Today is Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. Many people will have this coming Monday off in observance of the fact. Without doubt, many people will latch on to and celebrate the fact that the observance of King’s birthday will be followed by the inauguration of America’s first African American president as the culmination of all of King’s hopes and dreams for our country. Perhaps they would be right. Maybe it’s as Stephen Colbert says, racism is over. I think it could be successfully argued that I’m a killjoy in saying that racism will never truly be over. As long as there are differences between individuals there will always be someone who fears those differences and channels that fear into hate (just like a good Sith). I also believe that King’s dreams were bigger and smaller than an African American president. King didn’t dream of one man becoming president, he dreamed of bettering his whole community and by doing so bettering all of mankind. Martin Luther King was a great man and with each passing year, he is missed increasingly. What if King were alive today? That’s just what Aaron McGruder asked in his 2006 Peabody Award winning “Boondocks” episode “Return of the King”.
McGruder gives us his glimpse at an alternate history where King was not killed by the assassin, but went into a coma. King awakens on October 27, 2000. He tries to vote in the 2000 election, but is turned away due to irregularities. Has his life turned into a movie, only to have it flop because of the 9/11 attacks. King appears on television and explains that his Christian faith teaches him to turn the other cheek, even with regards to Al-Qaeda, which causes his popularity to drop into freefall. Huey Freeman encourages King to reach out to people again, only to have their meeting for a new political party become hijacked by an urban promotions group and turned into an actual party.
Reverend Al Sharpton made his predictable criticisms of the episode that featured at it’s climax Martin Luther King shouting to the crowd, “Will you ignorant niggas please shut up!” Sharpton demanded apologies from McGruder and Cartoon Network. McGruder responded by taking thinly veiled jabs at Sharpton in “The Boondocks” comic strip and animated television show. The Cartoon Network released a brief statement saying, “We think Aaron McGruder came up with a thought-provoking way of not only showing Dr. King’s bravery but also of reminding us of what he stood and fought for, and why even today, it is important for all of us to remember that and to continue to take action.”
Happy Birthday Martin Luther King, Jr. You are missed.
I cannot say this enough, “The Boondocks” animated series is fantastic! Season 1 and 2 are available on DVD now.