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Making America greater

The answer is not xenophobia, racism and greater inequality

Donna Brazile | 4/5/2016, 1 p.m.
April 4, 1968. This was the day that changed the life of a little girl growing up in the segregated ...
Donna Brazile, a CNN contributor and a Democratic strategist, is vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee. She is a nationally syndicated columnist, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and author of "Cooking With Grease: Stirring the Pots in America." She was manager for the Gore-Lieberman presidential campaign in 2000. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. (Photo: Jeremy Freeman/CNN)

— April 4, 1968. This was the day that changed the life of a little girl growing up in the segregated South.

Coming home that day from school, we learned the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. had been shot. "Why would anyone shoot Dr. King?" we asked. We were baffled, saddened, and in shock.

He was a kind man. At least that's what my grandmother told us. He wanted to help the poor and make a difference for others. My dad said he didn't carry weapons, but those who disagreed with him, often did.

This was the night that turned my life over to the movement. The civil rights movement.

Had an assassin's bullet not silenced him, King would be at work. He would be striving still for world peace, for a better world for kids, for justice for those lingering in the criminal justice system. He would continue the fight for fair economic policies -- ones that do not favor a single class over almost everyone else.

King would be working for the full restoration of the Voting Rights Act. He would not sit in silence as millions today stand on the threshold of losing their right to vote. He would have condemned the tactics that forced thousands to stand in long lines last month in Maricopa County, Arizona, and the officials who decided to reduce the number of polling sites.

And King would be appalled at the tone and tenor of today's presidential campaign. Campaigns have never been noted for their lofty words. But they have generally lifted debate, raised visions and defined who we are and where we will go.

This campaign so far will be noted for having coarsened and vulgarized our debate. This campaign, so far, will be infamous for letting fear grip our hearts, choke our compassion and drive us to repress others. This campaign, if we choose unwisely, could be known as the campaign that that began the unwinding of America.

I have never seen a campaign in which so many sophistic arguments were made -- arguments that sound plausible but are illogical. For instance, almost every candidate on the GOP side has attacked "political correctness."

Now, political correctness is defined as avoiding language that could offend others when referencing them, usually disadvantaged people. So, today we say "little people," instead of other terms that were viewed as derogatory, and that change seems reasonable.

But now, candidates have expanded the notion of "political correctness" to allow them to use language that offends everyone -- even language that violates fundamental American values. Candidates dismiss arguments as being "politically correct" to cover their introduction of ethnic and racial stereotypes, their advocacy of inequality and their justification of police surveillance.

The only clear-cut political correctness I see going on is by candidates who insist a person can't call the public's attention to their appeals of bigotry and repression. We truly cannot afford that kind of political correctness.

King would clearly say that creating special police patrols in minority neighborhoods, based solely on the religion of most of those living there, violates freedom of religion and our every moral impulse.