Thursday, 7 June 2012
Extracts from 'The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr"
The need to struggle for rights
"My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Neibuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals." (p.191)
The problem of indifference
"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." (p.195)
The cause of backlashes
"When we had our open housing marches, many of our white liberal friends cried out in horror and dismay: 'You are creating hatred and hostility in the white communities in which you are marching. You are only developing a white backlash.' They failed to realize that the hated and the hostilities were already latently or subconsciously present. Our marches merely brought them to the surface." (p.305)
On power and love
"Power, properly understood, is the ability to achieve purpose. It is the strength required to bring about social, political or economic changes. In this sense power is not only desirable but necessary in order to implement the demands of love and justice. One of the greatest problems of history is that the concepts of love and power are usually contrasted as polar opposites. Love is identified with a resignation of power and power with a denial of love. What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive and that love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love." (p.325-5)
Getting to the root of injustice
"A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.
A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, 'This is not just.' It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say: 'This is not just.' The Western arrogance of feeling that to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just." (p.340)
[Headings are my own. Quotations taken from 'The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr', edited by Clayborne Carson, Abacus, 2011 edition]