The title of The Radical King (Penguin Random House, 2016), a collection of Martin Luther King's writing edited and introduced by Cornel West, encapsulates what West believes is missing from King's public legacy in the twenty-first century. West's position is that Martin Luther King was a radical thinker in terms of race and politics and a socialist who continually preached and practiced the values of class struggle. West quotes little-known passages from King's writing such as the following:
I don’t have any faith in the whites in power responding in the right way ... they’ll treat us like they did our Japanese brothers and sisters in World War II. They’ll throw us into concentration camps.
West notes that these sound more like the words of Malcolm X than the inclusive rhetoric of brotherhood between races that we have come to associate with Martin Luther King. He believes that since the assassination of Dr. King, both academia and the media have attempted to pervert his legacy to make him appear something like a latter-day Booker T. Washington, an inclusive accommodationist figure whose views were too mild and universal to threaten white hegemony. In fact, West argues, King was regarded in his own time as a revolutionary and a radical whom J. Edgar Hoover called "the most dangerous man in America." West says that today, while an anodyne parody of King is embraced by everyone in America:
King’s radical legacy remains primarily among the awakening youth and militant citizens who choose to be extremists of love, justice, courage and freedom.
West views his own work on King as emphasizing the radical, revolutionary, socialist element in his thinking and reappraising King as a firebrand who can inspire new generations in the struggle for social justice.