We currently reside in the era of haughty self -worth and intellectual pretension. Hubris drives academics, pundits, and journalists to question everything about our past, because anyone lacking our current sensibilities must be flawed and unworthy of our respect. Slavery, racism, and sexism are unforgivable transgressions every person in history must be held accountable to according to our infallible judgements.
Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Wilson– Oppressors unjustly forced into our national fabric by other white, rich, men writing the history. All the advancements attributed to these monsters would have happened organically without them. Even figures such as Churchill and Gandhi have fallen prey to the “reassessment.”
But what happens when a historical figure, considered beyond reproach, is suddenly dragged into the post #Metoo spotlight?
Historian David Garrow’s recently published article reveals truly disturbing accusations about Martin Luther King’s private life; including his alleged observation(and approval) of a rape. King’s marital infidelity was documented long ago, but historians generally disregard it, much the same way John Kennedy’s dalliances are accepted and ignored.
Scholars have been quick to rush to MLK’s defense. They are urging caution because the allegations are mostly from FBI documents- King and J. Edgar Hoover were well documented enemies, so these could be remnants of a Hoover smear campaign. Feminists are also preaching historical restraint- despite his record as a womanizer, accusing a man of rape is a more serious charge.
Martin Luther King is receiving the benefit of historical doubt against serious and disturbing allegations. Scholars want to prevent any discussion of changing King’s place in our National story. King deserves such consideration.
No one bats an eye when Thomas Jefferson is called a rapist– something that would have been considered ludicrous 50 years ago. There is no documented proof of such a charge… only rumor, innuendo, and inconsistent oral histories. Why was Jefferson stripped of the same historical courtesies?
What about Washington? Madison? Jackson?
Tear it down?