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Quote MLK fully or don't quote him at all


I keep running into white people who cherry pick quotes about non-violence from MLK or twist his words into admonishments to Black people. White people: please stop doing this. There are thousands of famous white Americans to quote if you'd like to talk down to Black people. If you feel the need to use an historical figure to bolster white supremacy, why not pick a quote or two from Jefferson, Andrew Johnson, Woodrow Wilson, or even Abe Lincoln. But MLK was a radical who had few words of kindness for white people of his time, particularly the white liberals and moderates. 

To give you a sense for what I'm getting at, allow me to quote the real MLK, from his book Where Do We Go From Here? On the need for white empathy
[I]f the present chasm of hostility, fear and distrust is to be bridged, the white man must begin to walk in the pathways of his black brothers and feel some of the pain and hurt that throb without letup in their daily lives. 
This is what we're getting at with #BlackLivesMatter. This is precisely what is missed when white people callously and reflexively cry "white lives matter" or ask about Black-on-Black crime, not realizing that they are simultaneously turning a deaf ear to the cries of their Black brothers and sisters, their fellow citizens, but also refocusing the discussion on whiteness while criminalizing Blackness. Talk about a dick move. The King I'm learning about had no patience for this.

One common observation by white people defending their racial innocence is summarized and refuted thusly: 
Insensitive whites say: "Other immigrant groups such as the Irish, Jews and the Italians started out with similar handicaps, and yet still made it. Why haven't the Negroes done the same?" These questioners refuse to see that the situation of other immigrant groups a hundred years ago and the situation of the Negro today cannot be usefully compared. Negroes were brought here in chains long before the Irish decided voluntarily to leave Ireland or the Italians thought of leaving Italy. Some Jews may have left their homes in Europe involuntarily, but they were not in chains when they arrived on these shores. Other immigrant groups came to America with language and economic handicaps, but not with the stigma of color [of Blackness]. Above all, no other ethnic group has been a slave on American soil, and no other group has had its family structure deliberately torn apart. This is the rub. 
So please stop with the "I have a dream" quotes. This is the true King, who was able to see whiteness and the attendant ignorance of history, as a barrier to justice. The truth lies not in ignoring color, not in "colorblindness," not in present white liberal conceptions of "one race the human race." Instead
[t]he value in pulling racism out of its obscurity and stripping it of its rationalizations lies in the confidence that it can be changed. To live with the pretense that racism is a doctrine of a very few is to harm us in fighting it frontally as scientifically unsound, morally repugnant and socially destructive...[R]edemption can only come through a humble acknowledgement of guilt.
He wasn't talking to Black people who call white people "white people" when addressing the doctrine of racism, which somehow has become white people's new definition of racism, frequently deployed against social justice activists. 




No, King knew what was up. If he were on Twitter, he'd come down hard on these fools because he was in the business frontally challenging white supremacy. Not attributing it the doctrine of a few hood-wearing monsters, but the commonly held worldview of an entire people in this country.

So, in his view, what was needed for change? Improved police training? Less dependence on the "welfare state?" Destruction of affirmative action programs? No, King's view of the path forward was far more radical 
Justice for black people will not flow into society merely from court decisions nor from fountains of political oratory. Nor will a few token changes quell all the tempestuous yearnings of millions of disadvantaged black people. White America must recognize that justice for black people cannot be achieved without radical changes in the structure of our society. The comfortable, the entrenched, the privileged cannot continue to tremble at the prospect of change in the status quo.
Social justice, y'all. It won't come easily, and we certainly won't get there with white people cherry picking quotes from my Black hero. 



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