Martin Luther King was no prophet of unity. He was a radical

Source: The Guardian

Martin Luther King Jr is useful to just about everyone nowadays. For President Donald Trump, celebrating King is a chance to tell everyone that he shares “his dream of equality, freedom, justice, and peace”. For Ram trucks, it’s a chance to, well, sell trucks.

This wasn’t always the case. In 1983, 15 years after King’s death, 22 senators voted against an official holiday honoring him on the third Monday in January. The North Carolina senator Jesse Helms undertook a 16-day filibuster of the bill, claiming that King’s “action-oriented Marxism” was “not compatible with the concepts of this country”. He was joined in his opposition by Senators John McCain, Orrin Hatch, and Chuck Grassley, among others.

Reagan reluctantly signed the legislation, all the while grumbling that he would have preferred “a day similar to Lincoln’s birthday, which is not technically a national holiday”.

And guess what? He had a reason to be hesitant. The real Martin Luther KingJr stood for a radical vision of equality, justice, and anti-militarism that rebelled against Reagan’s entire agenda. Today more than ever, we need to rediscover that champion of working people.

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