The Radical King: Perspectives of One Born in the Shadow of a King


Much of Dr. King’s robust message has been lost or selectively forgotten. His legacy, while heroic and visionary, is open for debate and for usurpation. Politicians are quick to seize upon his loving messages of unity, but they often misremember or omit the more challenging and radical elements of King’s discourse. For instance, President Bush, celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, stated: “[O]ur fellow citizens have got to understand that by loving a neighbor like you’d like to be loved yourself, by reaching out to someone who hurts, by just simply living a life of kindness and compassion, you can make America a better place and fulfill the dream of Martin Luther King.”  However, this tribute represents a sliver of the richness of Dr. King’s message-the palatable, noncontroversial slice. Maybe we have omitted the radical parts of Dr. King’s message because it is easier to honor the dead by ignoring that which was discomfiting in their message. Paying tribute to a legend presents numerous challenges; honoring a King presents even more.

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