A passerby walks in 2019 across an inscription in front of the crypt of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mrs. Coretta Scott King in Atlanta. EMILY HANEY / emily.haney@ajc.com
Photo: Emily Haney
Photo: Emily Haney

Opinion: A hard truth on MLK Day

We take time to reflect on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy on the 3rd Monday of every January.

Dr. King promoted a message of unity; therefore, every year all groups endeavor to prove that they somehow do unity better than other groups or organizations.

Republicans, Democrats, left, right, liberals and conservatives all attempting to point a finger at who is the most racist. Democrats argue that Republicans are racist and do not care about black people; whereas, Republicans argue the demise of Black people is a direct result of Democrat leadership. The truth is both sides play a part in Black people struggling to advance.

Historically, Black people have been conservatives. We hold strong family values, have an undeniable faith in God, and we believe in hard work. The Second Amendment serves to allow us protection, and today’s conservatives refuse to let us forget that the Republican Party freed Blacks from enslavement. The problem is that, on all sides, they want black people to be monolithic. Let me explain.

I am a black man. I was born and raised in Miami (Carol City), Florida, definitely one of the worse parts of Miami. I am a retired military war veteran, and currently the Chairman of the Gwinnett County Republican Party. I see conservatism through the lens of my personal experiences. Most people will default to tradition as their choice for religion or political affiliation.

I am a conservative because I grew up in a community that was run by liberals and Democrats with extremely liberal ideologies. Poverty, crime, drugs, murder and broken families were rampant in my community.

Dr. King’s message of unity was not unity by forsaking individuality. It was quite the opposite. Dr. King recognized there is diversity in unity. Part of his message was that we should live in a place where we would not be judged by the color of our skin but by the content of our character. Dr. King recognized there is uniqueness in unity. Individual character, individual experiences and individual thoughts should be the core that unifies us.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 signed by Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson prohibited any person from being denied the right to vote based on race. Black people pledged their allegiance to liberalism and the Democratic Party in droves after this landmark legislation.

Black people held strict loyalty to liberal ideology. Republicans all but gave up on their efforts to secure the Black vote. I say, shame on the Republican Party for that. Sometimes the truth does hurt. Dr. King said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Where was the unity effort then? Democrats and Republicans alike dug in on their sides and no one has budged.

Another year is here and it is time to tell the unity lie. My black, liberal friends and family point to their so-called unity efforts. Let us examine that. Yes, diversity of skin color for the Democrats — yet, little diversity of thoughts. I have been called stupid, sell-out, and traitor and worse just because of my political views. Nevertheless, are we not still family? Unity, right?

Republicans do not come out of this much better on this issue. I believe conservative principles and ideals are definitely better for progressing safety and prosperity in communities. I can look to my Gwinnett County as an example of that. People are moving into Gwinnett County from other states and from other counties around Georgia because of great conservative policies and principles that have made Gwinnett a great place to live. From schools, to public safety, to business development opportunities, Gwinnett County is thriving.

Yet, there are many who are moving into Gwinnett and want the county to resemble the failing areas they left. In situations like this around the country, Republicans have historically decided to leave communities that become very diverse of nationalities and thoughts. Historically, Republicans have shied away from fights on social issues. I believe this is the reason so many Republicans love President Trump. They have found their strength to speak up through him.

As we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King, let’s not make a mockery of everything he lived and died for. Many liberal communities of people of color are failing tremendously. Those communities are still part of this great nation that I risked my life for. People of color are still beholding to the leaders and principles that have failed them for so long.

For many conservatives who are on the outside looking in, for these communities they don’t see the need to fight for something where they cannot see the immediate benefit in it.

Keeping America Great is not a Trump thing or a Republican thing. It is an American thing. Our greatest resource is Us! Some will champion sending troops to foreign lands to do battle. Those same people will not go into neighboring communities that do not look like theirs in this country to make sure those communities are armed with information to help win them over to the other side.

Dr. King said, “The function on education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character — that is the true goal of education.” Real facts-based conversations about how to achieve social goals is how we have unity. Hard bipartisan conversations — not emotional screaming matches about what welfare, immigration and prison reform look like — that results in solutions is how unity is achieved. Real conversations that address broken families and how to remedy that is how we achieve unity.

Republicans, Democrats, left, right, conservatives and liberals, we are not robots. Our Republic is great because we are great. Dr. King’s dream is still alive. We can have unity and think differently. “Our lives begin and end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Edward Muldrow is chairman of the Gwinnett County Republican Party.

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