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Charlie Kirk’s Foolish Attack on America’s Civil Rights Icon

January 18, 2024 |

Charlie Kirk, the executive director of Turning Point USA, spoke to students and teachers at a Turning Point-organized “America Fest” political convention in December, declaring that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “was awful. He’s not a good person. He said one good thing he actually didn’t believe.” Kirk has reiterated his view of the civil rights icon in several social media posts and interviews since then.

Unlike Dr. King, Mr. Kirk has never risked that last full measure of devotion for any principle higher than himself. He epitomizes cynical opportunism. 

Has he ever read Gunnar Myrdal’s An American Dilemma, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, or Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin?

The 1960s ushered in three landmark federal civil rights statutes, not simply one, as Kirk insinuates. There were the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which ended a century of unconstitutional Black disenfranchisement by white racists, and the 1968 Fair Housing Act, which prohibited real estate advertisements proclaiming that “No Blacks need apply.”  

Does Kirk know anything of the marquee figures in Black American history — Crispus Attucks, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver, W.E.B. Dubois, William Monroe Trotter, Paul Robeson, Marion Anderson, James Baldwin, Ralph Bunche, Charles Hamilton Houston, Rosa Parks, James Meredith, Medgar Evers, William Coleman and Edward Brooke, among others?

Has Kirk denounced D.W. Griffith’s racist film, Birth of a Nation, which premiered at President Woodrow Wilson’s White House?

Has he rejected the nation’s practice of conscripting Black soldiers in World War I and World War II to fight in segregated units?

Has Kirk condemned the separate-but-equal racism of the Supreme Court’s Plessy v. Ferguson decision in 1896, or the declaration of then-Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney in Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) that Blacks had no rights which whites were bound to respect?

What has Kirk said about the thousands of Black lynchings with impunity during a century of “Jim Crow”? What has he said about the infamous “Scottsboro Boys” trial? What has he said about the declaration by then-Gov. George C. Wallace (D-Ala.) that, “In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever”?

Kirk’s assault on Dr. King is as farcical as would be a middle-school student’s critique of Albert Einstein’s theories, as ludicrous as Pontius Pilate’s declaiming against Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

Charlie Kirk is asleep at the wheel. The Supreme Court threw a dagger into the heart of the “diversity-equity-inclusion” mania in schools and workplaces in Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College last summer. In its decision, the Court cast a constitutional cloud over race as a legitimate proxy for educational or other diversity by invalidating racial preferences in admissions at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina. It vindicated Dr. King’s legendary “I Have a Dream” address at the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963.

Despite that landmark, widely publicized Court precedent, Kirk, five months later, bugled to the American Fest crowd: “The courts have been really weak on this. Federal courts must yield to the Civil Rights Act as if it’s the actual American Constitution.” We might conjecture that perhaps Kirk has not read and digested the Students for Fair Admissions precedent. The decision is online (and linked above), so it does not require an archeological expedition.

Instead, he stumbles badly in seeking a smoking gun. He points to a student’s complaint that Title IX of the Higher Education Act Amendments of 1972 exposed him to a gender discrimination investigation for posting an Instagram story mocking transgender people. Sorry, Charlie, Title IX is not part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that you perhaps hope to repeal. 

Dr. King was not a saint. But he gave that last full measure of devotion to lift Blacks from de facto or de jure servitude to racist masters. His devotion to nonviolence was worthy of Mahatma Gandhi; he was fearless in the face of Bull Connor’s fire hoses and Jim Clark’s cattle prods. His Nobel Peace Prize speaks for itself. 

Mr. Kirk should continue his own education. He has no standing to give Dr. King a report card until he writes something as eloquent, electrifying, and convincing as Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

Armstrong Williams is manager/sole owner of Howard Stirk Holdings I & II Broadcast Television Stations and the 2016 Multicultural Media Broadcast Owner of the year.

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