Next Monday is Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday, and I just got off the phone with a reporter doing a story about it who wonders whether I or any other conservatives thought King’s teachings still had any “relevance” for today. I explained that King’s thoughts about the permanence of the “title deeds” of the American Founding in the “I Have A Dream” speech, and his embrace of the long natural law tradition in the Letter from the Birmingham Jail, are more popular with conservatives than liberals. (Nothing makes a liberal’s face scrunch up faster than drawing their attention to King’s embrace of the Thomistic account of natural law in the Birmingham Jail letter.) We’ll have to see how the story turns out, but I got to thinking more about it afterward.
If you want to watch a liberal or a lawyer drop his (or her) jaw, or especially a liberal lawyer, just make the condign suggestion that Brown v. Board of Education didn’t actually overrule Plessy v. Ferguson, the infamous case that upheld the noxious “separate but equal” doctrine.
It’s an audacious proposition to make, but Ed Erler of San Bernardino State University is extremely persuasive about this point. Instead, Erler explains how “separate but equal” is actually still very much alive today, but is concealed. And if Brown had been correctly reasoned, we wouldn’t be having these bitter fights about quotas and affirmative action today. Here he explains the matter in 17 fascinating minutes on this video from the Claremont Institute’s “American Mind” series:
JOHN adds: Erler’s point is well taken; it is one I have seen made before, perhaps by him. But I can’t get past the idea that a reporter called to ask whether “King’s ‘teachings’ have any relevance for today.” It is one more sign of the Apocalypse, I fear.