Monday, January 15, 2007

My Favorite Sentence

... But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross-county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you no forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness" then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.

Excerpted from "Letter from Birmingham Jail"

April 16, 1963
Martin Luther King, Jr.


Awareness said...

What is so amazing about this sentence to that it portrays anger, truth and vulnerability all at the same time. Even if you read it silently, the words build emotionally. One can almost picture him sitting down penning it.

It is a powerful, powerful sentence.

Ellen said...

I read through the speeches and writings of Dr. King, and found his words to be so powerful and inspiring on many levels, and not just about civil rights. It's funny, but I actually heard his voice in my reading... all the pauses and intonations that went with it as well. I can easily see why his words are as important today as they were in the 60's... and am furious that his children held hostage his writings for $32 million to bail out their failing business enterprise in Atlanta.

Dr. Kings words, speeches, and writings belong to the ages, and his children held them up to the highest bidder. The city of Atlanta bought them and put them in our History Center.... funny how they DIDN'T put them in the King Center, a failing enterprise if I ever saw one.

Great quote... but then, Dr. King has many to choose from, doesn't he?

giggles said...

Yes, no doubt these words build immense ardor and compassion for ethnicities. Doesn’t matter how many times I read it, my heart still pounds out of my chest!
Perfect tribute post!

Ellen said...

I stand a bit corrected on my last comment. Dr. Kings papers will go back to the King Center at the end of January. Geez... right where they belonged all the time with out the ransom we paid for it in the first place. His children should be ashamed.

Bhakti said...

Jesus; I never thought I would ever read another author who uses more semi-colons than I do!

But seriously, that is definitely the most powerful/poignant piece of descriptive writing I have ever read. I could not even begin to imagine what it must have been like (and be like!) to be 'black' in this world. Where can they call 'home'? Their mother land has been taken away, and they have been taken from their homeland!

Being gay, as I am, is one thing. It definitely was not a picnic growing up gay in New Jersey in the 1970's-1980's. However, I was able to at least hide the fact that I was gay in order to ward off descrimination; blacks don't have that priveledge.

I am so glad I stopped by to check out this blog. Great post!

Lisas healthy solutions said...

the white race world wide has a lot of atrocities to answer for and still it goes on...
so much for civilisation...

Belizegial said...

Michael, that is powerful piece of writing right there. I have some knowledge of Dr. King's place in history and can understand the place in his heart from where he wrote this.

Belize is a melting pot of cultures and everyone's ethnicity is a mixture of white, black, spaniard, indian, mayan and/or meztizo.

My own ethnicity consist of both black (my mother) and meztizo (my father). I speak Creole (local dialect), fluent in english (our mother tongue and a relic from when our colonial masters were the british) and conversational in spanish(taught in school and spoken everywhere here).

I am a product of my environment as I am sure Dr. King was of his.
Thanks for sharing this sentence from him.


Nathalie said...

Wonderful wonderful words.
I'd never read them before. Thanks for this!