There's a scene at the end of Malcolm X where, during a lesson about Malcolm X from their teacher (who I just like 15 seconds ago realized was Mary Alice), Harlem schoolchildren repeat the refrain "I am Malcolm X!" The scene then shifts to a classroom in Soweto (taught by Nelson Mandela) where a group of South African schoolchildren do the same thing.
It is my least favorite part of the movie. I didn't — and still don't — believe Spike had to end this epic and panoramic classic with a saccharine 90-second afterschool special. But it is also (arguably) its most effective. Because of the obvious emotional resonance of having a group of Black boys and girls say those words aloud on film. And also because it makes sense on both a macro (Malcolm X's legacy lives on) and a micro sense. Malcolm X wasn't just an everyman. He was literally every man. A poor kid, a pimp, a thief, a transplant, a porter, a prisoner, a bartender, a numbers runner, a preacher, a prophet; it was like he packed 12 different lives into 39 years of life. His life practically begs you to find a connection — any connection — to him.
This scene also comes to mind every Martin Luther King Day, the annual holiday for every racist (subtle and overt), every idiot (subtle and overt), and every racist idiot (clueless and disingenuous) who doesn't want to admit he's a racist idiot to attempt to connect himself to Dr. King's legacy. I imagine them imagining themselves all sitting in a classroom — Tea Party members and Fox News anchors; Breitbart editors and Michelle Malkin; crossing guards and that person on Facebook who you went to middle school with — sitting hand in hand as they repeat "I am MLK!" to each other. Because, of course, Dr. King was a Republican! And he believed all lives matter! And in judging people by the content of their character and shit, which means he definitely would have hated affirmative action. And Obama. Oh, Dr. King would have hated Obama.
Of course, they don't realize that if Dr. King walked into a classroom full of these dangerously bigoted sociopaths, dog-whistling sycophants, ass-backward extremists, and low-information nincompoops, he would have walked out of that room. And then he would have returned with a firehouse and sprayed the fuck out of everyone in it.
Actually, l misspoke. I'm certain some of these people do in fact realize that what they believe and what Dr. King believed are at two separate ends of the spectrum. Connecting themselves to him is just a transparently counterfeit way to pander politically and give themselves an "I'm not racist" alibi. But I'm sure there are some who do truly believe what they're saying is true. That what they believe is aligned with what Dr. King believed.
And for those people, I want to deliver a message. You, you post-racial oaf, you narrow-minded little shit, you muttonheaded xenophobe, you intolerant twit, are not Martin Luther King.