A comprehensive schooling in the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. would reveal a greater overlap and relationship between R(1) and R(2) than asserted here.

Regarding his “I Have A Dream” speech — the one most oft-quoted by white moderates—King had this to say in retrospect:

I must confess that that dream that I had that day has in many points turned into a nightmare. Now I’m not one to lose hope. I keep on hoping. I still have faith in the future. But I’ve had to analyze many things over the last few years and I would say over the last few months.

I’ve gone through a lot of soul-searching and agonizing moments. And I’ve come to see that we have many more difficulties ahead and some of the old optimism was a little superficial and now it must be tempered with a solid realism. And I think the realistic fact is that we still have a long, long way to go and we are involved in a war on Asian soil, which if not checked and stopped, can poison the very soul of our nation.

I’m not going to say that all of our problems will be solved if the war in Vietnam is ended, but I do say that the war makes it infinitely more difficult to deal with these problems.

When a nation becomes obsessed with the guns of war, it loses it social perspective and programs of social uplift suffer. This is just a fact of history, so that we do face many more difficulties as a result of the war. It’s much more difficult to really arouse a conscience during a time of war. That is something about a war like this that makes people insensitive. It dulls the conscience. It strengthens the forces of reaction. And it brings into being bitterness and hatred and violence.

I think the biggest problem now is we got our gains over the last 12 years at bargain rates, so to speak. It didn’t cost the nation anything. In fact, it helped the economic side of the nation to integrate lunch counters and public accommodations. It didn’t cost the nation anything to get the right to vote established. Now, we’re confronting issues that cannot be solved without costing the nation billions of dollars. Now I think this is where we’re getting our greatest resistance. They may put it on many other things, but we can’t get rid of slums and poverty without it costing the nation something.

I feel that nonviolence is really the only way that we can follow, cause violence is just so self-defeating. A riot ends up creating many more problems for the Negro community than it solves. You can through violence burn down a building, but you can’t establish justice. You can murder a murderer, but you can’t murder murder through violence. You can murder a hater, but you can’t murder hate. And what we’re trying to get rid of is hate and injustice and all of these other things that continue the long night of man’s inhumanity to man.

This is consistent with his views as put forth in his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail”:

First, I must confess that over the last 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 the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er 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 can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”

Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

and from that same Letter, regarding institutionalized racism:

There are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an “I it” relationship for an “I thou” relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.

Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal. Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state’s segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?

Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.

I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

Also from his “Other Americas” speech:

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.

Highly-selective quoting from a speech that the speaker acknowledges as weak does not honor that person’s legacy or will, and does an injustice to the goals they strived towards.

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Writer of fiction, article, songs, and more. Enjoys quantum physics, Oxford Commas, & romantic clichés, esp. when they involve whiskey. HATES Journey.

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