Texas Liberal

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Barack Obama Is Not Martin Luther King

I’m glad Barack Obama will be sworn in as our President tomorrow.

However, today, Martin Luther King Day, we should recall that Barack Obama is not Martin Luther King.

Martin Luther King was a radical who, if alive today, would be happy to see a black American serving as President. However, I believe Reverend King would remain on the street side of the fence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Reverend King would be protesting for our cities, for economic justice, and for the still unmet dream of racial justice for all Americans. He would not let up because a black man was President no more than he let up when the domestic liberal Lyndon Johnson was President. 

We can’t forget that Mr. Obama is a politician. For whatever else he may be, he is a politician representing one of the two mainstream political parties.  I’m hopeful that Mr. Obama is a decent man and will be a competent President. But he will not take the risks of rushing far ahead of mainstream opinion and standing alone, if need be, as Martin Luther King often did.

Mr. Obama’s job as President is very different from the work Martin Luther King was called to do.

There is a place for both a Martin Luther King and a Barack Obama. For both the outsider and the insider. Mr. Obama is very clever in talking about grass roots and a movement on the one hand, while talking the language of full inclusion on the other hand. He seeks to be both the outsider and insider at one time.

It doesn’t work that way.  

The so-called “system” has things to offer. It is only government that can, among many other things, provide universal health care, benefits for the unemployed, and offer the resources to fix our roads and bridges. It is hopeful that our government in Washington now seems to be in the hands of people who are willing to use it for these ends.    

Yet the system always needs a push. This is the work of the outsider.

In one sense tomorrow we start a new era. We have a new President with new priorities and new goals. Yet the world will not magically change tomorrow at noon. The never ending work of justice and peace will remain to be completed.     

(Please click here for a Martin Luther King Reading & Reference List. It is the best of its kind on the web.)

January 19, 2009 Posted by | Barack Obama, Martin & Malcolm, Politics | , , , , | 6 Comments