After the Supreme Court of the United States struck down affirmative action admission programs at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued the following post on Twitter.
As Martin Luther King Jr said, people should be judged on the content of their character, not the color of their skin. The Supreme Court affirmed that fundamental truth in today’s decision.
I was glad Chris Jones, who was Gov. Sanders’ Democratic opponent in the 2022 governor’s race, took her to task with his own Twitter post:
No ma’am. You can do a lot of things, but you cannot mischaracterize Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Take time to read his writings and listen to his full speeches (not just the short pieces you see during Black History Month). And it’s DOCTOR! Sit this one out.
I added the following Twitter rejoinder to Gov. Sanders.
Governor, your comment displays your willful ignorance about Dr. King and your hypocrisy about affirmative action. The U.S. military was integrated because President Harry Truman took affirmative action by way of an executive order. Please spare us your gratuitous hypocrisy.
Martin Luther King expressed support for affirmative action during a summer 1964 interview published in the January 1965 issue of Playboy magazine. The interview was republished in A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King Jr., edited by James Melvin Washington. According to the headnote written by the Playboy interviewers, that interview is “the longest he has ever granted to any publication.”
The following excerpt from that interview proves Gov. Sanders was wrong about King’s views concerning affirmative action.
PLAYBOY: Along with the other civil rights leaders, you have often proposed a massive program of economic aid, financed by the federal government, to improve the lot of the nation’s 20 million Negroes. Just one of the projects you’ve mentioned, however — the HARYOU-ACT program to provide jobs for Negro youths — is expected to cost $141 million over the next 10 years, and that includes only Harlem. A nationwide program such as you propose would undoubtedly run into the billions.
KING: About $50 billion, actually — which is less than one year of our present defense spending. It is my belief that with the expenditure of this amount, over a 10-year period, a genuine and dramatic transformation could be achieved in the conditions of Negro life in America. I am positive, moreover, that the money spent would be more than amply justified by the benefits that would accrue to the nation through a spectacular decline in school dropouts, family breakups, crime rates, illegitimacy, swollen relief rolls, rioting and other social evils.
PLAYBOY: Do you think it’s realistic to hope that the government would consider an appropriation of such magnitude other than for national defense?
“This country has the resources to solve any problem once that problem is accepted as national policy.”
KING: I certainly do. This country has the resources to solve any problem once that problem is accepted as national policy. An example is aid to Appalachia, which has been made a policy of the federal government’s much-touted war on poverty; $1 billion was proposed for its relief — without making the slightest dent in the defense budget. Another example is the fact that after World War II, during the years when it became policy to build and maintain the largest military machine the world has ever known, America also took upon itself, through the Marshall Plan and other measures, the financial relief and rehabilitation of millions of European people. If America can afford to underwrite its allies and ex-enemies, it can certainly afford — and has a much greater obligation, as I see it — to do at least as well by its own no-less-needy countrymen.
PLAYBOY: Do you feel it’s fair to request a multibillion-dollar program of preferential treatment for the Negro, or for any other minority group?
KING: I do indeed. Can any fair-minded citizen deny that the Negro has been deprived? Few people reflect that for two centuries the Negro was enslaved and robbed of any wages — potential accrued wealth which could have been the legacy of his descendants. All of America’s wealth today could not adequately compensate its Negroes for his centuries of exploitation and humiliation. It is an economic fact that a program such as I propose would certainly cost far less than any computation of two centuries of unpaid wages plus accumulated interest. In any case, I do not intend that this program of economic aid should apply only to the Negro; it should benefit the disadvantaged of all races.
Within common law, we have ample precedents for special compensatory programs, which are regarded as settlements. American Indians are still being paid for land in a settlement manner. Is not two centuries of labor, which helped to build this country, as real a commodity? Many other easily applicable precedents are readily at hand: our child labor laws, Social Security, unemployment compensation, manpower retraining programs. And you will remember that America adopted a policy of special treatment for her millions of veterans after the war — a program that cost far more than a policy of preferential treatment to rehabilitate the traditionally disadvantaged Negro would cost today.
“I do not intend that this program of economic aid should apply only to the Negro; it should benefit the disadvantaged of all races.”
The closest analogy is the GI Bill of Rights. Negro rehabilitation in America would require approximately the same breadth of program — which would not place an undue burden on our economy. Just as was the case with the returning soldier, such a bill for the disadvantaged and impoverished could enable them to buy homes without cash, at lower and easier repayment terms. They could negotiate loans from banks to launch businesses. They could receive, as did ex-GIs, special points to place them ahead in competition for civil service jobs. Under certain circumstances of physical disability, medical care and long-term financial grants could be made available. And together with these rights, a favorable social climate could be created to encourage the preferential employment of the disadvantaged, as was the case for so many years with veterans. During those years, it might be noted, there was no appreciable resentment to the special group. America was only compensating her veterans for their time lost from school or from business.
PLAYBOY: If a nationwide program of preferential employment for Negroes were to be adopted, how would you propose to assuage the resentment of whites who already feel that their jobs are being jeopardized by the influx of Negroes resulting from desegregation?
KING: We must develop a federal program of public works, retraining and jobs for all — so that none, white or black, will have cause to feel threatened. At the present time, thousands of jobs a week are disappearing in the wake of automation and other production efficiency techniques. Black and white, we will all be harmed unless something grand and imaginative is done. The unemployed, poverty-stricken white man must be made to realize that he is in the same boat with the Negro. Together, they could exert massive pressure on the government to get jobs for all. Together, they could form a grand alliance. Together, they could merge all people for the good of all.
King’s words emphatically show Sanders is wrong. King’s words are a far cry from the Supreme Court’s decision to invalidate the affirmative action admission programs at Harvard and UNC. And his words exposed the ideological disdain of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett for King’s views about affirmative action remedies for systemic racial injustice.
Moreover, King’s words show Sanders, the Supreme Court majority and other ideological opponents of affirmative action and other reparatory justice measures are hypocrites. The U.S. investment in the Marshall Plan after World War II rehabilitated countries that were home to white Europeans. Presently, Israel, a state created in 1948 with help from the United States despite objections from Arabs in Palestine, receives a multi-year U.S. pledge of $3 billion annually.
Sanders never has criticized affirmative action measures that benefit white people in other nations. She, the Supreme Court justices who objected to the affirmative action programs at Harvard and UNC, and other self-professed social conservatives never have complained about preferential admission programs that favor children of alumni, wealthy donors and athletes.
“Her decision to pimp King’s name was tantamount to ‘re-assassinating’ him.”
Instead, Sanders lied to use King — a person murdered for supporting preferential programs for disadvantaged persons of all races — to defend what the Supreme Court decided. Her decision to pimp King’s name was tantamount to “re-assassinating” him.
Hence, Sanders revealed the content of her character. Her calculated decision to lie about Martin Luther King, when his words were readily available to expose her false assertion, goes beyond showing she was untruthful. It shows the governor who boasts about her “Christian faith” at every opportunity, cannot be trusted concerning affirmative action, systemic inequities and racial injustice.
Wendell Griffen is a retired circuit court judge in Arkansas who serves as pastor of New Millennium Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark.