How Not to Make Wrong Assumptions à la “The Assassin Next Door”

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The format of Hector Tobar’s essay “The Assassin Next Door” is like One Night in Miami. It explores personal identity set within the wider context of major events. While an interesting concept, Kennedys and King’s Jeff Carter has reviewed Tobar’s essay and found it replete with assumptions.

Here are the assumptions that make this essay anything but a good resource when studying the assassination of Martin Luther King.

James Earl Ray Killed MLK

“The Assassin Next Door” loses any credibility from the title alone. Tobar assumes that James Earl Ray killed MLK when he calls him an assassin and compares his life trajectory with Ray’s.

Tobar discovered from reading Gerald Posner’s Killing the Dream (more on that later) that Ray lived in the same East Hollywood neighborhood as him and compared his upbringing to Ray’s, not even stopping to consider the evidence belying his innocence.

MLK’s Death was a Hate Crime

The short essay transitions into Ray’s motives, which Tobar also gets from Posner’s book. In this case, it was the “hatred of black people.” We, as many others, disagree with this motive because Ray was not racist, or at least not racist, to the point of wanting King dead.

Ray has categorically denied holding a racist perspective, as has his family and anyone else who visited him in prison. Unfortunately, Tobar uses the opposite as his basis, referencing uncorroborated statements and focusing on the wrong target to validate this highly invalid assumption.

hate poster

Interval: The Person Behind Killing the Dream

Let’s now take a break from assumptions to explore Gerald Posner’s background. After all, it is what his essay “The Assassin Next Door” is based on.

Killing the Dream received rave reviews in The New York TimesTime, and other book critics. It was a raging success, but, as discussed in this essay, the person behind it is guilty of many misdemeanors.

Since this book’s publication, Posner has been accused of plagiarism, uncorroborated citations, bias, misinterpretation of available resources, and a lack of sourcing. This is the person Tobar uses as his primary resource in the essay.

Assumption (Lack Thereof)

Tobar isn’t fair in his assumptions. He assumes that Ray killed King because he was prejudiced but conveniently ignores the glaring reality of those times. Almost every echelon of the system, from the Memphis police to the intelligence, was racist.

They had as much motive to kill King as Ray allegedly did, so why does Tobar not consider them suspects in the Assassination of Martin Luther King?

Read Carter’s essay for further analysis and dissection of Tobar’s “The Assassin Next Door.” Once you’re done reading, click the MLK assassination tab to know what to read and what to avoid where this political murder is concerned.

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