Letters to the Editor: Was Dr. King a critical race theorist or an enlightenment thinker?

Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965.
(Steve Schapiro / Fahey/Klein Gallery)

To the editor: Martin Luther King Jr. wasn’t a critical race theorist, contrary to Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw’s claim. He was right out of the tradition of the American enlightenment thinking. His focus was on the individual, the essential transformation necessary for change to take place in our democratic society.

Though King attacked institutional racism, he did not leave it at that. He made an allegorical reference for us as individuals to find our road to Jericho to help those in need. In King’s first major speech as a civil rights leader in 1955, days after Rosa Parks’ arrest, he made a moral case for seeking justice to the crowd of 5,000:

“We are not wrong in what we are doing. If we are wrong, the Supreme Court of this nation is wrong. If we are wrong, the Constitution of the United States is wrong. If we are wrong, God Almighty is wrong. If we are wrong, Jesus of Nazareth was merely a utopian dreamer that never came down to earth. If we are wrong, justice is a lie. Love has no meaning.”


Can you find any of that in critical race theory?

Vic Volpe, Camarillo


To the editor: Critical race theory is part of ethnology, the study of how racial and ethnic groups view their participation in history.

I’m a boomer who grew up with the Creedence Clearwater Revival ballad of a white singer stuck in Lodi promised fame if he could make enough to leave from singing to drunk patrons in dive bars. My neighbor had a different take on Lodi the decade before when he returned home to Stockton after serving in Korea.

He landed a job in a Lodi packing plant but missed his ride home one evening. The police stopped him as he was wandering around town; they told my friend (who was born in San Jose) that they didn’t allow Mexicans in Lodi after dark. They drove him outside town and left him in an orchard.

When he told his father about the incident, his dad laughed and said, “Now you know about Lodi.”

We can inform critics of critical race theory, “Now you and you your children will understand ethnology.”


Keith Ensminger, Merced


To the editor: Certainly America’s racist past should be included in our school’s history curriculum, but is that not already done?

Indeed, history could be taught as a continuing search for a just society. Women were not guaranteed the right to vote until 132 years after the Constitution was ratified.

Is it not better to emphasize our progress from a blatantly racist and male-oriented society to one that has largely succeeded in providing the government, espoused by Abraham Lincoln, “of the people, for the people, by the people”?

Crenshaw refers to “the imposition of a fairy tale account of America.” I’m a college graduate, 83 years old, who founded and operated a business for more than 30 years with both Black and white employees, and served both Black and white customers. How did I miss this fairy tale?

Don Tonty, Los Angeles