Inside Higher Ed
by Walter Kimbrough
January 26, 2021
I did something recently that I have never done before, something I never even considered I would do. I declined an invitation to speak for a Martin Luther King Jr. program.
As a preacher’s kid who grew up in Atlanta, someone who has met most of King’s lieutenants, I had long viewed every King Day invitation I received as a solemn responsibility. It was also an obligation to have the audience explore King beyond the traditional sound bites, so I prepared reading different speeches or looking for new passages in books by or about him.
So why did I decline this year? I didn’t do so because I had a schedule conflict, or that we couldn’t make the program work due to the risks associated with COVID-19. We found a date that worked, and I could speak virtually.
I said no because a governmental agency invited me. They sent me a speaker certification form, which reminded me that then-President Trump passed last fall an Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping. I had never thought I would be confronted with it. The order prevents speakers from addressing what they call “divisive concepts,” as well as race stereotyping and scapegoating.