November 2017
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MLK did NOT put the onus of change on the oppressed, but gave practical resistance strategies


"Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can't ride you unless your back is bent."

If you just look at the last sentence of this quote, it sounds like an endorsement of bootstrappism -- the idea that victims are victims because they choose to be, and if they would only take control of their life, oppression magically would cease to affect them. This couldn't be more in opposition to Martin Luther King Jr.'s message. The implication of that last sentence out of context would be that if you bow to power it will take you, and therefore it is the oppressed person's job to not bow in order to fix oppression. What MLK was saying is that those with power will not just give you a better life; it takes resistance from the oppressed to make any change happen. "We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed."

I agree. While deconstructing oppressive structures is solely the responsibility of the privileged, those with privilege will never give it up if the oppressed just wait around for it to happen. Continuous resistance is the only way. Most people have some form of privilege and are also oppressed in some way; for instance I have white, cis-passing, college-educated, non-disabled privilege as well as some forms of financial privilege. I consider that this gives me responsibility for resisting racism, cissexism, ableism, and class- and education- based discrimination. On the other hand, I face oppression for being queer, gender non-conforming, female-assigned, and fat, and I am marginalized for being a sexual abuse victim, non-monogamous, vegetarian, nudist, feminist, non-capitalist, and non-neurotypical. I also have the ability (though not the responsibility) to educate and inform on the ways in which I am oppressed or marginalized.

I understand that because I am white, I have a power to speak back against things like racism which people of color do not have, and if I do not wish to make things worse, I have to actively resist the system of racism; this is true for every privilege I have. I cannot speak for others but I can speak against oppression, and "activism is my rent for living on the planet" (Alice Walker). I must work against all oppression, because it is all linked, and certainly must not attempt to prioritize that which directly affects me. As MLK said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Martin Luther King Jr. did not put the onus of change on the oppressed; instead MLK spoke to the oppressed about a practical strategy of resistance. If people of privilege turn to MLK for wisdom, they should consider this: "I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to 'order' than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: 'I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action'; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a 'more convenient season.' Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will." - MLK

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Comments
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eternal_ot ══╣╠══
A good essay to convey MLK's thoughts...well done!
rainbowfox9 ══╣╠══
This isn't completely related, but it's along the same lines, I think. This is something that's been on my mind recently. A lot of my 'eco-friendly' friends look at the evils of Monsanto and other ways the usda is basically feeding us poison, and say how awful our government is, and then I look at the way that Europe takes such amazing care (for the most part; I'm sure there are other detrimental things that happen) of its natural resources and really protects its citizens from GMOs and synthetic seeds, etc, and I wonder how Europe got to that place. And I think that it probably didn't have anything to do with snarly citizens merely ranting on FB or sharing little gifs about things going wrong (I don't care how many graphics of Monsanto workers you're putting out there, with snarky comments, you're *not* making a difference); I think it had to do with actively getting out there and boycotting the damn stuff our government puts in our food.

My theory is that because our government is at least in name a democracy, we are not doing our part of the tango. There is no substitute for numbers of people showing up or actively protesting the government's actions. Petitions are one thing, but they do not stack up like people standing in protest.

And I know that people have jobs or can't leave whatever -- I'm not asking people to do the impossible, but it bothers me when people hurl names at the government and then do almost utterly NOTHING to help the situation. Snivelling behind your computer is absolutely fucking pointless. If you really want to make a difference, organize 100s or thousands of people to march on something. That is what gets attention. Galvanized action gets attention. Petitions are.. eh. I mean, they do help, but numbers get noticed.

However, there is this psychology of the brow beaten working poor that the government/rhetoric has also put out, lots of beliefs about the working poor that they have taken to heart (most unfortunately, as it seems like even the working poor in France know they can call a bus strike and they WILL be paid more if they all strike -- they're not afraid of consequences if the buses don't run). It's when the attacks on the 'little people' get more insidious that they believe the rhetoric themselves. It's disgusting.

Our government also sidetracks its people into thinking about priorities that it deems are important (that aren't) but again, this is a "we're allowing them to give us this, and we are happy with this" kind of deal, because we don't *have* to be happy with it. But we're content. We're not strengthening our psyches or our compassion; we want what we want, now, the way we want it, personalized, customized, even if it will not work in the next 2-5 years, and then we go through the process all over again.

But you can't blame a government totally for this. It's not all their fault. We are less in power than the government, but numbers count.
bunnika ══╣me: animated╠══
And I know that people have jobs or can't leave whatever -- I'm not asking people to do the impossible, but it bothers me when people hurl names at the government and then do almost utterly NOTHING to help the situation. Snivelling behind your computer is absolutely fucking pointless.

I don't think you do know. This statement completely devalues the attempts of disabled people to change our world as best we can while activism excludes us. Even your own phrasing is ableist, suggesting "marches" like all of us can march. I've had dozens, maybe hundreds of people tell me that my words online have impacted them, have made them question their worldviews and open their minds further. That's an impact. We are not to be dismissed just because we can't fit into your social ideal.
rainbowfox9 ══╣╠══
bunnika ══╣╠══
wildrose ══╣╠══
alycewilson ══╣╠══
One of the best things I learned in college was that I had a lot to learn when it came to issues of civil rights and equality, many of the same points that appear in this essay.
left_harangue ══╣╠══
violaconspiracy ══╣╠══
I hadn't thought of being child-free as an oppressed status until you mentioned it here. I've felt looked-down-upon for choosing not to have children, and I've certainly put up with a lot of rude remarks about it. Thinking of it in terms of a status, like religion or sexuality, does put some things in perspective.
lilmissmagic71 ══╣╠══
Very well done. It spoke on many levels, all of them thought provoking...
baxaphobia ══╣╠══
Well written and thought provoking!
basric ══╣BASRIC: Death Skull╠══
an excellent essay well thought out and presented.
eska818 ══╣╠══
Not only did I find this piece to be well-written and thought-provoking, but it also gave me a bit of inspiration for how I want my Idol entry to work. Thanks! XD
slammerkinbabe ══╣╠══
This is fantastic. Love it and agree with every word. Thanks for putting the quote in context and for noting that Martin Luther King, Jr. wasn't the placating-the-whites figure a lot of people think he is -- people whose only familiarity with him comes from a few decontextualized lines from the "I Have a Dream" speech. He was so much more radical than that (and so much more interesting!) And I love the Alice Walker quote as well. Thanks for the clear-sighted, straightforward take on kyriarchy and responsibility.
x_disturbed_x ══╣╠══
A very thought provoking piece indeed! :)
elledanger ══╣╠══
Nicely done - I'm so glad that you went this route early on! :D
shay_writes ══╣╠══
Well done!
similiesslip ══╣╠══
Wow, this is so great! I love how it all makes me think. I had never read the quote at the end, but it's a very good one.
roina_arwen ══╣Well Said!╠══
While deconstructing oppressive structures is solely the responsibility of the privileged, those with privilege will never give it up if the oppressed just wait around for it to happen.

Yes, exactly this. Well written!
labelleizzy ══╣chalice╠══
Couldn't agree more.
kagomeshuko ══╣╠══
Nice entry.
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on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.