Sunday, January 16, 2011

Other things MLK said

This video, from the always excellent Jay Smooth, has been floating around the blogsphere in the lead up to Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and I suspect it will make many more appearances tomorrow:

King comes up a lot in internet discussions of privilege and injustice on all sides; it is as common to see someone defending white privilege with "[people should not be] judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character" as it is to see someone using the same quote to fight racial injustice. One of the most common assertions is that MLK wanted a world where the populace was racially colorblind -- Stephen Colbert's "I don't see race" schtick makes evident the way that particular worldview was adopted. With that in mind, I'd like to share my own favourite MLK passage, from the Letter from a Birmingham Jail:
First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to 'order' than to justice; who constantly says: 'I agree with the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action'; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a 'more convenient season.' Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating that absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
For those of us who continue to live with the privileges that come along with being white, it is important to remember King not only for his vision of harmony, but also his call for justice; it is our responsibility ensure that, as allies, we are not exemplars of lukewarm acceptance, but rather supporters of voices that otherwise might not be heard.

For more, see Remembering MLK: The Things We've Forgotten Would Guide Us on Colorlines.

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