I was thinking about this recently – people seem to know about three or four MLK quotes that are soothing and non-offensive to white sensibilities. “I have a dream”; “hate cannot drive out hate”; “we must live together as brothers”; “nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit”. Certainly true, but also commodified and non-threatening. Yesterday I saw someone trying to explain inequality – “Suppose you have two families which both originally have equal income and one family spends all their money on foreign holidays etc whereas the other saves their money to put their son to an elite private school…” Apparently a lot of Trump’s support can also be traced to white people being tired of political correctness and being called racist or sexist – and this is perfectly understandable.
In any case, I thought it would be worth highlighting some MLK quotes that require white people to y’know, do something about racism in society.
In 1863 the Negro was told that he was free as a result of the Emancipation Proclamation being signed by Abraham Lincoln. But he was not given any land to make that freedom meaningful. It was something like keeping a person in prison for a number of years and suddenly discovering that that person is not guilty of the crime for which he was convicted. And you just go up to him and say, “Now you are free,” but you don’t give him any bus fare to get to town. You don’t give him any money to get some clothes to put on his back or to get on his feet again in life.
Every court of jurisprudence would rise up against this, and yet this is the very thing that our nation did to the black man. It simply said, “You’re free,” and it left him there penniless, illiterate, not knowing what to do. And the irony of it all is that at the same time the nation failed to do anything for the black man, though an act of Congress was giving away millions of acres of land in the West and the Midwest. Which meant that it was willing to undergird its white peasants from Europe with an economic floor.
But not only did it give the land, it built land-grant colleges to teach them how to farm. Not only that, it provided county agents to further their expertise in farming; not only that, as the years unfolded it provided low interest rates so that they could mechanize their farms. And to this day thousands of these very persons are receiving millions of dollars in federal subsidies every years not to farm. And these are so often the very people who tell Negroes that they must lift themselves by their own bootstraps. It’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is a cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.
Following on from that quote: