“Marching With King”.

Marching with King is more than just showing up that one time, and expecting a free pass. It’s a lifetime of labor, and it’s not easy.

Malcolm Johnson


I am writing this a few days away from the National Day of celebration for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It is a day that will cause a lot of reflection, most of it rosy, almost all of it sunny, as people come to reckon with his legacy and what his legacy means. America is going to spend this three day weekend patting itself on the back and celebrating how we were able to produce someone like Dr. Martin Luther King in the first place. All of a sudden, the things he did, the life he risked…will belong to everyone.

Equally, you will find a strain of angrier writings that will muse that the legacy of Dr. King is mixed. From either the right, where he is seen as an agitator, a con-man, or a race-hustler (They want to use another word, but they won’t. Even they know better). Or the extreme left where he did not do enough. One will say that if Dr. King had been patient, we wouldn’t have had all these troubles. The other will say that he was a sellout and that too many Black People were left behind.

Needless to say, both thoughts are ridiculous.

If there is a mixture to Dr. King’s legacy, it is shown in those who never fully absorbed all his lessons. Who only read Letter from a Birmingham Jail as a plea for equality, and not a warning to those who would claim to be our allies.

In short any failure of Dr. King’s legacy comes from those who stopped fighting. At the same time, African-Americans have had no other choice but to continue.

And that is not Dr. King’s fault, is it?

“Marching with King” became an unfortunate joke during the 2016 election. Some sought to make the singular moment of being there at Selma or being there at the Mall in Washington, and somehow turn it into a lifetime’s pass for Civil Rights work. It became a joke because African-Americans would hear and just roll their eyes.

Do you know why?

Dr. King’s legacy, of course, matters to all Americans, but it matters to African-Americans in particular because we have been the direct, immediate beneficiaries of…