Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) used the occasion of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday to warn President Obama against race-based politics.
West, who is black, sent a message to Obama in a Facebook note titled: “Mr. President, please don’t play the race card in 2012...”
“This campaign must be about ideas, policy and the direction of this country, and the President must not hide behind a curtain of so-called racial bias,” West wrote.
In the post, West, a Tea Party favorite, criticizes Attorney General Eric Holder for a comment Holder made last month.
Holder told The New York Times in an article published in December, “This is a way to get at the president because of the way I can be identified with him … both due to the nature of our relationship and, you know, the fact that we’re both African-American."
"As we proceed into this general election cycle," West wrote, "it would be a disgrace if Mr. Holder’s comment is the first salvo in the upcoming campaign to deflect honest assessment of the President’s performance in office."
Which pretty much proves two things: One, as an African-American, let me just say there are African-Americans who are completely ignorant about Dr. King's legacy and what it means for us, and two, I'm getting pretty sick and tired of Republicans doing everything in their power to co-opt and corrupt Dr. King's message.
President Obama on the other hand demonstrates yet again that he does get it.
President Obama called on Americans to contribute to community service in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The president, who was joined by first lady Michelle Obama and daughter Malia, celebrated the holiday by participating in a service project at the Browne Education Campus in Washington, D.C.
"There's no better way to celebrate Dr. King than to do something on behalf of others," Obama said during his speech Monday.
Considering Republicans like West scoff and fume at the idea that anyone should perform community service (other than maybe prison inmates) it's a message that West might want to pay attention to. Dr. King may have been one giant among many in the struggle for civil rights in America (and that's a struggle that still goes on to this day) but the real backbone of the movement were the people who gladly sacrificed for others. Sometime those sacrifices made were the ultimate price.
It's a message the "I've got mine" and "Unfettered capitalism rules all" Republicans never understood and still don't. Dr. King's message was about class equality as well as racial equality, and when you throw that notion in there, Republicans simply tune it out for the most part. They're too busy trying to pull the ladder up after them.
And Dr. King understood just how powerful economic forces were in social justice. The reason he was in Memphis the day he was shot he was attending a strike by African-American sanitation workers who were fighting for equal pay compared to white workers. If Republicans had their way, there would be no unions, no strikes, no collective bargaining. And in many ways, we've taken massive steps backwards in that respect.
Our society now is one of the most unequal of industrialized countries when it comes to income, worse than in Dr. King's era. Median real wages have stagnated for over a generation. And Dr. King's battle is far from over.
The difference is President Obama chooses to move forward, while his opponents want to convince us that the civil rights struggle is over and that we need to go backwards, with voter ID laws designed to disenfranchise both the poor and the minority, with laws denying equality to the LGBT community, with referendums that break up collective bargaining. That's the legacy of the Republican party over the last decade. Backwards.
Allen West is part of that, and there's no way he should be invoking Dr. King to try to snidely prove the validity of his truly awful positions.