In creating that legacy for his widow, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. also shaped the relatively brief historical moment in which it was possible to talk of a black leadership group that spoke with one voice for black America. For me, and for many others, it has been hard to let that golden moment slip away. But let it go we must. Otherwise we cling to a comfortable illusion rather than face a much more complicated reality.
Far be it for me to interrupt a eulogy, but, um, no. King was fought on all sides: by Roy Wilkins and the "Maybe if we act dignified for another fifty years they'll let us vote a little" NAACP: by the more hot-headed SNCC, and the still more hot-headed Malcolm and the Panthers. Sure, a memorial to Mrs. King is not the place to hash out differences, but it's possible to be reverent to her and the truth at once. MLK is, rightly, the idol of the fight against segregation, but there were other, opposing voices in black America all along, and whether we care for the use of violence to confront violence or not, it still played a part. This seems part and parcel with Jonah Goldberg pretending the racism of white America was a matter of a couple of bad-tempered guys with firehoses. We need people to understand just what was going on in those days, and how it affects what's going on now, and not just install Martin Luther King as the patron saint of racial harmony and wring our hands about the present.