Dr. King, Donald Trump and The Drum Major Instinct

Dr. Martin Luther King's "The Drum Major Instinct" speech has profound lessons for today.

As we celebrate this year’s Dr. Martin Luther King holiday, I’m reflecting on one of his most famous speeches: “The Drum Major Instinct.”

Dr. King was a thoughtful defender of freedom and liberty. We can give full credit to him for two of the most important pieces of legislation that buttressed and clarified our Constitution’s intent in the last 100 years, the Civil Rights Act and The Voting Rights Act.

Our Constitution is under attack again. We are faced with a front runner of the Republican Party, Donald Trump, who is a full-fledged addict of the drum major instinct — and has gone so far in his quest for self aggrandizement that he has described a vision for America that Martin Luther King fought his whole life against.

Once again, our Constitution’s defense will come from those who are still most oppressed. But that defense must be rallied.

In the last two presidential elections, Black Americans voted at a higher percentage than white Americans. The candidate who did not care about the 47 percent, who was not concerned about poor people, lost to an incumbent running the worst economy since 1933. It would’ve been easy for America to succumb to fear and not care about the 47 percent. The mighty “turn out to vote” efforts among those who have the least saved the day. President Obama’s leadership led us out of the Great Recession, provided medical insurance for millions of poor Americans and ended two unjust wars.

A very important civil rights battle will be fought in  November; we must get out to vote. I recently spoke with Octavio Hinojosa Mier — Executive Director, National Hispanic Corporate Council. One of his organization’s initiatives is to encourage people who are here with documents to become citizens as quickly as possible. I suggested that Latino employee resource groups could be mobilized for that effort. Every corporation wants their people to be as productive as possible — citizens are more secure and more confident than people who are just here legally with paperwork, especially when a presidential front runner describes your people as rapists and murderers and goes on to denigrate women, immigrants, Muslims, people with disabilities, etc.

The only way to defeat this pernicious evil drum major is to exercise your right to vote this November and help other people to exercise their right to vote. There are more of us than there are of them (Trump’s support is less affluent, less educated and older than the average Republican), but we have to vote in order to make it official.

I hope you have a meaningful holiday.

Slideshow: Living Through the Words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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10 comments


  • From a reader: The most impactful American who wasn’t a president of past century. I do wonder what Dr. King would say to “pigs in a blanket, fry ‘em like bacon”?

    My response: Doesn’t it bother you to repeat a story that Fox and the “conservative” press focused in on (seems like most of the stories focused on one protest in Minnesota), when they never look at the larger picture of injustice and cruelty? I understand they have to make a living and generate traffic from these kinds of stories (ones which appeal to the kind of people who would vote for Trump), but do you have to repeat it?

    I think Dr. King would be very disappointed, but not surprised to see the lack of progress in the last 60 years. I think he would be understanding, but not appreciative, of some things we see in current protests, but understand what he did was absolutely astonishing and beyond belief to white people of his era. I don’t think he would be judgmental.

    In my opinion, he would use today’s technology to peacefully shut this entire nation down for weeks on end, until the current reign of terror in policing, public schools and criminal justice was ended.

    That era’s unprecedented mass protests (and the attendant global media coverage) was how he got LBJ to take action regarding civil rights and voting rights. Keep in mind he negotiated with presidents Eisenhower and Kenedy before he gained traction with Johnson, who I believe had a heartfelt epiphany.

  • Martin Luther Jr. had tenacity, courage and a transparency that transcended far above the muck and mire of power and politics, bringing every man, woman and child, a glimpse of equality, burning his words on our hearts and bringing us to our knees, reminding us that each of us carry the task of loving beyond color and that our works will bring an eternal change to those that preceed us.

  • Luke, “Ones which appeal to the kind of people who would vote for Trump,” broad-brushes an entire segment of the population of this country in the way that you argue against on a regular basis. Who are the “kind of people who would vote for Trump?” Some are probably truly what you nebulously define as, or negatively infer are “the kind of people who would vote for Trump,” but others might simply be disgusted with the current administration, willing to vote for any alternative. So, I would propose that if you mean what you say, you shouldn’t paint an entire group of people with the same biased brush that others might use to paint other segments. Doing so is as polarizing to this country as some might argue Trump is, or for that matter, Obama is – depending on your view. We need to ask ourselves the question, who are the kind of people that would vote for Trump, and why, and what does that say about our leadership and the impact it is having on the people – all people – and not paint segments of the population into one or another broad brushed basket, just because you don’t agree with them.

  • Ken,

    Sorry, but put the red herring away…

    I do not disagree that he is a sexist, racist, womanizer, or anti-Semitic. The issue I raised is your surprisingly anti-diversity broad brush painting a segment of the U.S. population with a comment like “the kind of people who would…”, instead of trying to understand the “why” and offering a solution.

    Argue against who Trump is and what he represents, okay, sure. Go ahead. But, let’s not be further divisive in an already too divisive nation, broad brushing or marginalizing a large, and as you point out, apparently well defined segment of the population.

    There is something wrong, certainly, that while Clinton leads Trump in the polls, that lead is between a few, and up to 10 pts. With Trump as defined (I don’t think there is any question there), and as appalling as his statements and general biases – and as much as most Americans I know are appalled by it – the numbers he is posting looks like dissatisfaction with the current leadership, or party. How else could numbers in the 40% range +/- be explained. (Yes, I am open an interested in that kind of debate. I don’t understand the appeal. But, that is not my point here.)

    As for most Americans missing Obama in 1 or 2 years, whether Clinton (likely), Trump (unlikely), or others wins, is a valid opinion. Fair enough, speaking to the individuals, and not broad brushing or marginalizing those that might vote for one candidate or another. Given the two front runners, and other currently marginal candidates, you might be (probably are) right – but again, that’s not my point.

    • Most of Trump’s positions are patently offensive – you don’t think that’s by mistake do you?

      From Trump’s “The Art of the Deal”: “The final key to the way I promote is bravado. I play to people’s fantasies. People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do.”

      Trump purposefully took the positions he did because he KNEW it would attract a solid constituency: People who are “excited” by racist, misogynistic, purposefully offensive and angry rhetoric. People who are less educated, older and less affluent than the average Republican.

      Trump is going to kill the national aspirations of the Republican Party if they don’t regain control over their own situation. I wrote about this last July. http://www.diversityinc.com/ask-the-white-guy/luke-visconti-ceo-trump-and-the-destruction-of-the-republican-party/

  • We absolutely, must exercise our right to vote to keep Trump from gaining the presidency.

  • I simply do not understand people who can say, yeah, trump is horrible, but he’s better than the status quo. No, he is not. The type of ignorance that he and his constituents bring to the table will reduce this country to ash. He must be stopped. And the only way to do that is to exercise your vote when it is time to do so.

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