Friday, May 20, 2022

MLK vs George Wallace, The Rematch

... and this time, George Wallace is winning.

Every time I hear someone on the left or right make a big deal about grouping people by race, I think about the MLK speeches I listened to on Audible. Their point was clear - stop classifying people by race. Everyone is an individual and should be treated as such. Their logic was clear as well. According to the Bible, we're all made in the image of God. According to the Declaration of Independence, all men are created equal.

I began to wonder about George Wallace's segregation speech. Old George was the Democrat governor of Alabama who famously said, "Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!" in response to attempts to allow people to mingle freely. I was able to track down the text of that speech, which was his inaugural address as Governor. You can find an excerpt here. As the hosting site focuses on African American history, it's no surprise that they picked out the pieces that deal with race. It does no damage to the content of the speech. I've read the full speech, as much as I could manage, and couldn't find any indications that the intent had been altered by the editing.

George Wallace was no Cicero. That speech of his is a real slog. The structure is clumsy and the logic is marginal. MLK, in contrast, wrote well-crafted speeches. They have easily-followed narrative arcs and their logic is clear. God says we're all the same, our founding documents say we're all the same, why don't we treat each other all the same? A few times, he gets a bit judgmental and those episodes detract from his point, but for the most part, his message is gentle and easy to support.

Wallace's speech surprised me in that it didn't support racism so much as it did racial purity. It had a very Hitlerian quality in that way. Wallace didn't want to enslave the blacks, he just wanted them over there while the whites stayed over here.

And so it was meant in our racial lives . . . each race, within its own framework has the freedom to teach . . to instruct . . to develop . . to ask for and receive deserved help from others of separate racial stations. This is the great freedom of our American founding fathers . . . but if we amalgamate into the one unit as advocated by the communist philosophers . . . then the enrichment of our lives . . . the freedom for our development . . . is gone forever. We become, therefore, a mongrel unit of one under a single all powerful government . . . and we stand for everything . . . and for nothing.

His speech is also filled with racial paranoia.

Let us rise to the call of freedom- loving blood that is in us and send our answer to the tyranny that clanks its chains upon the South. 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 today . . . segregation tomorrow . . . segregation forever...We can no longer hide our head in the sand and tell ourselves that the ideology of our free fathers is not being attacked and is not being threatened by another idea . . . for it is...the international racism of the liberals seek to persecute the international white minority to the whim of the international colored majority

He mumbles stuff about God, but it's not tied to any theological points from either Scripture or the Church Fathers, so it sounds like what it is - a cheap political stunt designed to make you think he's a faithful Christian.

We find we have replaced faith with fear . . . and though we may give lip service to the Almighty . . in reality, government has become our god. It is, therefore, a basically ungodly government and its appeal to the psuedo-intellectual and the politician is to change their status from servant of the people to master of the people . . . to play at being God . . . without faith in God . . . and without the wisdom of God.

In the end, MLK mopped the floor with George Wallace because he had the better product. MLK still does. Sadly, he doesn't get much play any more while Wallace's ideas do. It wouldn't take much work to recast the segregation speech into a modern screed attacking whiteness. When I see even our Catholic universities speak, act and think with segregation's logic, I can't help but think that Wallace is winning his rematch with MLK in the 2020s.

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