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It has been 40 years since Ronald Reagan signed the bill making Martin Luther King Jr. Day an official national holiday. In that time the legacy of America’s most famous and formidable civil rights leader has changed significantly.
Today there are two Kings, hewing roughly to political ideology. For some, mainly on the right, he remains the preacher of peace who sought true equality, as opposed to today’s concept of “equity.” For others King is a much more militant figure who understood that the aggressive methods of Malcolm X or the Black Panthers were another side of his coin, a needed counterpoint.
In this schism of interpretation both sides can point to quotes that back them up. King’s 1963 “I Have A Dream” speech, among our nation’s most famous, is replete with the message of nonviolence, equal treatment and children of all races playing hand in hand. Yet, by 1967 he would famously call the violent riots sweeping the country “the language of the unheard.”
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Getty Images)
But when we look closely we can see that there is no contradiction in King, rather, it is we