How did such a reviled, controversial and at times self-destructive figure become America's patron saint of racial understanding? Smiley's answer is to show the warmth, strong faith and devotion to the down and out which kept King going in the face of unimaginable pressure. His description of King's respectful and open hearted conversation with a group of young prostitutes who had been heckling him is reminiscent of Pope Francis' bypassing photo ops with world leaders to break bread with the homeless.
In his January 2015 essay "Time to Take Back Martin Luther King Day", Rick Cohen argues that "This year, more than any in recent times, the onus on all of us should be to take back Martin Luther King Day from the emphasis on top-down, one-day, feel-good volunteer fix-up projects and refocus attention on strategies and actions to address racial inequity and injustice today...In 2015, we should all be showing courage to analyze, address, and attack overt, structural, institutional, and implicit racism on the day on which we all too often miss the point of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and legacy by making his holiday one that doesn’t forthrightly address issues of race".
Is Cohen right? Join our discussion this Tuesday!