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'A Riot Is the Language of the Unheard'—9 MLK Quotes the Mainstream Media Won't Cite

April 29, 2015 in Blogs

By Kali Holloway, AlterNet

The real MLK was far more radical than today's cherry-picked lines.

The Martin Luther King who is cynically trotted out every time racial unrest erupts in our cities is the MLK who can be conveniently used to prop up the status quo. He is the MLK of CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, ignoring the core root of an urban uprising and unable to recognize the intrinsically higher value of black lives over commercial property interests. He is MLK reduced to “I Have A Dream,” used in conservative political ads to scare-monger about invading, job-stealing Mexican immigrants. He is the almost wholly fabricated MLK whom the modern GOP claims would today be one of their own, presumably standing alongside them as they vote against the poor, women and people of color at every opportunity.  

Except in reality, those examples rely on half-truths and half-reveals of who MLK truly was. In real, big-picture life, MLK was far more radical than today’s cherry-picked lines from his speeches and books would suggest – a man who moved further left over the course of his long and weary fight for African-American civil rights. By 1966, MLK had become an outspoken opponent of “liberal” white complicity in white supremacy, of American imperialism and warmongering, of the Capitalist system itself. Modern right wingers’ use of quotes from MLK (here’s just a few examples) twist and misuse his words in ways that belie much of what he ultimately came to stand for.

The next time Wolf Blitzer or some other conservative commentator – or horribly misguided person in your Facebook feed – tosses MLK into a conversation about what’s currently happening in Baltimore, recall that MLK also said that “a riot is the language of the unheard.” (Yes, you can be anti-violence and understand the roots of it.) Here are several more examples of MLK’s most radical statements:

1. “Why is equality so assiduously avoided? Why does white America delude itself, and how does it rationalize the evil it retains?

The majority of white Americans consider themselves sincerely committed to justice for the Negro. They believe that …read more


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