In his own words What Dr. King said about pressing issues

Though Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered nearly 50 years ago, his words still have something to say about the big issues of our times. From Colin Kaepernick taking a knee to attempts to silence the media to nuclear threats, we can look to Dr. King for insight. Here are some of his own words speaking to our 2018 realities.

 

BLACK LIVES MATTER

  • “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
  • “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’ ”
  • “The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.”
  • “There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair.”
  • “True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.  The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
  • “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
  • “The time is always right to do what is right.”
  • “For when people get caught up with that which is right and they are willing to sacrifice for it, there is no stopping point short of victory.”
  • “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable…Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
  • “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.
  • “The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.”

 

BLACK POWER & PROGRESS

  • “Black Power, in its broad and positive meaning, is a call to Black people to amass the political and economic strength to achieve their legitimate goals…The plantation and the ghetto were created by those who had power both to confine those who had no power and to perpetuate their powerlessness.  The problem of transforming the ghetto is, therefore, a problem of power – a confrontation between the forces of power demanding change and the forces of power dedicated to preserving the status quo.”
  • “Black Power is a call for the pooling of Black financial resources to achieve economic security…If Black Power means the development of this kind of strength within the Negro community, then it is a quest for basic, necessary, legitimate power.  Finally, Black Power is a psychological call to manhood.”
  • “We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.”

 

CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS

  • “All we say to America is, ‘Be true to what you said on paper.’ If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges, because they hadn’t committed themselves to that over there. But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of the press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right.”

 

MARGINALIZED GROUPS

  • “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”
  • “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

 

RELIGION

  • “Any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them and the social conditions that cripple them is a spiritually moribund religion awaiting burial.”

 

SCIENCE & SPIRITUALITY

  • “Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge, which is power; religion gives man wisdom, which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals.  Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.”

 

SILENT “ALLIES”

  • “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
  • “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

 

WEALTH GAP

  • “The solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by the now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.”
  • Capitalism does not permit an even flow of economic resources. With this system, a small privileged few are rich beyond conscience, and almost all others are doomed to be poor at some level. That’s the way the system works. And since we know that the system will not change the rules, we are going to have to change the system.”

 

Sources: Dr. King’s speeches, sermons & books, including “Letter From a Birmingham Jail,” “Strength to Love,” “Stride Toward Freedom,” “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?”