The white liberal, per ML King Jr.

not only love but justice

martin-luther-king-jr-speech-1967[Every year, on his birthday, I find a quote or two from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to reflect upon. It’s because most people have no idea what Dr. King stood for that wasn’t enunciated in a five-minute portion of one speech.

For reasons having to do with the events of 2020, I find it necessary to do that again right about NOW.

From the New York Times, MLK holiday, 2019:]
In his 1967 book “Where Do We Go From Here,” Dr. King noted the limits of Northern liberalism: “Negroes have proceeded from a premise that equality means what it says. But most whites in America, including many of good will, proceed from a premise that equality is a loose expression for improvement. White America is not even psychologically organized to close the gap.”  

“There is a pressing need for a liberalism in the North which is truly liberal,” he told an interracial audience in New York City in 1960. He called for a liberalism that “rises up with righteous indignation when a Negro is lynched in Mississippi but will be equally incensed when a Negro is denied the right to live in his neighborhood.”

[You should read the whole article, which takes a shot at a 1964 New York Times editorial.]

The challenge

[From a UU blog, quoting Where Do We Go From Here – Chaos or Community?]
A leading voice in the chorus of social transition belongs to the white liberal… Over the last few years many Negroes have felt that their most troublesome adversary was not the obvious bigot of the Ku Klux Klan or the John Birch Society, but the white liberal who is more devoted to “order” than to justice, who prefers tranquility to equality…

The White liberal must see that the Negro needs not only love but justice. It is not enough to say, “We love Negroes, we have many Negro friends.” They must demand justice for Negroes. Love that does not satisfy justice is no love at all. It is merely a sentimental affection, little more than what one would love for a pet.

Love at its best is justice concretized. Love is unconditional. It is not conditional upon one’s staying in his place or watering down his demands in order to be considered respectable…

The white liberal must rid himself of the notion that there can be a tensionless transition from the old order of injustice to the new order of justice… The Negro has not gained a single right in America without persistent pressure and agitation…

For too long, order has been more important than justice

Nonviolent coercion always brings tension to the surface. This tension, however, must not be seen as destructive. There is a kind of tension that is both healthy and necessary for growth. Society needs nonviolent gadflies to bring its tensions into the open and force its citizens to confront the ugliness of their prejudices and the tragedy of their racism.

It is important for the liberal to see that the oppressed person who agitates for his rights is not the creator of tension. He merely brings out the hidden tension that is already alive.

Last summer when we had our open housing marches in Chicago, many of our white liberal friends cried out in horror and dismay: “You are creating hatred and hostility in the white communities in which you are marching, You are only developing a white backlash.” I could never understand that logic.

They failed to realize that the hatred and the hostilities were already latently or subconsciously present. Our marches merely brought them to the surface… The white liberal must escalate his support for racial justice rather than de-escalate it… The need for commitment is greater today than ever.

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