As the nation celebrates the life and legacy of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it has become all too common to use his mission to prop up one cause or another. Perhaps the man’s most famous quote regarding content and character has been forgotten in this era of intersectional hierarchy. What would Dr. King make of this sad new evaluation of worth that is now so rampant in the public square?
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
When King delivered these words in 1963, they resonated with those who would seek to create a society where values and actions counted far more than birth, breeding, or position. It was a clarion call to look past race, color, and creed. Unfortunately, one’s value to the “Beloved Community” has been distorted by the left and become nothing more than a hierarchical structure based on characteristics rather than character.
Where a voice is given more weight due to circumstance or lifestyle, it is a disservice to the idea of individuality and to the struggle for all people to be valued. To see people only in terms of their identity rather than their substance is a grave disservice to Dr. King and for that which he stood.
While it is arguable that white males have historically had access to platforms – and therefore “louder” voices – that others have been denied, it is not a realization of MLK’s dream that the opinions of this societal group are now being ranked of less worth than other groups. In an ideal world, weight would be placed on a person’s words if those words were worthy of it, not because of an individual’s inborn characteristics.
To suggest that one opinion is more valid than another based on identifiable features of the messenger is not only morally reprehensible, it is a poor argument. The logical fallacy of argumentum ab auctoritate (argument from authority), is more widely employed than many would care to admit.
How often do we hear that men should keep their mouths shut on women’s rights? Or that white folk have no input worth listening to on matters of race?
These flawed statements imply that the opposing side has a more superior argument by virtue of a characteristic they possess; this characteristic making them an “authority.” This is the antithesis of King’s central argument.
An argument should be able to stand on the merits of itself alone; if it can’t, then it is a poor argument. For example, a professor of racial studies and politics can make an argument for solving racial issues in America regardless of his or her skin color, and we should be able to assume that this person has a valid point. But to assume that an activist with no background in this field, but who happens to be black, has a point that is more valid than a white activist is faulty reasoning.
Character not Characteristics
What was it that made our beloved community place more weight on characteristics rather than character? Certainly, there is an element of social justice warriorism to it, but that is only part of the picture.
The mass-production of televised news and opinion should not be ignored as a factor in this overvaluing of content based on protected characteristics. When the written word was the main source of information transfer, the sentiments expressed in these texts were largely judged on their individual merits and coherence. The content was judged as valid or wrong based on the subject matter as opposed to who delivered it.
We have entered an age where style is more important than substance
It has oft been observed that the quality of broadcasting has gone downhill in recent years, and although this opinion is open to the criticism of “golden age thinking,” can there be any doubt that bias and agenda-pushing have become more prevalent in recent years? This forced narrative, because it lacks genuine content, makes an appeal to authority in place of substance … and this is where the problem lies.
We have entered an age where style is more important than substance, where characteristics are more important than character. It is an era that falls far short of the dream that Dr. King articulated some 50 years ago. And we are all the lesser for it.