This Martin Luther King Day, some thoughts from Vorris Nunley on the part of King’s legacy we seem to have forgotten:
Apparently, immediately after delivering one of the most rhetorically brilliant, oratorically moving, politically significant speeches in American history — the “I Have a Dream” speech — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. effectively died. Died in August 1963, that is, not in April 1968; in celebrations, commemorations, and ceremonies, commercials, speeches, and public gatherings, the “I Have a Dream” King is frozen in time — his later politics dulled of its edginess, stripped of its demand for introspection of the part of both the oppressor and the oppressed. A more progressive Dr. King, the rhetorically and politically more prickly, complicated, beyond “I Have a Dream” King, the Dr. King who from 1963 through 1968 would discomfort Americans — even African Americans — has been disappeared. Erased. Allowed to dissipate in the winds of historical nostalgia for a more domesticated, compliant, more easily consumable Dr. King. A dreaming King. A Dr. King more comfortable for the American imagination.