I've read a few pieces today concerning Martin Luther King, Jr. One that struck me was by Paul Krugman, who asserted that King would be disappointed if he were alive today. Despite the huge strides we've made in race relations in the past half century, including electing a black president, Krugman believes King would be appalled at the class system that has emerged in its place. I agree.
King would also, I believe, be disappointed in the performance of the first black president. Obama channeled King in 2007 when he said, "If American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain when I’m in the White House, I’ll put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself — I’ll walk on that picket line with you as president of the United States of America."
The difference, of course, is that King actually put on those shoes and stood up for unionism, fairness, and the American worker. He was in Memphis, Tennessee on April 3, 1968 to fight for union rights despite the fact that his life was being threatened. He made his last speech that day, his famous "I've Been To the Mountaintop" speech that presaged his death. He was assassinated the next day.
Meanwhile, Obama is still looking for his shoes. I hope he finds them, because he will never fill those that Dr. King left behind.
If you haven't already, head on over to NYC Educator's blog to read his excellent piece on King and the current state of education in America.