Then there’s the notion that non-whites haven’t made worthy contributions to civilization. Leave aside that by not counting Italians (sorry, Galileo and Da Vinci!), East Europeans (sucks for you, Copernicus!), or Jews (Einstein? Good riddance) as white, you’re bequeathing many of the glories of civilization to non-whites. But even with the most expansive definition of “white” possible, how do we account for the fact that Chinese, Ottoman, and Arab societies were leaps and bounds ahead of Europe for centuries? The Chinese invented the compass, paper, movable type, mechanical clocks, iron smelting, and countless other innovations when “white” Europe was a barbaric backwater. And let’s not forget that Christianity is a cultural import from that great melting pot that was the Middle East.
One is reminded of Benjamin Disraeli’s famous retort to an Irish Catholic parliamentarian’s anti-Semitic attack on his heritage: “Yes, I am a Jew, and when the ancestors of the right honorable gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the temple of Solomon.”
But this is the wrong way to respond to King’s bigotry. Among the best ideas and ideals of Western, Christian, and, most importantly, American civilization is that we are supposed to judge people on their individual merits, not keep score based on their ancestry.