During the protests of last summer many who opposed them quoted Dr. King, especially if protests turned riotous. Dr. King was often taken to task when riots happened. He speaks to them in several speeches. I’ll offer something different today to show how his theological commitment to non-violent resistance makes it easy for Dr. King to be taken out of context.
The same Dr. King that said,
“Let me say as I’ve always said, and I will always continue to say, that riots are socially destructive and self-defeating. . . . So I will continue to condemn riots, and continue to say to my brothers and sisters that this is not the way. And continue to affirm that there is another way.”A Speech at Stanford in 1967 he called, “The Other America:”
said this in the very next line of the very same speech:
“But at the same time, it is as necessary for me to be as vigorous in condemning the conditions which cause persons to feel that they must engage in riotous activities as it is for me to condemn riots. I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, 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 plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. 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, equality, and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.”
As Dr. King’s daughter Bernice King has said, “My father sought to understand the human condition, including the holistic consequences of racism & white supremacist ideology.”
We need Dr. King in context.
For the transcript click here.
Or watch the speech here.