Comfortable vs challenging: Martin Luther King

“The comfortable Martin Luther King Jr. gave only one speech in his life, and we’re required to quote one line from that one speech.”

Martin Luther King removes burnt crossThis TIME magazine piece from January 2018 struck me:

“In 1963, most Americans disapproved of the [August 28 March on Washington] event, many congressmen saw it as potentially seditious, and law enforcement from local police to the FBI monitored it intensively (under code name Operation Steep Hill).

“Indeed, it was after King’s speech… that the FBI — with President Kennedy’s approval — decided to increase their monitoring of the civil rights leader. With the FBI describing King as ‘demagogic’ and ‘the most dangerous… to the Nation… from the standpoint … of national security,” Attorney General Robert Kennedy signed off on intrusive surveillance of his living quarters, offices, phones, and hotel rooms, as well as those of his associates.”

Also from last year, this Folio Media. piece:

“Which Martin Luther King Jr. will we celebrate? There is a comfortable Martin Luther King Jr. and there is a challenging Martin Luther King Jr.

“The comfortable Martin Luther King Jr. gave only one speech in his life, and we’re required to quote one line from that one speech…

“The challenging Martin Luther King Jr. was a relentless critic of American foreign policy, racism and an economic system which left so many destitute…

“The challenging Martin Luther King Jr. makes us uncomfortable in our complacency and asks that we live out the courage of our convictions.

“The comfortable King has a dream. The challenging King knows the dream has yet to be realized and much work is still to be done.

“The comfortable King is the one we celebrate at the expense of the challenging King.”

In remembering that King became beloved by the broader community only after his death, we are called to continue the fight.

And the struggle seems more dire today than in many years, some of which I was certain, a half-century ago would have been largely resolved by now; inequity in education, voting rights, lack of access to health care, environmental challenges… pick your issues.

So in honor of MLK, please DON’T quote that one line, proclaim “We HAVE overcome”, and become blind for all the work there still is to do. You may be dubbed as “radical”; it would put you in good company.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

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