“A riot is the language of the unheard“: Looting and rioting aren’t new in America and it isn’t exclusive to any race. As areas of Minneapolis shifted from peaceful protest against the death of George Floyd to looting, arson, and vandalism on Wednesday and Thursday night, the King Center — founded by Martin Luther King Jr’s. widow to promote MLK Jr’s. “nonviolent philosophy and methodology” — posted this excerpt from King’s 1967 “The Other America” speech at Stanford University.
Speaking two years after California’s Watts riots in August 1965 and race riots in Harlem the previous summer, King spent a couple of moments attempting to clarify the cause of rioting to his predominantly white audience.
“In the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear?” pic.twitter.com/Als3jhxaGH
— The King Center (@TheKingCenter) May 28, 2020
America has consistently “stepped forward on the question of racial justice and racial equality” just to tail it with “certain retrogressive steps,” King said.
Because of widespread and generally overlooked black poverty and racial injustice, “the entirety of our cities are conceivably powder kegs,” he included, and “numerous in moments of outrage, numerous in moments of profound bitterness participate in riots.” King proceeded:
Let me say as I’ve always said, and I will always keep on saying, that riots are socially destructive and self-defeating. Be that as it may, in the last analysis, a mob is the language of the unheard.
And would it be that America has neglected to hear? It has neglected to hear that the situation of the Negro poor has worsened in the course of the last barely any years. It has neglected to hear that the promises of opportunity and justice have not been met. And it has neglected to hear that huge segments of white society are increasingly worried about peacefulness and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity.
And so from a genuine perspective, our country’s summers of riots are caused by our country’s winters of deferral. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of brutality and riots again and again. [Martin Luther King Jr., “The Other America”]