Those words spoken by Rev. Martin Luther King provide one of the best-known quotes in America's history. His phrase is as famous as anything Thomas Jefferson or Abraham Lincoln ever said.
King’s words resonate as powerfully anything Jefferson or Lincoln said precisely because they, too, are an appeal to the same principles upon which America was founded; that all Americans are created equal.
Today, however, Martin Luther King’s vision of America, and the Founding principles on which the Republic has been built, are under attack.
Instead of teaching us to judge fellow Americans according to the content of their character, a radical ideology, Critical Race Theory, is teaching Americans to see everything in terms of race.
Critical Race theorists hold that the United States is founded on racial supremacy and oppression. They reformulate the old Marxist idea that society is divided between the oppressors and the oppressed, replacing the class categories of bourgeoisie and proletariat with the identity categories of white and black.
This makes Critical Race Theory a deeply divisive ideology and an extremist one that seeks to overthrow America's existing social and economic order.
At the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, we have been leading the fight against Critical Race Theory. First, we published a report full of evidence, detailing the extent to which this ideology is being taught in our public education system.
We also produced a model piece of legislation to tackle Critical Race Theory. Our proposal to tackle Critical Race Theory is not just consistent with Rev. King’s vision of America. I believe it would give us a legal framework to help ensure America lives up to his ideal. Our proposed law is also consistent with a belief in freedom and liberty.
I am delighted to report that a bill on Critical Race Theory passed through the State Senate by a clear majority recently. The bill is due to be assigned to a House committee shortly, and it is the only bill that addresses Critical Race Theory currently under consideration.
It is absolutely essential that we recognize that it is not enough to pass a law to defeat Critical Race Theory. We need to explain to the rising generation of Mississippians what it is about America that makes this country so special.
For most of human history, people were not treated as individuals in possession of inalienable rights. Hierarchy and hereditary were seen as the natural order. America, which was founded on the principle that all are created equal, was one of the first societies in the world where people began to be defined in terms of individual rights instead.
To be clear, the Founding principles were often very imperfectly applied. America produced laws and leaders that often failed to live up to the Founding principles. But that is not to say that the principles on which America was founded were themselves flawed. They are not.
The principles on which America was founded cannot be bettered. As Calvin Coolidge put it 150 years after the Declaration of Independence, “If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. No advance can be made beyond these [principles]."
Our "woke" elites today seek to return us to the pre-modern idea of group rights, collective identity, and advancement by caste.
As Coolidge went on to warn, if anyone rejects the principles on which America was founded, the only direction in which they will take America is backward, “Those that wish to proceed in that direction cannot claim progress.”
How odd that today, Critical Race theorists call themselves progressives. If they prevail, they will take us back to a pre-modern past.
It is vital that we ensure that the rising generation in our state understands and appreciates why Critical Race Theory is so wrong and appreciates what makes America so exceptional.
This is a fight that we can win.