Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What Martin Luther King, Jr. actually said about Rosa Parks

Underwood Archives/Getty

"When you talk about prejudice, we're talking about not being able to exercise what we think and our feelings — we don't have freedom to say what we want," said Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy on CNN. "If I say 'Negro' or 'black boy' or 'slave' — I'm not — if those people cannot take those kinda words and not be offensive, then Martin Luther King hasn't got his job done yet."

Well … no.

Bundy sets this up with a discussion of the goals of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. But we can listen to MLK himself:

King speaks about the experience of black passengers being "humiliated" and "intimidated" by white passengers and by an American society that did not sanction violations of their dignity. Today it's a different world, and Bundy-type actions are met with widespread outrage.

So when Bundy says that if "those people cannot take those kinda words and not be offensive, then Martin Luther King hasn't got his job done yet," he's got it exactly wrong. People pointing out — loudly and clearly — the offensive nature of Bundy's remarks is the partial completion of King's work.

Meanwhile, it might be worth it for Bundy to go back and read the longer speech King delivered to a mass meeting organizing the boycott. "I want to say that we are not here advocating violence," says King. Bundy, meanwhile, assembled an armed militia in order to protect his free access to federal land.

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