My essay on Martin Luther King, Jr.

My essay on Martin Luther King, Jr. June 27, 2011

I'm pleased to report that a 2008 essay I wrote for Religion Dispatches on the occasion of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday has been published in a collection of short essays on the issues involved in his assassination and legacy. The book in question is The Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. , edited by Noah Berlatsky and published by Greenhaven Press this year. It's part of their "Perspectives on Modern World History" series, which I think is geared towards high school students.


My short piece is entitled "King's dream remains unfulfilled." It argues that not only have MLK's most important teachings been neglected, but his memory is in practice often been co-opted in a reactionary manner that encourages complacency about America's continuing problems, both at home and abroad.

Speaking of MLK, listen to his breathtakingly courageous and prophetic speech against the dangers to America posed by militarism, "Beyond Vietnam." I think it's even more inspiring and topical than "Dream." Yet even though this speech was delivered almost 2 years later afterwards (and, eerily, exactly a year before his murder) and can therefore be said to be an even more accurate representation of his final worldview and mission, it has been completely written out of American culture. And, thus, so has the real Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., who didn't just limit his activism and preaching to racial justice, however worthy that goal is in itself. To the contrary, he considered racial justice the first step in his mission to end injustice in (and by) America.


[Transcript of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Beyond Vietnam" speech.]

The format of the book is "opposing viewpoints." Thus, my contribution was placed in opposition to another essay. From, err, a U.S. Government website (title: "King's dream has transformed America."). So much for a career in public diplomacy!

Unfortunately, the table of contents – which I was not consulted on – mistakenly lists me as a "writer and an Islamic Studies scholar." I'm not sure which is more misleading in this case. Sadly, "lazy blogger, would-be gadfly and permanent student" probably wouldn't impress most readers, though there's no dishonor in those callings in my view.

P.S. To my great embarassment, this post was accidentally posted to Tikkun Daily initially. That dang Windows Live Writer is a little too easy to use. On the bright side, it could've been worse–at least it was on a topic that's probably of interest to many Tikkun Daily readers. It could've just easily been a goofy ode to Star Trek, Legos or H.P. Lovecraft.

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