Race

MLK Would Condemn Rioting, Not Condone It

Leftists on social media have fraudulently invoked MLK to defend rioting across the country.

Thomas Gallatin · Jun. 2, 2020

America’s most famous, influential, and effective civil-rights leader, the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., would be rolling over in his grave regarding a social-media campaign falsely claiming that he’d support rioting after George Floyd’s unjust death while in police custody. A paragraph taken out of context from King’s “The Other America” speech has been widely shared as evidence suggesting that the one who famously advocated for nonviolence as the only viable means for bringing about true change would condone today’s rioting. Those twisting King’s words to defend today’s violence highlight one phrase in particular where King states, “A riot is the language of the unheard.”

King’s statement was an observation, not a justification, as he made clear in his Stanford version of the speech: “It is as necessary for me to be as vigorous in condemning the conditions which cause persons to feel that they must engage in riotous activities as it is for me to condemn riots. I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots.” King went on to once again denounce violence, arguing, “Let me say as I’ve always said, and I will always continue to say, that riots are socially destructive and self-defeating. I’m still convinced that nonviolence is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom and justice. I feel that violence will only create more social problems than they will solve.”

Sadly, King’s “dream” of an America where people are judged by their character and not the color of their skin has been turned on its head by today’s “social justice” warriors. So too has King’s conviction that the only means for bringing about a true end to racial injustice and inequality was via nonviolent protest.

Civil-rights leader and Representative John Lewis, who marched with King in the 1960s, has likewise called for protesters to abstain from violence. “Rioting, looting, and burning is not the way,” Lewis said in a statement. “Organize. Demonstrate. Sit-in. Stand-up. Vote. Be constructive, not destructive. History has proven time and again that non-violent, peaceful protest is the way to achieve the justice and equality that we all deserve.”

Unfortunately but perhaps predictably, Lewis’s message of peaceful protest was explicitly rejected by Black Lives Matter cofounder Alicia Garza. “It’s a familiar pattern: to call for peace and calm but direct it in the wrong places,” Garza said. “Why are we having this conversation about protest and property when a man’s life was extinguished before our eyes? I’m not going to spend my time telling people to go home. … We don’t have time to finger-wag at protesters about property. That can be rebuilt. Target will reopen. The stores will reopen. That’s assured. What is not assured is our safety and real justice.”

Like leftist “social justice” warriors who have redefined racism so as to, ironically, promote racism, so now they’re coopting the icon of MLK to promote the very type of violence he roundly condemned. In the end, it’s all propaganda aimed at attacking the one nation that gave birth to the ideals of Liberty and justice, the core principles that define to all the world what it means to be an American. King understood this, believed in it, and fought to see a day when all Americans no matter their ethnicity would share in this reality. Sadly, today’s leftists malign King’s dream of a colorblind America as evidence for the racist musings of white supremacists.

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