A different king of Martin Luther King, Jr. quote



(And seldom his far more radical statement, “A riot is the language of the unheard.”)

Maybe I finally pruned my friends lists enough during the Mike Brown protests, but this time around, “language of the unheard” has been literally the only MLK quote I’ve seen anyone sharing. (Until now of course.)

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“A different king…”


I don’t see anything in that quote that justifies rioting.

Does anything in your view? How bad do things need to get in order to justifying rioting?


Maybe. I can’t say never, right?

But I fail to see how riots help anything. Let’s not act like these people are out to alert the world to the injustice in their lives or fight to make things better. No, they are taking advantage of the situation to steal and break things. That has done NOTHING to help the cause. It has painted their community as being full of criminals and prompted the observer to write them off.

The actual protest were about trying to wake up people to the cause. Police injustice and brutality doesn’t touch every community, but is a national issue. But I can’t see anyone seriously advocating violence as a way to make anything better.

Xeni posted stats on the neighborhood yesterday. That area is full of violence with out the cops behaving badly. People who say they need to go after the cops to stop the killing and protect themselves aren’t using rational and logic. Looking at the murder and assault rate, their fellow citizens are more of a danger to them than the cops.

And to be clear I am not in anyway defending the cops actions that lead to Gray’s death. If what is being reported is true, they should do time.

Because we’re still talking about Freddie Gray today. And we’re still talking about all the other injustices that black people face in this nation.

Would we still be talking about Freddie Gray if Al Sharpton had just had a prayer meeting at a local church?

Would we still be talking about Michael Brown and Eric Garner if we had just had a couple of articles in the Atlantic, instead of the protests?

Sure, they could just march in the streets. But people have been marching in the streets for months now over similar things. That doesn’t even get into the news any more.


Or, as someone else posted in a related thread, maybe the cops precipitated it in the first place (from @hereticbranding in the thread about Baltimore and stats) :

From the same thread (posted by @chgoliz):

Also, this:

Let’s not forget:






I don’t see this as a “justification of rioting” so much as “an expression of anger and frustration toward those moderates who have a bigger problem with riots than the ongoing conditions which led to them.”

Riots may or may not further the cause of justice. I can’t say I’m a big fan of them myself—I lived near L.A. during the 1992 riots which followed the Rodney King beating verdict and I lived in downtown Oakland when police used tear gas to stop protesters who were smashing up neighborhood businesses after the Oscar Grant shooting in 2010. But I can sympathize with the anger that leads to them, and recognize riots as the ugly but inevitable consequence when a population of people are pushed beyond a certain point.

In Baltimore protesters marched peacefully for six days and were all but ignored by the national media. Is it really all that surprising that some of those angry people would decide it was time for more extreme measures?


I don’t see it as a good talk. Hell I think some people see this type of behavior and then are empathetic more with the police. People in general aren’t empathetic to people who commit crimes. And while the protestors and rioters are two different groups, it is very easy for people to lump them in as one and the same.

I agree with this. Honestly, like Sam and Max: Hit the Road taught me, people don’t care about others if it isn’t someone they know or care about.

While on the surface people are against police brutality, etc, but if it doesn’t directly affect them it is hard for them to get too upset over it to do much about it. Conversely, no one likes criminals wantonly stealing and destroying things. And it just reenforces any cognitive biases they may have had.

But hey - this is life. “If it bleeds, it leads.” People watch all sort of trash shows of people behaving badly. People gossip. Etc etc. It isn’t “right”, but what gets attention and put on the news isn’t the 100 people doing something right, it’s the one guy doing something wrong.

But that isn’t what happened, is it? Was the protestors who took it up a notch? Or people who saw it as an opportunity to cause trouble? People burned down a CVS (costing neighbors their jobs) to make the world more aware of their blight? Or because they wanted to watch it burn because they don’t have a more constructive outlet for their anger.

Probably some of each. When you have a situation where a lot of people are filled with righteous anger, some of that is going to boil over in violent and non-productive ways unless there’s a positive outlet for it. The longer that peaceful protests remain ineffective the greater the odds that some people will resort to non-peaceful means.

(Via The Nib)


What you say is true, but I don’t think it is a good thing, necessarily. Clearly you can find examples where people had to stand up and fight for a cause. In some of your examples the level of oppression I think is quite a bit different than the current situation. You could also say violence solved things like WWII, etc.

But at the same time I could probably make snarky cartoons of when violence didn’t really help the cause the violence was a result of.

And problems these people face are much deeper than just police brutality. Looking at their stats, they would still be poor and the violence in the area is much higher than in other areas. Will rioting stop either of those things? Of course not.

Again, it’s not really an issue of whether rioting is a “good” thing. It’s just a thing that groups of people do when events push them beyond a certain threshold. For some people that threshold is “my favorite sports team just lost a game!” For others it’s “my favorite sports team just won a game!”

In this case that threshold was “my community has faced decades of brutality from the unaccountable police force sworn to protect us, and the last week of peaceful protests hasn’t yielded any tangible action in response to the latest tragedy.”


This quote needs me context. He went on to say: “Stealing preservative-filled pastries from convenience stores is a great thing that everyone should do. Sorry/not sorry.” --Dr. Martin Luther King

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And heck, let’s not forget the Baltimore Riot…of 1812.

(Hint: lily white rioters, all of them.)


It’s like when you go to the dentist, and the man’s going to take your tooth. You’re going to fight him when he starts pulling. So he squirts some stuff in your jaw called novocaine, to make you think they’re not doing anything to you. So you sit there and 'cause you’ve got all of that novocaine in your jaw, you suffer peacefully. Blood running all down your jaw, and you don’t know what’s happening. 'Cause someone has taught you to suffer – peacefully. - Malcolm X


Oooooo… One more! Not in Baltimore, but still…

Except I think that plenty of people are pissed off enough to care at this point, but our moribund, crooked, and backasswards political/justice system is a problem.

Actually, I care much more about the young men killed by police than I do if someone smashes a window and walks off with… whatever. People over stuff.

From some of the stuff I’ve read, it was the cops who escalated. Again. They seem great at that lately.

I assume you meant plight? Or maybe both… but I’m not sure that a low paying job at CVS is something to get upset about. Sure, it’s a job, but not all jobs are great jobs.

I think you’re missing them point we’re… or rather I, I guess… am making about riots, that it’s a political act, as much as it is an act of seemingly wanton violence and destruction.

And this seems it.

Not, but maybe it will draw attention to it? It seems like we’re finally having a discussion about this stuff, which we should have had YEARS AGO.


Later in Letter from a Birmingham Jail:

In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy.