A wise man told us to hold hands, unify, and try to understand each other. He won hearts and minds with logic and words. Another man suggested we forgo sharing ideas and working together. Simply attack opponents personally and professionally. Intimidate them, disorient them, dissuade them, throw them off their game. He told us to consider breaking the necks of those who disagree.

Welcome to the politics of the 21st century, where candlelight vigils and conventional political processes compete with violent riots, intimidation and institutionalized division.

If today’s revolutionaries accepted the wisdom of Martin Luther King Jr., they would ask little Black boys and girls to join hands with little white boys and girls. Children would stand together as sisters and brothers in diverse classrooms. “All of God’s children,” as King said during his famous “I have a Dream” speech, would sing a patriotic song about their country, the “Sweet Land of Liberty.”

In King’s dream, “Black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics” would join hands and “Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

A movement of “woke” activists, politicians, CEOs, military brass, professors, journalists, and teachers has moved on from King’s agenda. They’ve either forgotten it or quietly rejected it for something quite different.

When the mostly white activists of Black Lives Matter assault Black neighborhoods, destroying Black-owned businesses, they are not promoting King’s vision of unity. When the National Education Association endorses the teaching of critical race theory, as it did during the July 4 weekend, it is not asking Black and white children to hold hands while thanking God for a country devoted to freedom for all.

Instead, union leaders want the nationwide teaching of a curriculum that tells non-white students they are helplessly oppressed by white students. They want nonwhite children to believe society was designed to ensure their failure and hand success to people born white.

By planning an organized “fight” against opponents of critical race theory, as the NEA’s new resolution calls for, the union stands to overtly obstruct King’s dream of racial unity in classrooms.

In contravening King, activists and institutions follow the rules and vision of Saul Alinsky — a white, relatively obscure, and far-less noble figure of the 20th century.

Alinsky, the opposite of King and so many other God-fearing civil rights activists, gave America-loathing activists a sophomoric manual for sowing division. It lives on today, even among those who learned the tactics indirectly and have never heard of Alinsky and his rules.

The blueprint left by King is difficult to follow. It involves building relationships, loving, forgiving, and trying to accept and understand differences. It involves obeying the Bible.

Alinsky’s rules involve gaining power by dividing and conquering and exacerbating differences. King says to love thy neighbor. Alinsky says to control thy neighbor by threatening harm, asserting grievances, and stoking fear and resentment.

In “Rules for Radicals”, Alinsky tells readers to gain social, political, legal and economic power “by any means necessary.” Divide people by fomenting resentment, much like the Bolsheviks promoted socioeconomic envy, anxiety, and hatred among Russian peasants who otherwise lived in relative harmony.

“Rub raw the resentments of the people of the community; fan the latent hostilities of many of the people to the point of overt expression,” implores Alinsky’s Rules. “An organizer must stir up dissatisfaction and discontent; provide a channel into which people can angrily pour their frustrations ... agitate to the point of conflict.”

Importantly, Alinsky wrote, “clothe it with moral garments.” Lipstick the pig and make evil look good. Claim a motive of “civil rights” while ignoring and violating the unifying advice of the country’s most revered civil rights leader.

There’s no room in Alinsky’s rules for holding hands, celebrating unity, praising the country, and extolling freedom. Instead, it justifies exactly the type of division we see in “defund the police,” violent riots cloaked in concerns for “racial justice,” a New York Times series that pretends the country was founded by slave masters in 1619, and a classroom curriculum that tells white children they are helpless oppressors of nonwhite children who are helplessly oppressed.

Just as the NEA enthusiastically endorses and advocates the teaching of critical race theory, it tells teachers to read “Rules for Radicals.”

“Saul Alinsky... has written here a guidebook for people who are out to change things,” says an NEA document titled “Recommended reading: Saul Alinsky, the American Organizer.”

Since its founding in 1776, the United States has ended slavery, outlawed forced segregation in schools, ended “whites only” drinking fountains and other sickening Jim Crow laws, passed a sweeping federal civil rights act, elected a Black president, and moved in the direction of a country unified by character.

When King advocated respect for “content of character,” he taught Americans they should think more about actions and deeds and less about the way a person looks. Color or a person’s genetic composition should have nothing to do with merit. That staple of King’s civil rights dream comports with nothing the NEA wants by advocating Alinsky and critical race theory.

Long before parents discovered the proliferation of critical race theory and similar curriculum in schools, professor Nicholas Daniel Hartlep wrote an assessment of the ideology for the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.

“Color-blindness and meritocratic rhetoric serve two primary functions: first, they allow whites to feel consciously irresponsible for the hardships people of color face and encounter daily and, secondly, they also maintain whites’ power and strongholds within society,” Hartlep wrote.

One cannot teach children to strive for success while simultaneously telling them a system of oppression will hold them down no matter what they do.

“They say in so many words, even our military brass is saying this, that a colorblind society is a racist idea,” said former communist David Horowitz, the author of dozens of conservative books. “They say everything is racist. The Constitution is racist. It’s a wholly destructive attitude.”

Only time will tell which of two conflicting movements will prevail. Will society cling to the longstanding ethic that says character matters most? Or, will we see pervasive acceptance of the ideology that says factions of genetic identity should and always will define our country. Will we debate and learn from people with opposing ideas, or will we destroy their reputations and harm them personally and professionally with Alinsky-style tactics.

Horowitz holds out little hope for society sustaining King’s vision against the modern movement to divide by race, demonizing some groups and extolling the virtues of others.

“This is the complete opposite of what Martin Luther King wanted,” said Horowitz, who recently released his book “The Enemy Within.”

Horowitz hopes critical race theory, Black Lives Matter, Defund the Police, “cancel culture” and other elements of left-wing aggression cannot bring down 225 years of progress toward unity. He hopes these movements — which he considers irrational, destructive, and counter to American values — will implode for a lack of integrity.

“It is possible this becomes a losing agenda for the left if we see enough Americans stand up against it,” Horowitz said.

“But that may be optimistic. Don’t forget, the left controls the entire educational system, most of the philanthropic institutions, the Democratic Party, and the mainstream media. This movement has a lot supporting it.”

Furthermore, Horowitz said conservatives and other average Americans don’t understand the threat and might not fight back.

“American conservatives have a tendency to roll over and appease,” Horowitz said. “And calling any of this a theory? It is no such thing. It is an indictment of this country that says white people are bad. Every disparity is caused by racism. Everything is racist, yet 80% of Black people live above the poverty line in this country.”

Alveda King — who grew up under the guidance of her uncle Martin Luther King, Jr., and his wife, Coretta Scott King — said critical race theory, the 1619 Project, and anything else that divides people along racial lines goes against the vision of her uncle. She believes these narratives would also offend her father, civil rights leader A.D. King, and her grandfather, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Sr.

“Those men were all reverends, and they taught the Bible truth,” Alveda King said.

King learned from her elders the basis of their family’s civil rights activism was Acts 17-26 from the King James Bible. It says: “And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.”

“That verse helped my uncle say something we quote today: ‘We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.’ There’s one race, and that’s the human race,” King said. “The preachers in my family have always understood there is only one human race and science proves this as well. When we think we are a separate race and there are separate races, we are being racist.”

Despite the country’s largest teaching establishment imposing critical race theory, despite violent race riots, despite the 1619 Project, and despite Alinsky’s insidious rules, King believes the agenda of her uncle, father and grandfather will prevail in the long run. She believes society will tire of dividing classrooms by “oppressor” and “oppressed” and return to children holding hands and thanking God for freedom.

She might be right. Throughout the country, Black and white parents are packing school board meetings to demand an end to curriculums that say whites are oppressors and nonwhites are oppressed.

“Telling my child or any child that they are in a permanent oppressed status in America because they are Black is racist,” said Quisha King, a Black parent who spoke out at a school board meeting in Duval County, Fla.

Legislatures and state school boards in Idaho, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Florida have taken measures to prohibit critical race theory and teaching of the 1619 Project in public schools. Other states and school boards are considering similar actions.

A Morning-Consult Politico poll in late May found plummeting support for Black Lives Matter activism, dropping from 61% to 48% a year after George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis.

An Ipsos/USA TODAY poll in May found only 18% of Americans support “defund the police.” A year-old survey by Bruan Research found nearly 60% of parents and nearly 73% of school board members want schools to teach the year 1776, not 1619, as the founding of the United States.

Black civil rights leader Bob Woodson reports school boards across the country are embracing his 1776 United curriculum, an alternative to critical race theory and the 1619 Project in classrooms. The 1776 curriculum teaches the country’s history of slavery, segregation, and all varieties of racism. Unlike critical race theory, it avoids blaming today’s children for the color of their skin and pitting them against one another.

“The truth will rise again. Of course, the truth is going to win. Jesus already won this on the cross,” King said.

Wayne Laugesen is editor of the editorial pages for The Gazette.

Wayne Laugesen is editor of the editorial pages for The Gazette.

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