Today we celebrate and remember the works of Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., keeping him in mind as we continue to fight for civil rights, equity, and justice. As many observe the holiday, President-elect Donald Trump has his own way of acknowledging Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“Celebrate Martin Luther King Day and all of the many wonderful things that he stood for. Honor him for being the great man that he was!” Trump tweeted early in the day.
Later in the afternoon, Trump met with King’s son, Martin Luther King III at Trump Tower. King said that the meeting was “constructive,” hoping that Trump will be a “bridge-builder” in helping the nation become greater moving forward. He also said that in the “heat of emotion, a lot of things get said on both sides,” abstaining from criticizing Trump
While King may be hopeful, recent and past events concerning Trump and civil rights and African American communities proves that the president-elect may not uphold Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and dreams.
Sources from Trump’s senior transition initially stated that Trump would visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. in observance of the holiday. However, ABC reported that they discovered that
the visit was removed from his calendar.” Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, later revealed that the president-elect had actually never planned to visit the museum today.
Furthermore, recent events concerning civil rights leader and U.S. Representative John Lewis prove to question Trump’s dedication to King’s legacy. Lewis, who marched beside King and was beaten and nearly killed by state troopers in Selma, AL, recently said in a “Meet the Press” interview that he did not see Trump “as a legitimate president.”
The president-elect tweeted in response to Lewis’ claims.
“Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk – no action or results! Sad!” Trump tweeted.
Various politicians defended Lewis with tweets on Saturday, with Sen. Kamala Harris, D-CA, calling Lewis “an icon of the civil rights movement who is fearless in the pursuit of justice and equality,” and Sen. Ben Sasse, R-NE, tweeting, “John Lewis and his ‘talk’ have changed the world.”
With this in mind, Trump’s appointees for his cabinet have also contradicted the mission of Martin Luther King Jr. The New York Times recently released an article proving that Trump’s cabinet has the most white males appointed that America has seen since President Ronald Reagan’s administration. Furthermore, Trump’s pick for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., has only reinforced future views of a racially discriminatory cabinet.
Sessions was deemed too racist to be appointed as a federal judge during the Reagan administration in 1986 and has celebrated the Supreme Court ruling which obliterated the central enforcement tools in the Voting Rights Act. Sessions has also denounced allegations of police departments practicing racial discrimination against African Americans.
Needless to say, a man like Sessions, someone who Trump chose to be part of the cabinet which will represent Trump’s policies and principles, shows how the president-elect’s vision of his presidency will most likely fail to uphold King’s defense for civil rights.
As the white supremacist “alt-right” has also found a voice through Trump’s platforms, hate crimes towards marginalized groups, including racial minorities, have also increased since Election Day in November. Trump, while claiming he does not stand for the empowerment of the alt-right, has certainly enabled them with the bigotry, racist claims, and wall-building rhetoric he espoused during his presidential campaign.
With the despair that many minority groups feel about Trump’s inauguration this coming Friday, however, it is important to stay unified and to refuse to accept racist notions and policies moving forward. We can reflect and continue persisting for justice by meditating on King’s words.
“There are some things in our society and in our world to which I’m proud to be maladjusted, which I call upon all people of good will to be maladjusted, until the good society is realized,” King had said. “I never intend to become adjusted to segregation and discrimination. I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. I never intend to adjust myself to the madness of militarism and the self-defeating effects of physical violence.”