When should white people quote Martin Luther King, Jr.?
I’ve heard many Black anti-racism advocates say the answer is somewhere between when we deeply understand how to not whitewash his quotes and never, ever, ever. So for any white folks reading this, here’s why we should follow this very reasonable request:
- Believe Black people when they tell us we’re harming them.
- White people tend to remember, love, and quote the words that let us feel comfortable, safe, and good about ourselves. We can do better and step into discomfort. Stop being performative allies. Move into taking actions that follow the lead of Black people, without forcing them into unwanted or underpaid work, while we white people do the hard work of dismantling the white supremacy we benefit from.
- Based on polls at the time, an overwhelming majority of white people absolutely hated MLK – until he was assassinated. Stop taking advantage of our distance from his resistance to whitewash his efforts, to undermine people fighting for justice today. Support Black people however they resist the white supremacy waters we swim in.
- There are so, so, so many Black folks out there worth quoting – put some effort into it and learn more about them. We, white people as a whole, are really lazy about learning anything beyond the incredibly whitewashed, male gaze, often totally WRONG history we learned in K-12.
I know, you want to REMEMBER MLK. By not quoting him people will forget about him. Bullshit. We’re not remembering the whole person, the resistance fighter, the dad, the husband in the way we, white people, quote him now. We’re erasing him and his legacy every time we whitewash his words and twist his message. We’re ignoring all the other Black folks who fought alongside him, all the Black folks who chose, who choose, to fight differently. We’re forgetting them and undermining their efforts. We can be better. Do the work. Listen to Black people. Follow their lead without exhausting them or giving them all the risk. Compensate them for the work they do. Yep, it’s hard. That’s what white supremacy does, it creates friction and rough edges and choppy waters. We as white people need to step into those choppy waters and build our anti-racism muscles, take up our share of the burden of changing the course of the white supremacy river.
White people have no excuse for saying “I didn’t know” or “I didn’t realize how bad it is” or “This isn’t The American Way.” We choose not to know. We choose to ignore the Black people who have been telling us they are harmed. It’s on us to listen, to stop making Black people perform their pain for us over and over. Accept that white supremacy pervades EVERYTHING and step up to create change within your scope of control. I guarantee you there are things happening at your neighborhood school, your place of worship, your workplace, and your community or hobby groups that uphold white supremacy. I guarantee you there are things you can do, quietly and with no reward or fanfare, which will chip away at that. White supremacy is EVERYWHERE so take any common practice and ask yourself HOW it upholds white supremacy. Ask that same question to get to deeper levels at least 5 times. Validate with Black people, without asking for their free labor or emotional energy, that what you want to do is useful. There are research papers and books and blog posts and YouTube videos of Black people telling you what they need in whatever scope of control you have. Quite possibly there’s an underfunded group or individual already doing that work – give them your money, your resources, your time, the clout that comes with your white privilege. Listen to them and do something about it.
“…there’s no one way for Black people to combat racism.”
“White people love to pull the same three MLK quotes out of their ass to try to silence Black people when they are feeling uncomfortable and you are whitewashing MLK’s message and taking his quote completely out of f*cking context to try to serve your purpose.”
“He did not like you guys.”
“Martin Luther King is dead. He is not here today because white people did not like him. Because white people use the exact same logic that they use today, on Martin Luther King. Y’all literally assassinated this man.”
“So do not come back today in 2017 and pretend like you were so supportive of Martin Luther King and that all of these ideologies were so great, was so wonderful, and that’s the right way to do things when ‘the right way to do things’ literally got him murdered.”White People Are Banned From MLK – YouTube – Rebekah Hutson OnlyBlackGirl
“White people love Martin Luther King Jr.
For them, he is the standard-bearer for resistance while negotiating the minefield of white sensibilities. In the rewriting of history, King has been fashioned into an apologetic freedom fighter who carefully sidestepped white ire while pointing out inequality. They have cunningly backdated their admiration for King and the civil rights movement to prove that they have always stood on the side of justice.
It is bullshit.”
“King explicitly stated: “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.””From Most Hated to American Hero: The Whitewashing of Martin Luther King Jr. (theroot.com) – Michael Harriot
“…because white people are who they are, they’ve decided to create their own version of that legacy. The white people version of MLK is the one we get in our history books and social studies lessons. But now there’s no longer an excuse to pretend to not know what he was truly saying.”
“Systemic racism is as American as apple pie, and Dr. King knew that. He spent much of his time trying to warn Black people on the true nature of not only this country, but the people with power.”
“…they’re so sure they know his beliefs that they’re actually arguing with his children on Twitter. Can you imagine telling someone’s children that they’re wrong about their parents’ beliefs? The caucasity of the internet is wild sometimes, but here we are.”
“White people, until you sit with all of MLK’s words, really sit with them, don’t you dare try and say you know what he meant. Or what actions he would approve (or disapprove) of. He was a man who wanted unity and peace, yes, but he also knew it comes at a cost, and that you’d need to f*ck shit up first to make any progress. If he was still alive, he’d be out there in the streets, marching with us. And don’t you forget it.”Martin Luther King Quotes Are Being Highlighted By #ReclaimMLK (scarymommy.com) – Sa’iyda Shabazz 👑🌈 (@xoxSai) / Twitter
One thought on “When Should White People Quote MLK?”
So good! Thanks! I’ve been on a real biography kick lately, I should try to find a recently written one.