Courtesy of The Smoking Gun, this picture is supposedly one of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s earliest mug shots, dated 1956 and recently found in the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department archives. But this is far more than a mere artifact of history; this is an optical illusion!
Some will look at the mug shot and see one of the greatest human beings of the 20th century, a true example of the need for activism and a paragon of peace. A man who refused to accept deeply ingrained social mores and devoted (and eventually surrendered) his life to righting wrongs in society, even when that goal seemed impossible. For these people, this photo represents a bygone era in which civil disobedience and sheer persistence were the preferred methods of getting things done. When regular people put themselves on the line because the cause was worth it, and weren't afraid to face the humiliation and danger that often ensued from the opposition (who had only barbaric taunts as an intellectual defense). That significance is in the image that I see.
Others will miss that and instead see the person they blame most for ending the "good ol' days" when "everyone knew their place." The man responsible for what some derisively call, "James Earl Ray Day." Those people see an image of the man who was referred to as "Martin Lucifer Coon" in internal GOP documents as late as the 1980s. A man whose holiday they ridicule even as they spend that day on their front porches, drinking mint juleps and whining about how nothing Those People want is ever enough, all the while thanking God that they don't live anywhere near Martin Luther King Blvd. This view of the illusion can be accredited to the backwards, myopic thinking of social conservatives who would rather have left the Good Reverend in the clink forevermore. Indeed, the very ones responsible for inscribing on the picture, "DEAD 4-4-68." And I hope everyone sees that illusion as well, just as a stark reminder of what kind of attitude remains in the way of true equality.
In 6th grade, I was asked by an African-American classmate (whom I hadn't yet met) how I felt about Dr. King. I said, "I think he's a great man. How could I not like him after what he did?" Somewhat taken aback, she replied, "Okay, good! I like you. You're a good person." I always admired such a bold question, and highly recommend it if you want to gauge the true depth of someone's soul.
MLK was an amazing man; anyone telling you differently is dillusioned.