MLK Jr at 90: What Martin Luther King Jr. would say today….

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, celebrating what would have been the civil rights leader’s 90thbirthday, and it’s easy to find articles that ask: What would he say about what’s happening today? Too many of them claim to know the answers.

Some of what they say seems obvious: What he would think about the NFL protests

New Yorker cover MLK 2018

“I asked myself, What would King be doing if he were around today?” artist Mark Ulriksen said when the New Yorker Magazine ran his illustration on its cover last year.

Some of what they say is a stretch:


2. this column by civil rights lawyer and columnist Michelle Alexander in the New York Times

“Reading King’s speech at Riverside more than 50 years later, I am left with little doubt that his teachings and message require us to speak out passionately against the human rights crisis in Israel-Palestine, despite the risks and despite the complexity of the issues.”

Other speculation:

What he would think about the new nationalism

An editorial in the Washington Post  quotes King saying “Our age is one in which men have turned away from the eternal God of the universe and decided to worship at the shrine of the god of nationalism” and comments: To judge by his words, King would see such authoritarian rulers for what they are, just as we should today

On Donald Trump.

Columnist Colbert I. King: In King’s day, racially loaded, hateful rhetoric could be heard across the length and breadth of the Deep South. Now, mean, disgusting and inflammatory words come out of the mouth of the president of the United States….King, and the movement he led, would be outraged. The rest of us should be, too.

On economics

Economist Jared Bernstein quotes King “We can’t solve our problems unless there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power.” and then argues for full employment, unions, and guaranteed jobs and income.

On the wall

James C. Harrington, founder of the Texas Civil Rights Project, in the Austin-American Statesman

We can also accurately predict how Dr. King would approach today’s immigrant crisis. He would adamantly oppose a border wall as contrary to the nation’s values and the basic moral principles of humanity. He would open our gates to people seeking refuge from violence and economic repression. He would jail no women nor assign children to desert tent camps.

Editorial in the Charleston Post and Courier

What would the Nobel Peace Prize winner have said about the racially motivated killings at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston in 2015? Neo-Nazi marches in Charlottesville, Va.? Wars in Syria and Yemen and Afghanistan? Ongoing poverty?

… we don’t know for sure. But every American ought to be able to come up with good answers.


For his own words, read

Martin Luther King Jr on The Three Sicknesses of U.S. Society: Racism, Poverty, and War



“We must devote at least as much to our children’s education and the health of the poor as we do to the care of our automobiles and the building of beautiful, impressive hotels.We must also realize that the problems of racial injustice and economic injustice cannot be solved without a radical redistribution of political and economic power.”









Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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