Phi Beta Cons

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King and Colorblind Justice


The evidence on what King would think about today’s racial preferences is indeed mixed (for example, his seeming endorsement of such preferences in Why We Can’t Wait is often cited, but just a page or two later, he says that programs should also be available to low-income whites), but I don’t think anyone views King as infallible. And even it were demonstrably shown that he favored such preferences, I would resist the frequently made suggestion that opponents of preferences must therefore refrain from citing King, his “I Have a Dream” speech, and his heroic efforts against racial discrimination, on the grounds that in his (less principled) moments he may have endorsed racial preferences — just as I think it would be wrong to criticize Lincoln’s citation in the Gettysburg Address of Jefferson’s words in the Declaration of Independence, in light of Jefferson’s (less principled) life as a slaveowner. King’s ringing words describing his dream of colorblind justice are what he will be remembered for, just as we will remember best Jefferson’s words that all men are created equal.


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