What Martin Luther King, Jr. Would Say About Today's America


In an early episode of Aaron MacGruder's The Boondocks, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination is re-imagined as a failed murder attempt that leaves him in a coma (instead of dead). The Civil Rights leader then wakes up in contemporary America, and proceeds to express vitriolic disappointment in how we've carried out his "dream" of racial equality.

The show is a cartoon satire, but the question it poses is anything but: what would Dr. King say about our current national predicament? Since today marks the 45th anniversary of his murder, it seems an ideal moment to pose this question.

First thing's first: I doubt he'd approve of Lil' Wayne.

Photo Credit: BET

As a seminary graduate and man of the cloth, the Reverend would doubtless have something to say about Weezy's excessive sizzurp consumption and Emmett Tell-style "[beating] up [of the] p*ssy." He wouldn't judge him too harshly, since we're all God's children (duh) and equally sinful in the eyes of the Lord, but still: methinks choice words would be had.

On the other hand, he'd likely appreciate Sesame Street and the literature of Kurt Vonnegut. He'd watch The Wire out of context and wish it weren't so violent and profane, but eventually recognize the importance of the topics it addresses. He'd love Michael Jackson, of course.

But the notoriously non-violent activist might also have trouble reconciling ongoing gun violence with NRA-fuelled rhetoric surrounding Second Amendment rights. As a fervent advocate of peace, he'd fundamentally question the perceived need for firearm possession, but given how deeply it's embedded in American culture would likely settle for much stricter regulation. And even more basically: as a dude who got shot, I assume he'd appreciate any effort to keep guns out of the hands of assholes.

He'd also see the systematic violence perpetrated against the likes of Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, and the victims of NYPD's "Stop and Frisk" for what they are: continued examples of institutional hostility toward people of color, and reflective of a culture that remains racially hierarchized despite all his work. He'd be disgusted by the dehumanizing ways women are treated and abused every day around the world, and how far too often victims are blamed for the crimes of perpetrators.

As for the so-called "War on Terror" and its aftermath: if James Earl Ray hadn't murdered Dr. King, this would break his heart and kill him.

Photo Credit: Russell Moore

Finally, President Obama might elicit mixed feelings from the reverend, but at the very least, he'd be happy Senator John McCain lost in such resounding fashion. A potential quote might go something like this: "He didn't want my birthday to be a national holiday? Well, f*ck him then!"

But seriously, in any conversation surrounding Dr. King's legacy it's important to remember this: He fought for the disenfranchised no matter who they were. From racial minorities and low-wage workers, to Vietnamese peasants and the young Americans drafted to kill them, those who had it rough always had a friend in MLK.

If you're looking for someone to model your life after, you could do much worse.

Rest in peace, Dr. King.