The Folly of the White Moderate (RE: Ferguson)

“Over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. 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.”

-Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail

I’d like to bring attention to this quote that I have been passing around on facebook in wake of the Ferguson decision and the response from protestors.

Many of my friends, family, and fellow activists are the ones blocking the highways, marching through Ferguson, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and San Diego. They have been receiving a lot of criticism for their protests, particularly from many white hetero people and on both sides of the aisle. To counter, I’d just like to make a few points to those complaining from a frustrated activist:

    1. It is not your place, as a non black person, to tell black people how to protest. Their anger, frustration, and sorrow ARE a product of racist institutions that continually prejudice against nonwhite peoples. Like the MLK quote, if you are more worried about people getting to work or ambulances, you should stop drinking the cultish koolaid.
    2. Further, Martin Luther King Jr. was not as a “peaceful” protester as my fellow white people like to remember. The Civil Rights Movement, and many since then, have employed the tactic of blocking freeways and highways to disrupt peoples’ everyday lives so THEY WILL LISTEN. Don’t forget that Martin Luther King Jr. died for his radical beliefs, and was frequently investigated by the FBI for his civil work.

1992 UCSD Rodney King Protest I5

1972 Vietnam War Protest I5

    3. Protests are meant to be an inconvenience so that people can wake up and smell the fresh racism, not to be pushed aside so they don’t affect lives. Blocking a freeway or highway is a MAJOR disruption, and you bet that every single person that was forced to wait (for a paltry 15-30 minutes of their life), found out later that it was due to a Michael Brown protest. Of course, some of these people will just be frustrated at the protesters, but moreso, they will at least know and hear the name of Michael Brown and others who have been killed by police brutality.

So, my white moderate friends, I’m basically saying shut the hell up. I get it, you want an opinion, you want to tell people how to protest, that they should do it like they did in the 1960’s. Well, let me tell you, this is what they did in the 1960’s, and the people that were mad at the protests at the time were the people perpetuating racism, Jim Crow, and other ridiculous things. But, through your rose-tinted spectacles, all you see is that we have progressed, ignoring that the same thing you condemn now would have put you in league with those in the 60’s who hurt the Civil Rights cause.

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