The Angry Martin Luther King

Why we must resist the 'Santaclausification' of the great leader.
The Angry Martin Luther King

In the 2012 superhero film The Avengers, a serpent-like, mechanical behemoth is closing in on our ragtag team of heroes.

Tired and overmatched, their only hope lies hidden within the mild-mannered frame of scientist Dr. Bruce Banner, who morphs into the big, green and powerful creature known as the Hulk when rattled by conditions of great stress or anger. Seconds before Banner gives himself over to the rage that transforms him into his alter ego, a no-nonsense Captain America volunteers, “Dr. Banner, I think now might be a good time for you to get angry.” Banner responds with a roguish smile, “That’s my secret, Cap. I’m always angry.”

I’m always angry.

I identified with that line and repeated it many times in the weeks after I saw the movie, much to my wife’s chagrin. What resonated with me was that sense of living with a concealed, low-temperature rage; of wanting to avoid difficult people or awkward situations but being dragged into them wholesale nonetheless; of knowing certain conversations with certain folks would invariably lead to unpleasant debates about politics, religion or—heaven forbid—race, but being sucked in anyway; of being looked upon as the harmless black guy my white friends could talk to about virtually anything related to race and know they wouldn’t be unfairly judged.

Of course, these are all good things in their own way—sometimes it’s beneficial to be dragged into uncomfortable situations or forced into interacting with people with whom we wouldn’t ordinarily connect; sometimes a fierce debate on a taboo subject such as politics or religion can help both parties see a different side to an issue; sometimes being ...

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The Angry Martin Luther King
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