The overarching metanarrative that always comes to mind when I think about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is not race but justice. I am a little ambivalent about the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, when some of the people who will take the time today to publicly revere the life of this dead national black leader are some of the same people who will go out of their way to demonize the ideals of a living black man who is the president of the whole damn country.
Dr. King was one of the world’s most eloquent speakers, a magisterial orator whose august style of delivery varnished even ordinary words enough to make them shine. He was also a great writer who seemed to have understood instinctively, whether he was writing a sermon, a speech, or a book, that he was writing for posterity as well as the times in which he lived. So today, I have decided to step out of the way and let King’s written words speak for themselves.
Many of the ugly pages of American history have been obscured and forgotten. A society is always eager to cover misdeeds with a cloak of forgetfulness, but no society can fully repress an ugly past when the ravages persist into the present. America owes a debt of justice which it has only begun to pay. If it loses the will to finish or slackens in its determination, history will recall its crimes and the country that would be great will lack the most indispensable element of greatness — justice.
Martin Luther King Jr. Where Do We Go from Here
There is little hope for us until we become toughminded enough to break loose from the shackles of prejudice, half-truths, and downright ignorance. The shape of the world today does not permit us the luxury of softmindedness. A nation or civilization that continues to produce softminded men purchases its own spiritual death on the installment plan.
But we must not stop with the cultivation of a tough mind. The gospel also demands a tender heart. … What is more tragic than to see a person who has risen to the disciplined heights of toughmindedness but has at the same time sunk to the passionless depths of hardheartedness?
Martin Luther King Jr. Strength To Love
I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Martin Luther King Jr. Beyond Vietnam speech