In a recent piece in The Atlantic, I urged top black athletic recruits to attend historically black colleges. One of the more absurd criticisms I received afterward was that Martin Luther King Jr.—a graduate of Morehouse College—wouldn’t approve of such a suggestion.
Bad enough that I was called a racist. A segregationist. Even a black supremacist —whatever that is. Worse still, by daring to challenge black athletes to redirect their talents to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), I was somehow betraying King, along with the color-blind vision he supposedly laid out in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. One reader sent me a screenshot of that speech, insisting that I read it and take notes.
In that same spirit, I would direct that reader and others to Harry Belafonte’s memoir, My Song, in which the entertainer and activist relayed a sobering story about King, a dear friend of his who spoke at Belafonte’s New York apartment a week before his assassination. “What deeply troubles me now,” King told the group, “is that for all the steps we’ve taken toward integration, I’ve come to believe that we are integrating into a burning house.” In his final years, King pretty clearly came to the understanding that no amount of integration would, on its own, make up for a long history of economic injustice. That hasn’t stopped conservatives from invoking “I Have a Dream” against affirmative action—and an idea like mine—or from putting themselves forward as the true defenders of race neutrality.