My least-favorite MLK quote 👎

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.”

Hate cannot drive out hate, but it can drive out love. That’s what it did in Memphis, 1968, with a bullet through the Lorraine Motel.

People love to wrap themselves in warm blankets of complicity with cherry-picked MLK quotes. It’s bypassing—shielding us from reality and absolving us of action. The reality is that white people hated MLK, JFK distanced himself so as not to lose votes, and the FBI launched an entire program that surveilled him, intimidated him, and LITERALLY TOLD HIM TO KILL HIMSELF.

Speaking of folks who bypass with MLK quotes:

It is our responsibility to see history clearly. To see King clearly. King became more radical with each passing year of his ministry. In 1966, two years before his martyrdom, King began “the first significant Northern freedom movement ever attempted by major civil rights forces,” King said Chicago would be the first front in a campaign for justice against the “involuntary enslavement” of blacks in Northern slums.

He was met with a rock to the back of his head.

“I have never seen, even in Mississippi and Alabama, mobs as hateful as I’ve seen here in Chicago,” King said later that day. “Yes, it’s definitely a closed society. We’re going to make it an open society.”

In honor of MLK’s legacy as a radical, here are four lesser-known quotes—not on love and light, but on capitalism, peace, ignorance, and poverty.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll find nothing radical about these words at all.

  1. “We have deluded ourselves into believing the myth that capitalism grew and prospered out of the Protestant ethic of hard work and sacrifice. The fact is that capitalism was built on the exploitation and suffering of black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor—both black and white, here and abroad.”

  2. “If peace means a willingness to be exploited economically, dominated politically, humiliated and segregated, I do not want peace. If peace means being complacently adjusted to a deadening status quo, I do not want peace. If peace means keeping my mouth shut in the midst of injustice and evil, I don’t want it. Peace is not simply the absence of conflict, but the existence of justice for all people.”

  3. “Whites, it must frankly be said, are not putting in a similar mass effort to reeducate themselves out of their racial ignorance. It is an aspect of their sense of superiority that the white people of America believe they have so little to learn. These are the deepest causes for contemporary abrasions between the races. Loose and easy language about equality, resonant resolution about brotherhood fall pleasantly on the ear, but for the Negro there is a credibility gap he cannot overlook. He remembers that with each modest advance the white population promptly raises the argument that the Negro has come far enough. Each seep forward accents an ever-present tendency to backlash.”

  4. “The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. It is socially as cruel and blind as the practice of cannibalism at the dawn of civilization, when men ate each other because they had not yet learned to take food from the soil. The time as come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct, and immediate abolition of poverty.”

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