This past weekend on the occasion of the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination, many commentators explored the legacy on Martin Luther King. In his new book Betrayal: How Black Intellectuals Have Abandoned the Ideals of the Civil Rights Era, Houston Baker Jr. argues that black intellectuals on both the left and the right, some of whom were asked to comment on King’s legacy, have turned away from the political aims and intellectual style of Dr. King.
Here is an excerpt from Betrayal regarding the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.:
Compassion, empathy, fearlessness, self-sacrifice, and a genius at living within modest means, King stood witness for the freedom of the black American majority and was a compatriot to all the wretched of the earth. When he referenced the great American myth in all in his scintillating homiletics for freedom, it was usually to reveal how exclusionary that myth is from its founding instance till the time of his assassination . . . and beyond. He was a big-issues public intellectual who refused to avert his eyes from the harsh and enduring ill treatment meted out to the black majority by our national polity.
Black post-Civil Rights era public intellectuals have, in form, substance, ideology, and spirit betrayed virtually every contour of the legacy of public intellectual leadership bequeathed by Dr. King. Their lively performances and earnest recommendations have, time and again, amounted to little more than a black-majority-vilifying, neoconservative, ideological pottage sold and fed to paying white audiences.