In July 2008, I was in Atlanta trying to learn how to be an anthropologist of bicycling. Looking for clues, I went to the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, and I found myself overwhelmed by the power of Dr. King’s words. He summarized our American situation, argued for hope, and it all sang with truth. I stumbled around the exhibit, blinded by tears, knowing the horrible conclusion awaiting me at the end.
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.
I had of course heard Dr. King’s speeches before this, but I thought of him as a figure in history. I knew that Dr. King fought tirelessly to secure African American equality, but I didn’t understand that through this he sought to show us the connections between racial injustice and all injustice. A spiritual leader as well as a cosmopolitan intellectual, he drew on the ideas of Hegel and Gandhi and urged understanding between ... Read more