Robert L. Woodson admired Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s moral consistency and a willingness to step on sacred cows.
Last week, Woodson illustrated the latter during remarks at a luncheon hosted by the Republic National Committee. The event, honoring King and the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, brought together Republicans, Democrats and representatives from civic, social and civil rights organizations.
Woodson, founder and president of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise in Northwest, apologized for being “the skunk at the garden party” for his less-than-celebratory comments.
“The King I remember was a man who was not content to be a reflection of majority opinion,” said Woodson, 76. “We forget that the civil rights movement wasn’t a monolith. There was great conflict and tension that defined the movement. Students challenged the slow pace of progress and King tried to convince them to take it slow. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and young people were the ones bitten by dogs and beaten back. SNCC, the Congress on Racial Equality and others were involved in this great debate.”
What people should remember, Woodson said, is that most involved in the struggle didn’t benefit from the change.
“For many, the dream for poor people has been a nightmare,” he said. “Gays, immigrants, women, environmentalists – all have come before them. We never hear people talking about the problems of the poor.”
What the GOP, Political Action Committees and other groups would have been smart to do, Woodson said, is to have taken a portion of the $1 billion they spent on attack ads in the 2012 general election and used it to invest in black communities and businesses.
“Both political parties should be competing on how they treat the least among God’s children,” he said, “We don’t need outreach, but uplift.”
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