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Arc of justice, interrupted: King's legacy vs. Trump's America

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MLK and Trump: the Arc of Justice

One of former President Obama’s favorite Martin Luther King Jr. quotes is “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” — the idea that positive social change takes decades or even generations, but comes about eventually.

The careers of King and Obama were living proof of that: Just 40 years after King’s prophetic “mountaintop” speech on the eve of his death, America elected its first black President.

Aside from that singular ascent, in the years between millions of ordinary African Americans saw so many advancements, even as real deficiencies remain: gains in voting rights, educational advancement, wealth.

Yet as we celebrate the anniversary of King’s birth, it becomes clear that his insight about the arc of justice has a shadow corollary: The arc is long, but it does not inexorably point toward justice. There are fits, starts and, yes, reversals.

In Donald Trump, the United States now has a President whose actions and speech, rather than seeking to lead and inspire America toward an ever more egalitarian future, are content to retreat to a more nastily divided past.


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