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The Marathon County Board recently hosted a presentation by Kevin McGary and Neil Mammen of Every Black Life Matters (EBLM). While in Wausau, EBLM’s aligned ministry Remnant Rising also offered a training at Wausau East High School, which promised to provide a “counterpoint to the deceptions of Black Lives Matter and Critical Race Theory.” McGary closed the presentation before the County Board by assuring his audience we had “been armed with some facts and some truth” but nonetheless challenged us to “go and do the research.”
Challenge accepted. Let me share just a few of the deceptions of EBLM.
First, the EBLM Web site includes a Founder’s Letter titled “A Preeminent ‘Justice Movement.” Embedded alongside this letter is an image attributing the following phrase to Margaret Sanger:
“Covertly invest into non-White areas, invest in ghetto abortion clinics. Help to raise money for free abortions, in primarily non-White areas. Perhaps abortion clinic syndicates throughout North America, that primarily operate in non-White areas and receive tax support, should be promoted.”
This sentiment is appalling. However, Sanger didn’t say it. Those words were written by Tom Metzger, founder of White Aryan Resistance (WAR) and a former Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. Metzger included them in an essay titled “What We Believe as White Racists,” which can be found reprinted in the edited volume Extreme Deviance.
It’s striking how blatantly McGary and Mammen deceive in order to advance their message.
Of course, Margaret Sanger is quite complicated and controversial. Trained historians, such as Linda Gordon, Jean H. Baker, and Susan Reverby, have used Sanger’s own writings to untangle her troubling connection to the American eugenics movement. Their scholarship reveals more of McGary’s and Mammen’s deception. We know from the 1939 pamphlet “Birth Control and the Negro” — which was published as part of Sanger’s Negro Project — that she held paternalistic and racist views, including chastising Black families that “breed carelessly and disastrously.” But McGary failed to contextualize Sanger’s efforts in the Black community. For instance, Sanger also collaborated with the celebrated Black scholar and civil rights activist W.E.B. DuBois. An actual quote from Sanger (rather than one mis-attributed to her) reads:
“The Negro race has reached a place in its history when every possible effort should be made to have every Negro child count as a valuable contribution to the future of America. Negro parents, like all parents, must create the next generation from strength, not from weakness; from health, not from despair” (“Love or Babies: Must Negro Mothers Choose?,” 1946).
McGary’s insistence that Sanger hated Blacks and sought to exterminate them ignores the messiness of history in favor of a simplistic conclusion that supports his political persuasion. Had members of the County Board been truly concerned with learning more about the historical connection between race and abortion in America, they could have consulted an expert on the subject rather than an ideologue.
Several times during the presentation, McGary and Mammen reminded us that Martin Luther King, Jr. “admonished and encouraged us all that we should judge one another based on the content of our character, not the color of our skin.”
Readers are likely already familiar with that passage from King’s famous speech. Unfortunately, neither McGary nor Mammen explained King’s proposed means to his aspirational end. Turns out some of what King promoted, particularly in the months prior to his assassination, stands in stark contrast to the beliefs of supposed acolytes like McGary and Mammen. For instance in Where Do We Go From Here, King wrote:
“It is time for all of us to tell each other the truth about who and what have brought the Negro to the conditions of deprivation against which he struggles today. … To find the origins of the Negro problem we must turn to the white man’s problem. … In short, white America must assume the guilt for the Black man’s inferior status.”
In an essay titled “A Testament of Hope,” King insisted:
“The black revolution is much more than a struggle for the rights of Negroes. It is forcing America to face all its interrelated flaws — racism, poverty, militarism and materialism. It is exposing evils that are rooted deeply in the whole structure of our society. It reveals systemic rather than superficial flaws and suggests that radical reconstruction of society itself is the real issue to be faced. It is time that we stopped our blithe lip service to the guarantees of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. These fine sentiments are embodied in the Declaration of Independence, but that document was always a declaration of intent rather than reality. There were slaves when it was written; there were still slaves when it was adopted; and to this day, Black Americans have not life, liberty nor the privilege of pursuing happiness, and millions of poor white Americans are in economic bondage that is scarcely less oppressive. Americans who genuinely treasure our national ideals, who know they are still elusive dreams for all too many, should welcome the stirring of Negro demands. They are shattering the complacency that allowed a multitude of social evils to accumulate. Negro agitation is requiring America to re-examine its comforting myths and may yet catalyze the drastic reforms that will save us from social catastrophe.”
By reducing the complexity of King’s thinking, and by outright ignoring King’s desire that whites accept guilt for a system that unequally distributes the rights of personhood, McGary and Mammen deceptively associate such ideas not with the vaunted civil rights leader but with scholars they despise, like Ibram X. Kendi and Robin DiAngelo. Should the County Board wish to engage in honest discourse about the benefits and pitfalls of Critical Race Theory, they would do well to find individuals who have some sense of the meaning, purpose, and direction of that academic field, including the debt it owes to Martin Luther King, Jr.
I don’t disparage McGary and Mammen for the work they do. They have turned their lives and careers to an issue they find important and fulfilling. However, passion does not equal knowledge of a particular field. In this case, a minimal amount of research and evidence discredits the story McGary and Mammen tell. Echoing the comments of Supervisors Harris, Lo, and Johnson, I’m disappointed and embarrassed that the County Board gave McGary and Mammen a platform to spread politically motivated deception under the guise of an educational presentation.
Brandon Luedtke, Wausau