Do we really see Martin Luther King this way? Or is there something more we should remember?

So, I’m sitting here. In a lobby. And somebody leaves USA Today on the table. Here is the cartoon at the top of the page, and I want to tell you why it pisses me off so severely:

Cartoon USA Today, Nov. 28, 2014

This is obviously directed at the protest in Ferguson, Missouri, not nationally at dozens of solidarity gatherings Newark, Elizabeth, Princeton, Cherry Hill, Montclair, New Brunswick, Morristown or #BlackoutBlackFriday events like this one with   cross-impact with the #15now Walmart workers movement.

Nope. This is directed at the protest, looting, fires, in Ferguson itself, the night that town heard no indictment of Officer Darren Wilson.

And I read this cartoon as a scold. I don’t know if the cartoonist meant it that way; I don’t know him, can’t presume. But I see it as a misread of Martin Luther King, Jr.. Sometime since the 1968 murder of Rev. King, the sense most Americans have come to have of him has less to do with who the man is and more to do with what we’ve pasted over him since then, to defang a guy a lot of Americans would still find dangerous in 2014. In this cartoon, like in most school teachings of the man, he’s portrayed as a Christ-like figure; peaceable, pure love. He had that in him, yes. But the part depictions like this leave out is that King was a tough, strategic, organizer. He challenged his government, with many others. And he didn’t so much preach peace as go (with many others less recognized) where trouble was, injustice, and place himself  with those fighting it.

We’ll never know what the old man Martin might have said and done alongside the parents and community of Ferguson, Missouri. Or Malcolm. Or Medgar. Or Viola. Murder took care of that for them, and not just him. And I think the point should be made that he would not only recognize and try to stop the looting, but he might also have pointed out how easy it is to infiltrate and create havoc to incite riot, or create it to make it look homegrown when it’s not, and he would have recognized that as bad a that night was – and it was – it was only incidental to what really needs our attention; 12 shots by a police officer at an unarmed teenage young man, and the performance of his duties of the prosecutor charged with informing a grand jury deciding whether that officer should stand trial.

But Martin? I think he’d have seen Mike Brown as murdered, like he was, by some of the same rationales and fears that led to his own assassination. We’ll never know. But I think he’d have been doing a lot more than looking unhappily over the rubble and preaching peace to broken people.  

Do we really see Martin Luther King this way? Or is there something more we should remember?

So, I’m sitting here. In a lobby. And somebody leaves USA Today on the table. Here is the cartoon at the top of the page, and I want to tell you why it pisses me off so severely:

Cartoon USA Today, Nov. 28, 2014

This is obviously directed at the protest in Ferguson, Missouri, not nationally at dozens of solidarity gatherings Newark, Elizabeth, Princeton, Cherry Hill, Montclair, New Brunswick, Morristown or #BlackoutBlackFriday events like this one with   cross-impact with the #15now Walmart workers movement.

Nope. This is directed at the protest, looting, fires, in Ferguson itself, the night that town heard no indictment of Officer Darren Wilson.

And I read this cartoon as a scold. I don’t know if the cartoonist meant it that way; I don’t know him, can’t presume. But I see it as a misread of Martin Luther King, Jr.. Sometime since the 1968 murder of Rev. King, the sense most Americans have come to have of him has less to do with who the man is and more to do with what we’ve pasted over him since then, to defang a guy a lot of Americans would still find dangerous in 2014. In this cartoon, like in most school teachings of the man, he’s portrayed as a Christ-like figure; peaceable, pure love. He had that in him, yes. But the part depictions like this leave out is that King was a tough, strategic, organizer. He challenged his government, with many others. And he didn’t so much preach peace as go (with many others less recognized) where trouble was, injustice, and place himself  with those fighting it.

We’ll never know what the old man Martin might have said and done alongside the parents and community of Ferguson, Missouri. Or Malcolm. Or Medgar. Or Viola. Murder took care of that for them, and not just him. And I think the point should be made that he would not only recognize and try to stop the looting, but he might also have pointed out how easy it is to infiltrate and create havoc to incite riot, or create it to make it look homegrown when it’s not, and he would have recognized that as bad a that night was – and it was – it was only incidental to what really needs our attention; 12 shots by a police officer at an unarmed teenage young man, and the performance of his duties of the prosecutor charged with informing a grand jury deciding whether that officer should stand trial.

But Martin? I think he’d have seen Mike Brown as murdered, like he was, by some of the same rationales and fears that led to his own assassination. We’ll never know. But I think he’d have been doing a lot more than looking unhappily over the rubble and preaching peace to broken people.  

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