When Silence is Betrayal
On April 4, 1967, one year before his death, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke out against the war in Vietnam.
One of his reasons for speaking out was the horrible irony of a nation that segregated whites and blacks at home, but integrated them when it came to killing:
Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor. [my emphasis]
His speech, entitled “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” remains one of his least known speeches, though it is gaining more visibility as the war in Iraq drags on, especially now that it’s been added to YouTube.
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