Can you hear me now?

January 21, 2008

From Soulforce, some relevant quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

“One day our society will come to respect the sanitation worker if it is to survive, for the person who picks up our garbage is in the final analysis as significant as the physician, for if he doesn’t do his job, diseases are rampant. All labor has dignity.”2

“I have taken a position against the administration’s policy. I would hope the president means what he says when he says that there should always be room for dissent. We come to a tragic period in our nation when we equate dissent with disloyalty. I believe firmly that it is necessary to have these moments of dissent in order to challenge something that may be leading the whole nation down the wrong path.”3

“And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.”4

“I haven’t only urged Negroes not to fight. I feel that the war is so unjust, so abominable, so futile and bloody and costly that nobody should be fighting there. I haven’t limited my concern to just the American Negro although I know we are dying in disproportionate numbers there and we are on the losing end both there and at home. Because as long as the war in Vietnam continues social programs will inevitably suffer here at home.”5

“The hour has come for everybody, for all institutions of the public sector and the private sector to work to get rid of racism. And now if we are to do it we must honestly admit certain things and get rid of certain myths that have constantly been disseminated all over our nation. One is the myth of time. It is the notion that only time can solve the problem of racial injustice. And there are those who often sincerely say to the Negro and his allies in the white community, ‘Why don’t you slow up? Stop pushing things so fast. Only time can solve the problem. And if you will just be nice and patient and continue to pray, in a hundred or two hundred years the problem will work itself out.’ There is an answer to that myth. It is that time is neutral. It can be used either constructively or destructively. And I am sorry to say this morning that I am absolutely convinced that the forces of ill will in our nation, the extreme rightists of our nation – the people on the wrong side – have used time much more effectively than the forces of good will.”6

“First, I must confess that over the last 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 the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;’ who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a ‘more convenient season.'”7

“Jesus told a parable one day, and he reminded us that a man went to hell because he didn’t see the poor. His nave was Dives. He was a rich man. And there was a man by the name of Lazarus who was a poor man, but not only was he poor, he was sick. Sores were all over his body, and he was so weak that he could hardly move. But he managed to get to the gate of Dives every day, wanting just to have the crumbs that would fall from his table. And Dives did nothing about it. And the prable ends saying, ‘Dives went to hell, and there was a fixed gulf now between Lazarus and Dives.’ There is nothing in that parable that said Dives went to hell because he was rich. Jesus never made a universal indictment against all wealth. … Dives went to hell because he was passed by Lazarus every day and he never really saw him. He went to hell because he allowed his brother to become invisible.”8

Highly Recommended Videos: King – Man of Peace in a Time of War and Citizen King

Sources:

1. Regarding the idea of Dr. King and “Can You Hear Me Now?” Soulforce gives credit to Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr. of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Rev. Wright delivered a speech on January 16, 2006 in Lexington, Kentucky in which he repeatedly asked the audience if they could hear Dr. King now.

2. Martin Luther King, Jr., The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., ed. Clayborne Carson (Grand Central Publishing, 2001), pp. 352-353.

3. From an interview on the Mike Douglas Show, November 2, 1967. The footage can be found on King – Man of Peace in a Time of War, (Passport Video, 2007).

4. Beyond Vietnam speech delivered April 4, 1967. The quote can be found in A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., ed. Clayborne Carson and Kris Shepard (Warner Books, 2002), p. 142.

5. From an interview on the Mike Douglas Show, November 2, 1967. The footage can be found on King – Man of Peace in a Time of War.

6. From a sermon titled Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution delivered March 31, 1968. It was Dr. King’s last Sunday morning sermon. The quote can be found in A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., p. 270.

7. Letter from Birmingham Jail as found in A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., p. 295.

8. From a sermon titled Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution delivered March 31, 1968. The quote can be found in A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., pp. 273-274.

Advertisements

6 Responses to “Can you hear me now?”

  1. D Hamilton Says:

    Sometimes even our hero’s get it wrong!

    “I haven’t only urged Negroes not to fight. I feel that the war is so unjust, so abominable, so futile and bloody and costly that nobody should be fighting there. I haven’t limited my concern to just the American Negro although I know we are dying in disproportionate numbers there and we are on the losing end both there and at home. Because as long as the war in Vietnam continues social programs will inevitably suffer here at home.”5

    http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/Read.aspx?GUID=739262B6-9E81-44A8-8622-2B5537658353

  2. Jeff Says:

    D –

    The article, in fact the entire publication, you reference, seems to have no purpose other than to highten the culture wars. That publication has Ann Coulter on staff, and seems to use Ann Coulter like tactics to inspire division and emotional responses to deeply divisive issues rather than attempting to further understanding by truly attempting journalism and even-handed reporting.

    As for me, even if the article’s statistics are correct I refuse to buy its culture war assumptions that breaking down one single statistical inference in the argument of MLK’s speech somehow denigrates any of his message. The deployment of troops in Vietnam DID detract from the ability of the country to focus on more important issues, just as the deployment of troops in Iraq does the same now, and just as the focus of some Anglicans on denigrating inclusion theology distracts the whole church from our mission as Christians.

    The media and other elements hyping the culture wars train us to take an “all or none” approach to each other, but I refuse that idea and hope that more people do the same so that publications lke Frontpage Magazine will no longer be able to serve up the polemic and meaningless rhetoric that they do.

    j

    j

  3. D Hamilton Says:

    No, the point of the article is to correct a myth (a lie?) that is so oft repeated; a myth with a sole purpose of generating division. The myth does not advance our society, repeating it does not free anyone, its perpetuation is racist.

    Now that you know this, or at least might be interested to further investigate its truth or falseness, you can advance our society by correcting the disinformation and dispel some of the hate it generates.

  4. Jeff Says:

    D –

    You have missed my point.

    It is the point of view of the article that is problematic, not the statistical accuracy of the fact. Look at the opening sentence:

    “‘WE LIVE IN AN AGE OF LIES,’ wrote David Horowitz last November, ‘manufactured by progressives to discredit America . . . by sowing racial and ethnic hatred in particular by spreading destructive myths among black Americans to make them hate their own country.'”

    Tell me that isn’t divisive.

    The concluding remarks of the article are made solely from statistical armed services data without looking at any of the social and racial pressures of our time. It is an extreme view, and one written from strictly a white, straight, upper-middle class perspective. It is purely factual— but it ignores the story.

    It is also an extreme view to say that the government was “out to get black men,” but that is not what MLK said, and your inference that he did by connecting that article to this post is a little perplexing (see my last point about culture wars and tearing down entire arguments based on microscopic details). Rather I think he inferred that there are complex systems of racism, implied and overt, at work in the world today.

    While Vietnam and Iraq are not completely comparable (particularly due to the lack of a draft), consider for example that underprivileged young men are more likely to enter service for the war in Iraq. The government could not be accused of targeting men of color (actually, they might- but for argument’s sake let’s ignore that). Rather the complex forms of institutional and social racism which have developed over hundreds of years have lead to a society in which there are more underprivileged black men than white men. The result is that men of color are more likely to sign up for the armed forces based on the incentives given than white men are. Will Front Page Magazine write an article in 50 years saying that racism played no role in the recruitment of forces for Iraq?

    Your article does not discuss those more complex issues surrounding social and institutional pressures in the Vietname era, but those are the forces that MLK refers to. More troubling in that article is the lack of sensitivity towards an established view in the black community and the impact that such comments have from the empowered white community. Even if you believe such things to be true, such comments are not helpful in race relations when articulated in this unhelpful and divisive way. There are more pastoral and Christian ways to offer criticism of such positions if you find them to be statistically incorrect.

    Calling MLK’s position “racist” and accusing his statements of “perpetuating hatred” put you dangerously close to falling in the same category, I’m afraid. In my relationships with very staunch black liberationists I cannot accuse any of them of being racist nor of perpetuating hatred, although I can say that they make empowered white people uncomfortable– particularly those who are afraid of sharing power with them.

    In this time of culture war Christians should be building bridges, not burning them. The gospel, especially the gospel of Mark, has very clear guidance on power disparities and our obligation as Christians to those who are not born with the luxury of empowerment.

    j

  5. D Hamilton Says:

    I certainly agree with you in your concurrence with David Horowitz about the destructive nature of lies created to discredit America.

    Now what perpetuates hatred is the repeating of these myths made up to agitate one or more sectors of American society against the whole. The disproportionate sacrifice of African Americans during the Viet Nam War and the inference that it was a plot to kill as many youths from the ghettos is one. Another one is the whopper that the highest level of domestic violence occurs on Super Bowl Sunday. (http://www.snopes.com/crime/statistics/superbowl.asp) The rapes and murders reported as rampant in the SuperDome in the Katrina disaster is a third; well disproved, but still repeated.

    These myths are hyped for a reason and purpose – to sell airtime and paper, to influence the poor & less informed for political purposes, whatever …. Facts are important and to ignore them because they are presented in a direct way is silly and discredits your efforts to advance justice.

  6. Jeff Says:

    Let’s don’t be ridiculous- I absolutely disagree with David Horowitz. The “destruction of America” that I agree with is really only the destruction of the stranglehold a certain segment of America has on the power base of America. Those not in that power base want power to be more equitably distributed– questioning our patriotism may make David Horowitz and others feel good about themselves and the status quo but it does little to make things better.

    To your point on the facts, of course truth is important. Truth also has many angles– many points of view.

    The point of view that is unacknowledged still is in your posts is the perception by the minority group themselves and the manner in which they have been addressed in the article– which does nothing to solve the problem but only escalates the problem. My focus in repeating the quote from MLK wasn’t even drawn to the Vietnam statement per se as much as it was to the analogy to the current war. Now, though, I am much more interested in the factors which did lead and continue to lead African Americans to believe that they were unjustly persecuted in that period– resolving those issues are the way to move forward; we will not move forward by some white men insisting that the statistics are wrong (whether they were or not).

    I am much more post-modern than modern– your belief that empiricism holds the answers is not congruent with my own belief that empiricism is only part of the solution– and only yields one point of view on the truth. I think I’ve repeated that in several ways on this thread now.

    j


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: