Martin Luther King, Jr. was indeed a great leader of the Civil Rights Movement and activist for social change. He is more than deserving of a holiday and should definitely be commemorated. However, America has often remembered Dr. King in a diluted way. In school, many of us learned about a passive Dr. King, that chose love and non-violence and just like that, the country followed. Now, we’re all equal.
That’s not true or realistic. Dr. King was not passive at all. He directly called out and challenged racism and unjust systems. He was civilly disobedient, being arrested 30 times. Even with his non-violent philosophy, Dr. King’s call for justice and change was still rejected and ridiculed. Many people hated Dr. King, so much so that his house was bombed, with his wife and newborn child in it, after a threat “to blow up (his) house and blow (his) brains out.” The FBI tracked Dr. King’s every move, tapping his phone lines and naming him the “most dangerous and effective Negro leader in the country.” And let us not forget that U.S. government agencies were found guilty in conspiracy for Dr. King’s assassination (but people rarely want to talk about that). Even through all of this, Dr. King continued to fight for what he believed in, in a radical and revolutionary way.
So if you find yourself saying that activists of today “need to be more like Dr. King,” please realize that we are striving to do just that. We continue to challenge, protest, and call out injustice, despite how many tell us we’re wrong, hate us, or use violence against us, just like they did Dr. King.
Today, let’s remember Dr. King for the revolutionary he truly was. Here’s 5 quotes to help us do that:
- “I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without first having spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government.” -Martin Luther King, Jr., Why I am Opposed to the War in Vietnam (1967)
- “But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard.”-Martin Luther King, Jr., The Other America (1968)
- “When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” -Martin Luther King, Jr., Where Do We Go From Here? (1967)
- “Whites, it must frankly be said, are not putting in a similar mass effort to reeducate themselves out of their racial ignorance. It is an aspect of their sense of superiority that the white people of America believe they have so little to learn. The reality of substantial investment to assist Negroes into the twentieth century, adjusting to Negro neighbors and genuine school integration, is still a nightmare for all too many white Americans.” -Martin Luther King, Jr., Where Do We Go From Here? (1967)’
- “Non-violent protest must now mature to a new level to correspond to heightened black impatience and stiffened white resistance. The higher level is mass civil disobedience. It is a concept well known in our struggle for justice. There must be more than a statement to the larger society—there must be a force that interrupts its functioning at some key point.” -Martin Luther King, Jr., Worldview Introduction (1972)