Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
On December 7, 1964, Dr. King gave a speech in London. A few days later, he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize. (My guess is that if Dr. King had lived to see the Nobel Peace Prize given to Henry Kissinger in 1973, he would have given his prize back.) Brian DeShazor of the Pacifica Radio Archives recently discovered the speech, which aired today as an exclusive on Democracy Now!
Dr. King spoke about the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, of course, but also such subjects as economic injustice, apartheid in South Africa, and the rights of immigrants in the United Kingdom. In this segment of the speech, he discussed a common retort to human rights movements, viz. that change is moving too fast and that patience and time will solve all problems.
We have heard and we have lived with the myth of time. The only answer that I can give to that myth is that time is neutral. It can be used either constructively or destructively. And I must honestly say to you that I’m convinced that the forces of ill will have often used time much more effectively than the forces of goodwill. And we may have to repent in this generation, not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around saying, “Wait on time.”
Dr. King also called for an economic embargo on South Africa’s apartheid regime and criticized what we might call the cult of “free trade.”
Why is trade regarded by all nations and all ideologies as sacred? Why does our government and your government in Britain refuse to intervene effectively now, as if only when there is a bloodbath in South Africa—or a Korea or a Vietnam—will they recognize a crisis? If the United Kingdom and the United States decided tomorrow morning not to buy South African goods, not to buy South African gold, to put an embargo on oil, if our investors and capitalists would withdraw their support for that racial tyranny that we find there, then apartheid would be brought to an end. Then the majority of South Africans of all races could at last build the shared society they desire.
The speech also included this powerful passage in which Dr. King responded to a contemporary trend in pop psychology, which emphasized being “well-adjusted.”
But I must say to you this evening, my friends, as I come to a close, that there are some things in my own nation, and there are some things in the world, to which I am proud to be maladjusted and to which I call upon all men of goodwill to be maladjusted until the good society is realized. I must honestly say to you that I never intend to become adjusted to segregation, discrimination, colonialism and these particular forces. I must honestly say to you that I never intend to adjust myself to religious bigotry. I must honestly say to you that I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few.
See the Democracy Now! report, with full audio and a transcript of the speech, here.