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BEG: The hypocrisy of MLK Day posts

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Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a time when Americans are meant to reflect on the work done by King and his supporters to build a more equal and just society, especially in relation to race and African Americans.

The holiday recently passed, and our social media timelines were probably abundant with posts giving respect to King and the Civil Rights Movement. Influential people tend to offer reflections, or quote some of King’s inspirational words to commemorate the day.

For example, President Barack Obama tweeted, “Dr. King was 26 when the Montgomery bus boycott began. He started small, rallying others who believed their efforts mattered, pressing on through challenges and doubts to change our world for the better. A permanent inspiration for the rest of us to keep pushing towards justice.”  

These reminders of the incredible work done during the Civil Rights Movement are inspirational, but people must remember these accomplishments and work toward them the other 364 days of the year as well. The problem with these reflections comes when conservative politicians post about how motivated they are by King’s dreams, but intentionally work against them in their political careers.

Many right-leaning members of government posted quotes or pictures of King to perpetuate messages of caring for all. House Speaker Paul Ryan, who tweeted an awkwardly constructed black and white picture of himself staring at a King bust along with the words, “Today we remember a great man and his work. We read his sermons. We recall his sacrifices. We give back. In doing these things, we raise our gaze and renew the spirit in which we serve one another. Such is the calling of #MLKDay.”

The true hypocrisy and irony in Ryan’s tweet is that during the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, he agreed with President Donald Trump’s comments on how there were “good people” on both sides of the issue. King dedicated his life to the eradication of white supremacy and discrimination against African Americans. For Ryan to post as if he has worked to continue the ideas and spirit of King and his supporters is a straight-up slap in the face to those who are truly activists for King’s cause.

Vice President Mike Pence gives another example. On Jan. 15 he posted, “Today we remember the legacy of MLK Jr. His memorial stands tall, but the real memorial to Dr. King resides in the hearts of all who strive for a more perfect union. To honor him, let’s rededicate ourselves to the cause Dr. King selflessly advanced, that all men are created equal.” 

Not that long ago, Pence walked out of a football game because the athletes chose to take a knee during the national anthem. They used their freedom to peacefully protest just as King did 55 years ago. Still, Pence chose to insinuate he cared about King’s teachings and wanted a society where everyone is equal, while having also said gay couples caused “societal collapse.”

These republican politicians clearly do not follow and approve of King’s messages and actions, as seen through their disapproval of events like athletes taking a knee, the Women’s March and protests in support of DACA.

Peaceful protests were foundational for King and the Civil Rights Movement. Now, the use of peaceful protests is seen as unappreciative in the eyes of right-wing politicians. They only care and respect these movements when they do not have to deal with it themselves in the present. I find it very difficult to believe that if King did what he did in 2018, these politicians would not be staring so longingly at his face and tweeting his quotes.

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