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Dear White People, Before You Post Dr. King Quotes To Make Yourself Feel Good…

Monday, January 15, 2018, marks the birthdate and a day that many in the nation will observe Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the dedication and sacrifices he made as a civil rights activist. I will not use this blog to detail the important and honorable aspects of Dr. King’s life as countless details are readily available in books, online articles, magazines, videos, documentaries, and museums. I recall as a young girl being taught about Martin Luther King Jr. marching, preaching, and pushing a nation towards freedom. Dr. King is often cast as docile, peaceful and in contrast to a what some considered a more radical activist during his time, Malcolm X.

White America has created a Martin Luther King Jr. that it can stomach. White America has whitewashed Martin Luther King Jr. just enough that when it comes time to speak about race relations, Dr. King’s words are the first that they turn to, just add I Have A Dream Speech and stir. White America is quick to quote Dr. King when they are attempting to ‘put Black America in its place’ when Black America is demanding justice. White America has  watered down the message of Dr. King so severely that one minute according to Trump, Africa is a shithole and the next minute Trump can quote lines from Dr. King’s I Have A Dream Speech without batting an eye.

So, before you rush to Google on Monday to search for a quote that you can tweet by Dr. King, I would ask that you look at the totality of his life and message and hold it up to the way you live your life. Do not merely quote words that make you feel good and do not challenge your thinking and actions. Do not tweet quotes that are nothing more than a Twitter performance when in actuality you have done nothing to support the causes that impact Black America. Do not use Dr. King’s quotes as a way to “check” Black America. Do not ask Black America, “What would Martin Luther King Jr. do?” when it was White America that killed him.


When you want to tell Black America, there is a better way of protesting be reminded that Dr. King said: “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

When you tell Black America, “Well it’s the law,” be reminded that Dr. King said, “We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was legal.”

When you ask us why we are fighting for justice be reminded that Dr. King said, “Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself.”


When you are quick to speak about Dr. King’s dream be reminded that Dr. King also said, “About two years ago now, I stood with many of you who stood there in person and all of you who were there in spirit before the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. As I came to the end of my speech there, I tried to tell the nation about a dream I had. I must confess to you this morning that since that sweltering August afternoon in 1963, my dream has often turned into a nightmare. I’ve seen my dream shattered as I’ve walked the streets of Chicago and see Negroes, young men, and women, with a sense of utter hopelessness because they can’t find any jobs. I’ve seen my dream shattered as I’ve been through Appalachia, and I’ve seen my white brothers along with Negroes living in poverty. And I’m concerned about white poverty as much as I’m concerned about Negro poverty.”

When you condemn Black men and women, who have fought for this country and still can’t find peace and justice in America, remember that Dr. King said, “So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.”

When you question as to why we are STILL fighting for just remember Dr. King said these words over 55 years ago and not much has changed, “But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.”


When you want us to sit down and remain silent and just be content remember that Dr. King said, It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.”

When you ask Black people why we protest when our brothers and sister are murdered by the police, remember that Dr. King said, “A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true. So we’re going to stand up amid horses. We’re going to stand up right here in Alabama, amid the billy-clubs. We’re going to stand up right here in Alabama amid police dogs, if they have them. We’re going to stand up amid tear gas! We’re going to stand up amid anything they can muster up, letting the world know that we are determined to be free!”

When you question why Colin Kaepernick is kneeling and say that you don’t disagree with him but just wish the protests were done a different way, when you ask me to “tone down” my blog so I don’t offend White people, remember Dr. King said, “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.”

When you refuse to use your voice and privilege to challenge racism, when your first response to injustice is “not me” or “not all” remember Dr. King said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”

I challenge you on this coming Martin Luther King Jr. Day to move beyond as Dr. King’s daughter, Bernice King, stated, “#MLK Lite.” What are you doing to become the dream that Martin spoke about? How are you using your voice to spread a message of peace, love and compassion? How are you using your wisdom to educate others about racism and injustice? How are you using your privilege and power to stand up for others? Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has left his legacy. What will you do to leave yours?




32 replies »

  1. There’s so much truth in this post. Even the “I Have a Dream” speech though is a speech that is potent and tough when I listen to it completely. I listened to it yesterday and was sobbing because many of the things he said in that speech are still true today (including some of the negative things).

    • I was talking to my daughter and I told her if we pretended we didn’t know when the I Have A Dream speech was given, it would STILL pertain to today and that is shameful. I am sure Dr.King thought SURELY by 2018 they will get it and yet here we are. So now I sit thinking, SURELY by 2073 (55 years later/55 years since the I Have A Dream Speech) they will get it. Honestly, I don’t know. It hasn’t happened yet but all we can do is keep trying and keep working to leave our own personal legacy or righteousness.

      • I’m not sure if Dr. King thought that we/they will get it by 2018 though. Part of his point was about how slavery ended 100 years ago, yet there were so many problems (that the people in Alabama can’t vote and that the people in New York have nothing to vote for).

        I do hope that we will truly get it by 2073 at least. Here’s to hoping that. I’m not sure if those hopes will come true though.

  2. “Dear white people”, “white America is quick to quote”?

    As a white person I acknowledge racism existed & indeed still does exist in various forms.

    It seems that you’re saying “a white person” [ to put black American’s in their place ]can’t read & quote MLK’s words correctly [ presumably because they’re not black ].

    I say this because you’re not being specific as to which white person quoted MLK incorrectly.

    Did I understand you right or did I get something wrong? Before I ‘write some shit’ I wanted to make sure there is a chance we can impart some wisdom to each other and the best way to do that is for me to understand exactly what you are saying in your post.


      • I will never get how so many white men can read something like this and the only thing they come away with is “wait, not ALL white people”. And then you take your white male bravado up a notch by offering to impart some wisdom if the little lady can only moderate her words and explain it in a way you approve of. You are the person MLK was talking about in many of these quotes and you don’t even see it.

    • What would King say about Philadelphia! 1978, 1985 and this Wed 1/15/18. Political Prisoners enslaved in prison 40 years. BOMBED , BOMBED with 4 lbs if C4 supplied by the ATF,killing woman and children. That was 1985, so you tell me what has changed, what country do you live in. IGNORANCE is speaking on something you know little about

    • Which white person? It’s all of us. You still benefit from the labors of Black people, past and present. White culture lumps all Black people together, yet we want to be individually recognized.
      Please do more reading on the matter, it sounds like you truly want to understand, but you have to do the work, and not expect a Black person to lay it out for you. If you truly want to start fixing racism in this country, you bear the burden of learning how you knowingly and unknowingly contribute to it.

    • My guess, sir, is that no, there is not “a chance we can impart some wisdom to each other.” Because that is not the goal of this post. You are not being asked to impart. You are asked to have an internal dialogue with yourself, to examine, to contemplate, to challenge your own assumptions. You are asked to listen and think. The fact that you feel immediately compelled to critique what you feel are weaknesses in the author’s premise (“you’re not being specific which white person…”), instead of turning that critique inward, is exactly the problem. Don’t impart. Listen.

  3. I read it twice. If you are not interested in having your affirmations tested that’s cool. I’ll wish you the best and leave it at that.


  4. That diatribe is spot on. What would King say if he was in Philadelphia 1978, 1985 the trails, Munmia, the injustices. Rizzo, that statue. The unforgettable fire !! Free the Move 9.
    The fact that we have to have this discussion in 2018 is absolutly nauseating. Yet, Philly will act as if they honor King, Yet they will not acknowlege their racist injustice system.

    • Don’t even get me started. I only saw the documentary Let The Fire Burn and I was horrified. I want to say it’s unbelievable but it seems this is par for the course. I’m not sure if you watched the documentary but if so did you see how that White policeman was vilified for saving a Black child? The aftermath of this was incredible. Watching that I understood why every “Black Harlem” or “Black Wall Street” was destroyed. There is a fear of Black people coming into their own.

      And I agree the fact we are STILL having this SAME conversation is appalling.

  5. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from his book Stride Toward Freedom page 6:

    “A fifth point concerning nonviolent resistance is that it avoids not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. The nonviolent resister not only refuses to shoot his opponent but he also refuses to hate him. At the center of nonviolence stands the principle of love. The nonviolent resister would contend that in the struggle for human dignity, the oppressed people of the world must not succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter or indulging in hate campaigns. To retaliate in kind would do nothing but intensify the existence of hate in the universe. Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can only be done by projecting the ethic of love to the center of our lives.”

  6. I loved this blog it is spot on! As a white person I can say I am “not that white person” As a native Detroiter I have seen repression first hand and it still exists and I wonder why in 2018 we are still fighting for equality?!? Its insane. To those people who say, oh we have come far? Really ? No we havent.. black people might not have to sit in the back of bus anymore but its because they are ONLY ones riding it , they cant afford cars and insurance! inner city education sucks and the cycle of poverty is vicious. What do I do about? I donate my time to girls in the city, I mentor and give. I listen , I keep an open mind and argue my point ( many times for colin to take a knee) I will keep fighimg and believing in hope that one day in my life I will see real justice.

  7. So, do we have to fully engage in the civil right battle to appreciate the man and his words? Do I need to document the number of marches I’ve been involved with or start kneeling if I watch a football game? Don’t be ridiculous. He was a great man that effected great change. I can still post or discuss with honest appreciation even though I’m, ahem, white.

  8. Paradoxically, this article is quite racist itself. Teaching white people how to quote MLK correctly and saying that they are only quoting him “to make yourself feel good” is inappropriate. How would the author feel, if a white author would tell her: “Now. black girl, I’m going to teach you how to quote JFK, because, obviously, you are too stupid to do so”?

    • Alex for 2018 I am no longer explaining the word racism. There is an overwhelming amount of information on this topic. If you believe this article is racist please take some time to truly learn about racism. Thank you for reading. Good day.

    • You would be correct, Rev. Clark. However if you check the date of my blog, I wrote this last year so in fact, my blog is correct. However, no matter the date, the sentiment doesn’t change. Thank you for reading.

  9. I hope that this author will consider that she is making broad assumptions about a group of people based on their race. I think that is a tendency we all have but should try to avoid. I’m concerned about any statement that starts out “x people…”.

    • I am the author and I considered everything when I wrote the article. I also assumed most people would have common sense and understand that I do not mean EVERY single White person in the world. I also assumed that people would look at the totality of the article and not get stuck on “not all” because that would be a ridiculous thing to do and not move along the conversation. So yes, I considered that. Thank you for reading.

  10. Thank you for this post. It feels like we still have such a long ways to go, especially reading some of the comments here. Either they didn’t bother to read your whole article, or they did but their heads are still so far up their butts that they can’t see the world around them as it *actually* is. I never knew much about MLK before last year, to be honest. I found a little kids book about him and got it for my daughter. We read it together, and I was born away at what he and others who fought so hard for they’re rights had to endure. And for him to still do it with love and not violence right until the end… I wonder if we white people will ever overcome our violent nature. I hope so.

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