I was a college dropout in 1963, at home from my failed effort to become a bum when I watched the “I have a dream” speech. I cried my eyes out. There was something so righteous about this movement, so emphatically clear in its justice. You were for black people, you supported the movement, or you were a racist dog.
I broke with King like other (ultra) leftists did when he failed to embrace Black Power and cringed as people increasingly moved toward Malcolm’s “any means necessary.” Most black people simply supported both approaches, understanding that the disagreement was largely tactical.
Here are some often forgotten quotes from the real, democratic socialist revolutionary King:
“The dispossessed of this nation— the poor, both white and Negro- live in a cruelly unjust society. They must organize a revolution against the injustice, not against the lives of the persons who are their fellow citizens, but against the structures through which the society is refusing to take means which have been called for, and which are at hand, to lift the load of poverty.”
“We have deluded ourselves into believing the myth that capitalism grew and prospered out of the Protestant ethic of hard work and sacrifices. Capitalism was built on the exploitation of black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor.” (speech, August 1967, Chicago, IL)
“Many people fear nothing more terribly than to take a position which stands out sharply and clearly from the prevailing opinion. The tendency of most is to adopt a view that is so ambiguous that it will include everything and so popular that it will include everybody. Not a few people who cherish lofty and noble ideals, hide them under a bushel for fear of being called different.”
“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.” (speech, “Beyond Vietnam–A Time to Break Silence,” April 4, 1967, Riverside Church, New York City)
“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.” (speech, “Beyond Vietnam–A Time to Break Silence)