Rad Reading: The Other America speech by Martin Luther King, Jr.

by Abaki Beck 

2016 has been a year of violence; but it has also been a profound year of action. Native American water protectors supporting tribal sovereignty and respect for the environment in Standing Rock. Controversy over representation with #OscarsSoWhite. Protests over the election of a racist demagogue. Colin Kaepernick and others taking a knee against police brutality. In reaction, many people in privilege have spoken out against protest: Ruth Bader Ginsburg calling Colin Kapernick’s protest “dumb”, Fox News pundits demonized and degraded protests against police brutality, mass media ignored the events at Standing Rock.

Our reading this week is a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr., given in 1967, after the Civil Rights and Voting Rights bills had become law. We chose this speech because of it’s focus on social action and hope - important ideals to take with us into the year 2017. The speeches title comes from his idea of “two Americas” - one of prosperity and opportunity, the other of racism, poverty, and human misery. He discusses the painful reality of discrimination towards African Americans, arguing that changing a law is easier than reaching genuine equality in our nation - and that further protesting and action is required. Though he continues to preach non-violence, in this speech he famously states that riots are the language of the unheard, and an understandable reaction to being repeatedly ignored, lied to, and trampled on. He argues that social justice is the only way to prevent violence and riots. Demonizing protests of any kind will get nowhere; only social justice can. 

Watch a clip of his speech below, and read the full text HERE.

POC Online Classroom celebrates the intellectual tradition and knowledge production of marginalized communities. Rad Reading is a series that highlights texts to read, writers to support, and ideas to discuss. We post every Tuesday!