Black Public Scholars

January 17, 2011

Martin Luther King and the Dangers of Hero Worship

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Staff @ 6:22 pm

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse UniversityScholarship in Action 

When I was a little boy, my mother used to make me put on a suit and recite the "I have a dream" speech in her bedroom. She even had me wear a burnt cross necklace around my neck to emulate Dr. King. It was an uncomfortable process for me, but I’m sure my parents got a kick out of it. Either way, the first stamp on my brain had been made and it stayed with me for life.

As I got older and studied the life of Dr. King, I quickly realized that his life was very different from my own. He accomplished far more at an early age than I did. He had far more respect than I did. He was a better student than I was. How could I ever match up to that?

But it was OK that I couldn’t match Dr. King, primarily because it had been confirmed to me in one celebration after another that I couldn’t be anything like that man even if I’d wanted to be. He was superhuman, and I was not. So, rather than having the confidence to continue his legacy, I figured that I would just sit back and enjoy the celebration like everyone else. Why try to match up with perfection?

 

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