dream was not to put one black family in the White House. The dream was to make everything equal in everybody's house. President Obama being in the White House can help us get there, but we're not there yet.
This is only Beck's latest attempt to co-opt King's legacy and the civil rights movement
Beck has frequently used civil rights movement for his own political agenda. Beck routinely uses both the civil rights movement and its rhetoric to advance his own political agenda. Among numerous other examples:
- Beck claimed his followers "are the inheritors and the protectors of the civil rights movement." During the May 24 edition of his radio program, after playing the same Sharpton clip, Beck said:
BECK: That is not the dream. That is a perversion of the dream. We are the people of the civil rights movement. We are the ones that must stand for civil and equal rights -- equal rights, justice, equal justice. Not special justice, not social justice, but equal justice. We are the inheritors and the protectors of the civil rights movement. They are perverting it. They're perverting it, and they're doing it intentionally.
- Beck claimed his August 28 rally will "reclaim the civil rights movement." During the May 26 edition of his radio show, Beck said of his August 28 rally:
BECK: This is a moment, quite honestly, that I think we reclaim the civil rights movement. It has been so distorted and so turned upside down. It is -- it's an abomination what has happened.
Do you have the Bertha Lewis audio? Bertha Lewis was arrested yesterday -- Bertha Lewis, ACORN, New York -- she was arrested at an anti-Arizona rally and they were locked in arms, singing "We Shall Overcome." How dare you?
BECK: I tell you right now: We are on the right side of history. We are on the side of individual freedoms and liberties, and damn it, we will reclaim the civil rights moment! We will take that movement, because we were the people that did it in the first place.
- Beck: "I wouldn't be surprised if in our lifetime dogs and fire hoses are released or opened on us." During the April 9 edition of his radio program, Beck said:
BECK: The majority of people are not looking for fundamental transformation of America. But there are going to be boxes created. There are going to be the boxes created of the violent, just like there were the William Ayers; of the crazies, just like there were the dope-smoking hippies; and then the real reformers, the people like Martin Luther King.
We must put ourselves on that path and be unmovable. I have to tell you, I wouldn't be surprised if in our lifetime dogs and fire hoses are released or opened on us. I wouldn't be surprised if a few of us get a billy club to the head. I wouldn't be surprised if, you know, some of us go to jail, just like Martin Luther King did, on trumped-up charges.