Projecting what a dead person would do, if he were alive, is risky business. It is much easier to analyze what is happening now, so that’s what I’ll attempt to do.

King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” was given in August 1963. King was killed in 1968. During those last five years (and please remember King was killed at the age of 39, so his philosophy was only beginning to mature), he explained, modified, expanded, and changed his position. He began to become more inclusive. King realized that poor whites had a problem as big as poor blacks. He realized that the money spent on the Viet Nam War could not be spent at home, fighting poverty. But when King died, he was still (like many men of his generation) a sexist. He was—like it or not—a womanizer, and he considered himself a “sexual sinner.”

Do I think he would have come to have a more modern position concerning women had he lived? Yes. I say this because he was constantly growing and changing. Do I think his marriage would have survived? No. It was easier for Coretta to continue King’s valiant work as his widow rather than his wife.

It is so easy to pluck those phrases from the “I Have a Dream Speech,” (which is why white people do it so often), but it is an injustice to King to stop there. It’s like grabbing the phrase “fret not” from Psalms and trying to convince the world that God is against the playing of guitars. That’s pretty silly, right? Electing a black president is not the culmination of the dream. We must earn the day when we judge by character. Until then, we continue to collect a series of black firsts. Accepting what King stood for from 1963-1968 is not an easy task, which is why so many stop at 1963. If you cannot accept King’s social gospel, why pretend you like him by quoting him out of context? If all you want is to justify not voting for Obama, why look to King? King wanted full citizenship for blacks. He wanted the US to rid itself of poverty through a “redistribution of wealth.” Sound familiar? King wanted the US to stop waging war on other nations. (Don’t take my word for it. Read King.)

It is for the reasons mentioned above that I say, all white people are racists or recovering racists. I, myself, am a recovering racist. I don’t want to tell you what you are. The fact that Obama was elected has proven to many blacks that there more recovering racists than they had thought. Please note: I DID NOT SAY YOU WERE A RACIST, IF YOU DID NOT VOTE FOR OBAMA! I said, voting for Obama was fighting racism, not that not voting for Obama made you a racist. Please. Some folks read that in and got mad. Also note: I am not in charge of your IQ, background, parent’s attitudes, spouse’s attitude, your education, reading comprehension level, or the materials to which you have been exposed, nor do I want to be. I merely try to share what I have learned. (And for me, being a Christian is a given. I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Savior at the age of 18. Everything I say and do stems from my relationship to God through Jesus. If it weren’t for a mystical experience, I’d probably be a racist to this day.) I am also responsible for my own shortcomings.

Meanwhile, back to King. Electing a black president is just one act that can lead us to where King dreamed we could be: Equality. That’s why he identified racism, poverty, and militarism as the triple evils of which we must rid ourselves. King knew they must be fought together. He wrote about that in 1964 in his book Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos of Community? We must defeat all three before we begin a society in which we can go back to the optimism of 1963. Interestingly, in his book title, King put chaos first. In the main, until now Americans have chosen chaos flavored with an annual dash of “I Have a Dream” to appease the collective conscience. King is so easy to use in February and the “I Have a Dream” speech so easy to tolerate and even embrace. So why then did Jesse Jackson cry?

Jesse Jackson cried because he had lived to see “President Barack Obama standing there looking so majestic. . . . [And on the other hand, which is to say, with Obama] the martyrs and murdered whose blood made last night possible, [and because he] could not help think that this was their night.” And if I had one wish,” he explained, “If Medgar [Evers], or if Dr. King could have just been there for a second in time, [that] would have made my heart rejoice. And so it was kind of duo-fold — his [Obama’s] ascension into leadership and the price that was paid to get him there. (see more) Jackson, who was there in Memphis at the Lorraine Motel when King was martyred, cried because Obama is the personification of what is possible.

Jackson cried because the election of Obama gave wings to hope, because we can change—yes, we can!—because we can “overcome,” because it is clear now that we are overcoming. He cried because Obama rode on the shoulders of those who marched and were beaten and sacrificed. . . . because he knows that Obama, a black man, understands “I am, because we are.” We are in this world together.

Oh, and by the way, in his final months, King did see himself as “messianic.” So what?

This post is a response to one by RG.