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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Reprinted with permission fro AlterNet.

The Martin Luther King Jr. who is cynically trotted out every time racial unrest erupts in our cities is the MLK who can be conveniently used to prop up the status quo. He is MLK reduced to “I Have A Dream,” used in conservative political ads to scare-monger about invading, job-stealing Mexican immigrants. He is the almost wholly fabricated MLK whom the modern GOP claims would today be one of their own, presumably standing alongside them as they vote against the poor, people of color and women of every race at every opportunity. He is MLK reimagined as the passive figure the facist, racist right in this country wants us to be as they lean into the boot on our necks.

In reality, those examples rely on half-truths and half-reveals of who MLK truly was. In real, big-picture life, MLK was far more radical than the cherry-picked lines from his speeches and books would suggest, a man who moved further left over the course of his long and weary fight for African-American civil rights. By 1966, MLK had become an outspoken opponent of “liberal” white complicity in white supremacy, of American imperialism and warmongering, of the capitalist system itself. Modern right-wingers’ use of quotes from MLK (here are a few examples) twist and misuse his words in ways that belie much of what he ultimately came to stand for.

The next time you see MLK corrupted and misused as a tool of capitalism, racism, unchecked white supremacy and war, recall that MLK said “a riot is the language of the unheard.” Here are several more examples of MLK’s most radical statements.

1. “Why is equality so assiduously avoided? Why does white America delude itself, and how does it rationalize the evil it retains?

The majority of white Americans consider themselves sincerely committed to justice for the Negro. They believe that American society is essentially hospitable to fair play and to steady growth toward a middle-class Utopia embodying racial harmony. But unfortunately this is a fantasy of self-deception and comfortable vanity.”

—  Where Do We Go From Here1967

2. “I contend that the cry of “Black Power” is, at bottom, a reaction to the reluctance of white power to make the kind of changes necessary to make justice a reality for the Negro. I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard. And, what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the economic plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years.”

—  60 Minutes Interview, 1966

3. “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. And what is it America has failed to hear?…It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”

—  “The Other America,” 1968

4. “When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

—  “Revolution of Values,” 1967

5. “Again we have deluded ourselves into believing the myth that Capitalism grew and prospered out of the Protestant ethic of hard work and sacrifice. The fact is that capitalism was built on the exploitation and suffering of black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor – both black and white, both here and abroad.”

—  “The Three Evils of Society,” 1967

6. “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

—“Beyond Vietnam,” 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…These are the deepest causes for contemporary abrasions between the races. Loose and easy language about equality, resonant resolutions about brotherhood fall pleasantly on the ear, but for the Negro there is a credibility gap he cannot overlook. He remembers that with each modest advance the white population promptly raises the argument that the Negro has come far enough. Each step forward accents an ever-present tendency to backlash.”

— Where Do We Go From Here1967

7. “The problems of racial injustice and economic injustice cannot be solved without a radical redistribution of political and economic power.”

— “The Three Evils of Society,” 1967

8. “The evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and evils of racism.”

— Southern Christian Leadership Conference speech, 1967

9. “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 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 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 than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

Letter From a Birmingham Jail, 1963

Kali Holloway is a senior writer and the associate editor of media and culture at AlterNet.

IMAGE: National Archives and Records

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34 responses to “9 Radical MLK Quotes The Mainstream Media Won’t Mention”

  1. jmprint says:

    Powerful stuff, and all true to today. To see so clearly what others don’t, to convey the message as it is, seems like nothing has changed.

    I remember a moment of discrimination, had several, but this one stands out the most (1964). My dad had picked up his family (mom, kids and her parents) and as we were driving in the to get to our city ten hours of traveling. Dad stops at this restaurant as we were very hungry, we get off and sat at the table, we were the only customers. We sat there for a long period of time and no service, so dad goes to the owner and says why are you not taking care of us, and he said “As long as that black man is sitting at your table you will not be served” My grandpa wasn’t a black man, but he was had very dark skin. My dad said ok told us to stay seated, came back in the room and pulled his gun and put in on top of the table and told the man, my father-in-law is not a black man and you will feed my family, The kids got fed, the adults refused to eat their food.

    I couldn’t believe how hateful a person can be, must be hard to live with a black heart. None is better then anyone, that’s why God made us all equal human beings.

    • Just A Citizen says:

      So a non violent act by the owner is met with a threat of violence by your father.

      • johninPCFL says:

        Sounds a lot like Sharron Angle’s “second amendment solution” doesn’t it?

        • Just A Citizen says:


          Not exactly the same but I understand how you could confuse them.

          Wasn’t Angles’ comment regarding threats to the second amendment? That would be violence responding to violence.

          • johninPCFL says:

            Sure – actual violence against the 14th amendment versus asking if keeping guns away from criminals and the mentally ill makes sense.

          • Just A Citizen says:


            Dishonest dialogue that is. You know as well as I that the anti gun folks are after far more than keeping them from criminals and mental cases.

            Of course that also diverts from the first point. You father responded to a non violent protest with threat of violence. Period.

            And it appears that you thought this wonderful, since you repeated in the context of fighting racism.

  2. Thank you for listing these quotes. They confirm what I watched happen with MLK in the 60s. He abandoned his principles of the “I have a dream” speech to become a radical Progressive.

    Even though this ought to destroy him as an important and great man, we who still love freedom, capitalism and individualism based on character (the opposite of Progressivism) will continue to honor his leadership and bravery in exposing bigotry and law-enforced segregation.

    • I Am Helpy says:

      OK, thanks for that deeply stupid collection of words. Do you have a prognosis for your recovery? I know head trauma can be tricky.

      • Yes, for therapy I’m going to re-read the history of the New Left and the radical Black Power movements of the 60s, and how they turned on MLK to ridicule and marginalize him. They basically called him Uncle Tom and wanted to throw him on the ash-heap of history for not wanting to burn down the cities and kill all the whites they suspected of racism.

        Disgustingly, this shaming by the young people of the left resulted in MLK becoming a Progressive puppet.

        • I Am Helpy says:

          Hmmm yes sounds like a fun racist evening for the whole slack-jawed bigot family.

          • Just A Citizen says:

            I Am

            So you are either to young to remember those years or willfully ignorant. I am hoping it is the former.

          • I Am Helpy says:

            Yes I guess I’m just too young to remember your make-believe version of history, where conservatives were the good guys, blacks were the Real Racists, and MLK was a Republican.

            That must be it – it’s definitely not you trying to justify your racism by lying.

          • Just A Citizen says:

            I… You have yet to offer anything of substance. Just more leftwing name calling. Come back when you have an actual point to make.

          • I Am Helpy says:

            Yes the fault here is with me, for not immediately pointing out every single laughable lie in the dumb alternate history you invented out of whole cloth to justify your racism. That must be it!

            My point, such as it is, is that you are garbage.

          • Just A Citizen says:

            So are you too young or willfully ignorant of actual history?

          • I Am Helpy says:

            Sorry, neither reason for doubting your stupid fake history applies.

            I hope that helps!

    • Just A Citizen says:

      John Donohue

      Someone with a memory of actual history. Congratulations for having the courage to express it here.

      • Thank you.

        I am 67, and I was an activist teen in the 60s, and while I did not go to the south, I made some noise in upstate NY. I will say again, the honor and respect for Martin Luther King was stupendous during the early sixties. He was Ghandi, but our Ghandi, and the cause was in everyone’s gut. He was right.

        I’ll leave it at that.

        • Just A Citizen says:

          Agree. I am 64 and have not forgotten what was beginning and how it was derailed by militants.

          • I Am Helpy says:

            Yes, if only black people had decided to obey you, you wouldn’t have been forced to sell out the nation to Russia. You actual piece of human-shaped garbage.

          • Just A Citizen says:

            I Am

            I see your suffering from projection again. You should get that checked out by a Doctor. Do it quick before your Obama Care disappears.

          • I Am Helpy says:

            I’m sorry, but no amount of sophomoric abuse changes the fact that you’re a traitor.

          • Just A Citizen says:

            A “traitor” huh? Like I said, you should get that projection thangy checked out.

          • I Am Helpy says:

            You support a foreign dictator’s puppet. That’s treason.

  3. Just A Citizen says:

    These quotes show why many in those days felt MLK had slipped into the Communist tar pit. And why Hoover had been spying on him for some time.

    There is a good point in this and that is the silly Republican talking heads who claim MLK was a “conservative Republican”. While it was true that the R’s were supporting Civil Rights at the time, Mr. King never expressed outright support of the “conservative” movement that I recall.

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