Opinion | Pop Culture

Stop Asking ‘What Would MLK Do?’

Our speculation ignores the tragic reality of his death.
Stop Asking ‘What Would MLK Do?’
Image: Center for Jewish History

It isn’t just on Martin Luther King Day that we watch it unfold. It happens with national race incidents. It happens in heated conversations. It happens in tweets and Facebook comments. If you are someone who regularly hosts dialogues on race, this has surely happened to you. Being MLK-ed:

“MLK would never condone those rioters.”

“MLK would tell all of us that we just need to seek peace and unity.”

“MLK said... [insert quote taken out of context].”

“MLK would promote racial healing—not your words of anger and division.”

People want to retreat to easy answers, feel-good quotations, and rely on MLK’s work instead of our own. This convenient tactic lacks authenticity and understanding. If we truly valued the life work of Martin Luther King Jr., we would stop trying to predict “what MLK would say now,” as if he lived a long life and died of old age.

Whatever wisdom we think MLK would bring to this ...

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