by Billy Rojas
A number of people who support Political Correctness views have made statements to the effect that Martin Luther King was silent on the issue of homosexuality but that his philosophy supports toleration of this condition. Actually, it is almost impossible to imagine an interpre- tation of King's views that is not further from the mark.
The fact is, of course, that King's widow, Coretta Scott King, has taken a stand in favor of "homosexual rights." And of all people who can be thought of as ostensibly understanding her late husband's outlook, who could possibly have a better idea ?
However, on analysis, what we have is another example of a phenomenon that first became well known when Jacquiline Kennedy created the myth of Camelot to commemorate JFK. Some years later it became obvious to just about everyone that this mythic portrait was largely fictional. As good as the Kennedy presidency could be, which was considerable, Jackie led a sometimes anguished life and, to say the least, her anguish increased in the years after JFK's assassination when his assembly line scale womanizing became public knowledge. Imagery of Camelot had the primary purpose, from Jackie's perspective, of sugar coating a bitter pill.
In Coretta's case what we find is a woman who seems to have created an independent role for herself as a leader in the African American community, who, in the process, has felt free to take stands that Martin never took and that he would have repudiated were he still alive. There is no other conclu- sion to reach once you know the facts. We have a strong, independent Coretta as the torch bearer for her deceased husband, more or less a worthy successor who expresses views that theoretically take us to where a "progressive" Martin would have gone in due course.The trouble is that this particular interpretation of King's life does damage to some of the things he most believed in and that are just about impossible to think he would ever have modified, no matter how long he might have lived.
Coretta insists that Martin would have supported homosexual rights. What are the facts ? She also says that Martin never opposed homosexuality. This claim is easy enough to refute and, since her view is untenable it makes her other claim virtually unbelievable.
Of course there is a large problem for anyone who wants to establish what it was that King thought of homosexuality. It does not take long during a Web search for an answer to find sites that state that King never said a word on the subject. This is more or less true. However, we need to begin with the obvious. Baptists, certainly in King's time, but this remains true to this era in history, have strong aversion to as much as using the word "homosexuality." This form of behavior is perceived as utterly reprehensible and dehumanizing. To spend the least time even talking about it is considered to be socially unacceptable in most cases. Therefore, if this unpleasant subject must be discussed it is best to refer to it indirectly.
For one, I sympathize with such an attitude. Why pollute your mind with ideas or imagery that is defiling to the spirit ? Who, in their right mind, would want to spend even one minute thinking about such diseased behavior and the mentality that goes along with it ?
However, this viewpoint has a great disadvantage. It makes it needlessly difficult to deal with the threat that homosexuality poses to us all in the form of a ceaseless assault on the family, on community values that have served us well for generations, and on such things as government policy decisions that have effects throughout the country.
King, moreover, was utterly focused on the Civil Rights cause. He was not about to divert his attention to other social issues, especially since in those years there wasn't the least clamor for pro-homosexual legislation or anything remotely similar. Essentially it was a non-issue. Nonetheless, there IS evidence.
First of all there is a statement by Rev Fred Shuttlesworth, a long time friend of Martin. "I've heard Dr. King speak out against homosexuality on many occasions." Shuttlesworth did not elaborate but it is not difficult to guess the context of some of these comments, church sermons. The one place where Baptists find it appropriate to discuss the issue is at worship services when a pastor reminds the congregation about Biblical condem- nations of sodomy -the word "homosexuality" was only coined in the late 19th century. And although "sodomy" can refer to other sexual sins, everyone knows that its primary meaning is homosexual conduct.
As a Baptist minister King would have, by necessity and conscience, have spoken out against homosexuality on any number of occasions, including times when he was a guest preacher and Shuttlesworth was in attendance.
The issue may also have come up from time to time as King visited America's cities, including San Francisco and New York. There would have been ample opportunity for Shuttlesworth to hear King condemn such sick sexuality. Which, not at all incidentally, was pretty much what would have been said by almost any responsible leader in those years. Even the ACLU, until the 1970s, was opposed to so-called "homosexual rights." As was the Unitarian Church, to mention another highly liberal group that, then, was anti-homosexual. It would have been extremely incongruous for King to have been supportive of homosexuals -and the word "gay" as a synonym was not in use in that era except secretly, among homosexuals.
In other words even a thorough search of book indeces for the word "gay" will turn up nothing. And the term "homosexual" will be equally unproductive for searching for reasons just explained. You can only find out what King thought if you understand what Baptists believe, which apparently NO people on the Left these days have any interest in doing.
At any rate, in time considerable pressures were brought to bear on Shuttlesworth to retract his statement. As far as much of the leadership of black America was concerned, such a view, held by King, made the Civil Rights cause in its 1990s manifestation, "look bad." And there is just about no doubt that Coretta sought to make life difficult for Shuttlesworth unless he changed his tune. All of these pressures had the desired effect. Shuttlesworth recanted.
There is a "slight problem" for Coretta and various other high profile African Americans in her circle, however. Explicitly, and in print, Martin made it clear that he thought that homosexuality is a mental illness that is a serious wrong for anyone who takes part in such behavior. Neither Coretta nor anyone else can wish this away nor, for that matter, deny the value of all the other evidence that is relevant to the case. Shuttlesworth was right the first time. His retraction under duress was untruthful. There is no other way to say it.
For a time in the late 1950s King wrote a column that apparently was intended for publication in a religious newsletter or magazine. This column was called "Advice for Living" and several editions are printed in King's collected papers. One issue in particular is germane here, dated January 1958. It is in this column that King makes his views about homosexuality as clear as anyone might want -without ever once using the word "homosexual" -or even a euphemism.
The format of the column was Question and Answer. A young man had written to King, apparently someone in his teens. The writer said that he had a serious problem. He was not attracted to girls; instead he was attracted sexually to boys. He knew this was wrong and asked for help.
King expressed the view that the young man's feelings were probably acquired culturally -through others who he associated with, apparently- and also through some kind of traumatic experience he had early in his childhood. That is, King was analyzing the problem more-or-less in psychoanalytic terms.
But, said King, there is real hope. Admitting that these feelings are wrong is the first step and perhaps the most important step in the process of overcoming this affliction. Being honest with one's self, in other words, is a crucial part of making oneself psychologically healthy again -or even really healthy for the first time.
Things should not stop there, however. The young man needs help that he cannot give to himself. So King recommended that he "see a good psychiatrist." This recommendation, needless to say, presupposes that the young man is suffering from a psychological disorder. I am not sure what could possibly be clearer. King thought that homosexuality was a mental illness and something that needed to be ended as soon as feasible.
Against the view that since King was alive when he was, he "could not have known better," the implication being that since his time psychology professionals have learned new truths about same sex sexuality that renders all previous views obsolete. However, this outlook reflects nothing so much as ignorance of the facts -plus a tacit admission that someone, whomever takes this position, has been duped by homosexual advocacy groups.