As flawed as who writes it

Yesterday, I wrote “The beauty of King’s divine dissatisfaction about reading more of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words. This morning, as I continued reading The Radical King, I encountered a man I’d not yet met in any of my prior readings: Norman Thomas.

This June 1965 King article excerpt on white socialist Thomas began thusly:

Truly, the life of Norman Thomas has been one of deep commitment to the betterment of all humanity. In 1928, the year before I was born, he waged the first of six campaigns as the Socialist Party’s candidate for President of the United States. A decade earlier, as a preacher, he fought gallantly, if unsuccessfully, against American involvement in World War 1. Both then and now he has raised aloft the banner of civil liberties, civil rights, labor’s right to organize, and has played a significant role in so many diverse areas of activity that newspapers all over the land have termed him “America’s conscience.”

(In 1963, King’s father described Thomas as “for us before any other white folks were.”)

As I read through the essay, it seemed more and more remarkable Thomas wasn’t included in any history I remember reading. I closed the book and reflected on that for a moment, and upon “history.” Continue reading “As flawed as who writes it”

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The beauty of King’s divine dissatisfaction

img_20140119_194133.jpg In early 2014, I wrote about discussing Martin Luther King, Jr. with my then four-year-old son, Li’l D. D had just learned about King in his preschool class.

I asked D if he wanted to learn a little more. Most of what he’d learned, after all, fit onto one coloring worksheet.

He did want to know more, so I began by explaining in simple terms the social constructs of “white” and “black” “races.”* Since he is the son of a black man and a white woman, I felt (and his dad agreed that) it was critical to begin these conversations early.

I answered Li’l D’s questions, first explaining racism before answering questions about how King fought racism. I concluded my post on our conversation:

Someday we’ll talk about how Martin Luther King, Jr. was a human being with flaws and weaknesses just like any other, but that those weaknesses didn’t prevent him from being a powerful, peaceful force for change. Continue reading “The beauty of King’s divine dissatisfaction”

Funny-looking phones

Yesterday, I stepped outside to read a paper copy of Martin Luther King, Jr. on my morning break. I’d barely started walking when someone hollered, “That’s a funny-looking phone you’re reading!”

I laughed. After a moment’s pause, I called, “That’s the best thing I’ve heard all day!”

A day later, I’m still chuckling about the comment.

I have so much to say about (The Radical) King I’m reading. For now, without nearly enough time to do any of that justice, this does nicely to hold the space.

White Person Astounded

Last weekend, I got a hankering to read some James Baldwin. While I’d read some one- and two-sentence Baldwin quotes scattered through other readings, I’d never read anything more substantively Baldwin than that.

The bookstore I visited only had two Baldwin books: Notes of a Native Son and I Am Not Your Negro. The latter was actually a smattering of slightly longer Baldwin excerpts, but those gave me a better sense of the man and author than did my prior encounters.

The excerpts also left me wishing I’d read Baldwin much sooner, the better to have my earlier confusions more quickly eradicated: Continue reading “White Person Astounded”