“So, what might King offer as an international thinker, and as a representative of a radical Christian tradition: a focus on the fundamental place of racism, class, and imperialism in international politics, as well as the moral need to confront these common problems. And where Wight and Niebuhr share King’s condemnation of violence, the radical Christian move is not to pacifism or the prudential use of violence, but to direct opposition and resistance through nonviolence.”

The Disorder Of Things

Monday 17 January marked the official US holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. While watching Monday’s Democracy Now! program, featuring substantive excerpts from King’s speeches,  the clarity with which he connected the domestic fight for equality to international politics, in particular poverty and war, struck me. The international aspects of King’s thinking, I believe, are important for two reasons.

King’s Radicalism

First, it challenges the interpretation of King as an insufficiently radical leader offered by some critics, and the co-option of King’s legacy not only by “moderate” liberals but also by conservative political figures in the US. King has become a symbol in the public consciousness of a safe reformism and a favorite icon for the type of liberal who abhors radicalism above any other political sin. As Michael Eric Dyson says, “Thus King becomes a convenient icon shaped in our own distorted political images. He is fashioned to deflect…

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