Photo by GilkataEver since Obama became a national figure, people have compared him to Martin Luther King jr. I saw a powerful photoshopped photo of the two supposedly engaging in dialogue at the White House while at a cigar bar in Detroit. The comparisons are understandable–both are powerful orators, both are committed to social justice (though to differing degrees), and it’s clear that Obama wouldn’t be in the White House without King. But attempts to argue what King would think or say about Obama now are wrongheaded–if for no other reason than the fact that King was constantly in motion. He could possibly have remained radically committed to social justice if he were still alive. On the other hand he could’ve done a 180. We don’t know.
Given this, I think it more appropriate, to examine King’s life and his relationship with his constituency. I do so in this piece arguing that King was on the wrong side of history at least three times, and that it was only do to the persistent work of his constituency that he remained on the right track.