WASHINGTON - On the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's devastating landfall in New Orleans; the 47th anniversary of the historic 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom; and the 55th anniversary of the savage murder of Emmitt Till near Greenwood, Miss.—on Aug. 28—cable-TV news commentator Glenn Beck has been given a permit to host a rally “Restoring Honor” in the nation's capital.
The event is scheduled for the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his historic “I Have A Dream” speech.
“Join the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and many more for this non-political event that pays tribute to America's service personnel and other upstanding citizens who embody our nation's founding principles of integrity, truth and honor,” Mr. Beck says, inviting people to the event.
The rally, Mr. Beck states, will “celebrate America by honoring our heroes, our heritage and our future.” Many Black observers disagree. The symbolism of this event is as shocking an inappropriate as former California Gov. Ronald Reagan launching his first presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Miss. the site of the brutal 1964 murder of three civil rights workers, says some critics.
“I think it ought to be clear, this has nothing to do with the civil rights movement,” Dr. Ronald Walters, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Maryland told The Final Call of the planned march. “This has everything to do with the White nationalist movement.
“I use that term because it's the title of a book I wrote on ‘the Right.' So, they're White nationalists. Essentially, what's going on is that this is an opportunity for them to make a stab at what some people have called, ‘taking back their country.'
“And they're taking it back on the vision of King, and progressives, and the good things that this country has stood for. And they're replacing it with a very narrow, narrow-minded vision,” Dr. Walters said.
The Rev. Al Sharpton and his National Action Network are also planning a Washington mobilization on Aug. 28, at Dunbar High School, near downtown.
“But we will in no way be deterred by those dividers like Glenn Beck and other Tea Party members who are attempting to tarnish the legacy of this historic day and our impeccable leader,” the Rev. Sharpton said in a commentary distributed by the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA). “We will not allow them to hijack the dream, nor destroy Dr. King's mission.”
Mr. Beck, who is known for inflammatory rhetoric on his television and radio programs, says the rally is to be followed by “Glenn Beck's Divine Destiny, an eye-opening event at the historic Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. that will help heal your soul. Guided by uplifting music, nationally known religious figures from all faiths will unite to deliver messages reminiscent to those given during the struggles of America's earliest days,” according to Simon Maloy writing for Media Matters.
There will probably be no mass protest or counter-march against Mr. Beck's rally, according to Dr. Walters. The Rev. Jesse Jackson is planning an Aug. 28 march in Detroit, and residents of New Orleans are planning a commemoration of Hurricane Katrina that same day.
Still, Dr. Walters insists, the Tea Party, Glenn Beck and his people, “are not worthy of that date. I think that's what people ought to understand.
“Washington won't be the only site, because people are concerned, not just about Glenn Beck, but about jobs and justice, and that is in the tradition of Dr. King. If we don't do that, then (the Black response) is totally reactionary,” said Dr. Walters.
“Glenn Beck doesn't have a civil rights bone in his body,” commented Pastor Timothy McDonald, a member of the Concerned BlackClergy of Atlanta, which was Dr. King's base of operations and where the center named in his honor stands.
“This march is nothing more than an attempt to hijack and distort the civil rights movement. It is a highjack of the movement, a highjack of its tactics and a highjack of approach,” Rev. McDonald continued.
Mr. Beck's march is a slap in the face of the established legacy of Dr. King and others, but responses to the march should be tempered so that in some way the Beck march appears valid, Rev. McDonald said.
The Rev. Lennox Yearwood will be among those marching in New Orleans the weekend of the Beck march. “Let Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and Fox News have Washington, DC on August 28th this year. We shall respond with morality, faith, and love for our country. We will not respond to hate with more hate,” he wrote for GlobalGrind.com.
“What is right is to stand up for justice, to stand up for a sustainable economy, for jobs, for peace, and to stand up for our environment,” he said.
“Glenn Beck and the right wing have a right to conduct their march, said Dick Gregory, the social satirist, comedian, historian, and civil rights advocate who marched with Dr. King. The problem is that Black folks just were not clever enough to book that date 10 years in a row so “that's our fault,” he told The Final Call.
He said one of the sad parts about it is who announced their march first. “If that (National Action Network) was announced after him (Beck), it means that we weren't planning to celebrate anything and that this is just a reaction to his,” Mr. Gregory continued.
He recalled that the Ku Klux Klan, a White supremacy group known for terrorizing Blacks and people of color, opposed every march they held but they couldn't stop the civil rights marches because they were not illegal. In this case, Glenn Beck had law on his side and even if the Army were called in, it would attack the Blacks and not Mr. Beck, he added.
“It's not reaching too far to think they are attempting to preserve White supremacy and White privilege in this country. Here you have people that have taken King's words and taken them completely out of context to say that he was speaking about all people, but what they're saying is they're going to restore what was, under one hand equality for all people, a non-racial society, what King would have wanted,” explained Dr. William Boone, a political science professor at Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta.
He views the Beck march as a continued 20 year effort to distort Dr. King around and have him suit all people, regardless of whether their purposes reflect what the civil rights leader lived and died for.
It is definitely an attempt to hijack and legitimize the whole anti-social, anti-progressive movement that has occurred in America over 30 years or so, but what people are missing is that Dr. King's dream was for equality and justice for all people, not just the right wing, he said.
Certainly Dr. King argued for a non-racial society, he continued. But a society where there would be equality and justice for everyone as well, and that's what the right wing are overlooking, Dr. Boone said.
“They are overlooking the point that we still have not reached the point of equality quite frankly in terms of public policy. We have not even reached the point of justice for all people regardless of their color,” Dr. Boone told The Final Call.
The right wing is citing Dr. King's message as one that is so universal that it can accommodate their particular end, he said.What Blacks should be doing is reinforcing their own ideas, Dr. Boone said.
He acknowledged Rev. Sharpton's march but said that a counter march gives the Beck march and movement far too much weight and publicity. “Our best bet is to continue todo the kind of work within our community, educating our people, especially people in the 40 and younger threshold, who are very unfamiliar with and are more susceptible to the kind of rhetoric being put out there by Glenn and the Tea Party Group,” he said.
Issues like the Beck march take away from the discussion of why the SCLC is now in turmoil or the NAACP finds itself in question because of decisions by its leadership, Dr. Boone added.“We need to focus on those things,” Dr. Boone told The Final Call.
“I think what ought to happen is, one ought to describe the country that Glenn Beck and them want to place in the place of the King vision,” said Dr. Walters. They've got a party and a Congress of the United States that has said ‘No' to everything that would empower people. That is the vision that is at absolute contradiction to the progressive vision of Dr. King.
“So I think the issue is not the fact that they are being serious about dulling the civil rights movement. The issue is that they are trying to damage that movement, and replace it with a vision that is totally from the right and totally inhuman,” he said.