Every time someone mentions Dr. King as an example of what the fight for civil rights is supposed to look like I roll my eyes. I hate that this has happened, that I’m reduced to looking like an entitled 14 year old brat every time one of the best leaders, orators and writers is mentioned. I teach Dr. King in my into to African American literature course because, despite his overgrown status, Dr. King is still one of the best writers and speakers, I think, the world has seen.
I roll my eyes because Dr. King is used as the only example, as a way to police and minimize others’ actions, because he is thrown in our faces as a weapon. Just like the child who always hears “why can’t you be more like your brother or sister,” begins to resent his or her brother or sister, I’m beginning to resent talk of civil rights and protests. Just like you can’t compare children to each other because it’s like comparing apples to clouds, you can’t compare civil rights leaders. We all have preferences, but one is not “better” than another. And speaking of all these civil rights leaders, I have yet to hear anyone compare King to any of them specifically by name. Not even the infamous King/Malcolm X comparison. It’s like King is being compared to, you know, everyone else. Everyone else who? Please name names because the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s was a broad based coalition. That’s one of the reasons it was so effective.
So let’s stop talking about Dr. King like he “won” the civil rights movement. It wasn’t a competition nor a game. BLM and other modern movements for civil rights need to be free to identify themselves and fight the way they want to. Just as you are not your parents, BLM is its own organization. Let’s critique it on its own merits, not on the ways it is unlike its predecessors.