Despite how he is written about in text books, taught about in public schools and most college classes, and remembered by mainstream media and the government, on this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, let us remember him how he actually was… a revolutionary thinker who challenged injustice in all its forms and explicitly connected those injustices to economic exploitation, labor issues, and the American form of capitalism. This incredible man believed empathy and radical altruism were the foundations of social justice and the only way to bring about real change.
Here are some of his most poignant words (none of which can be found on the new King Memorial in Washington D.C.) and in them, his revolutionary ideas:
“We honestly must face the fact that the movement must address itself to the question of restructuring the whole of American society. There are 40 million poor people here. And one day we must ask the question, ‘why are there 40 million poor people in America?’ And when you ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question you begin to question the capitalist economy. And I’m simply saying that more and more we’ve got to begin to ask questions about the whole society.”
– MLK Jr.’s final speech to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference,
“We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”
MLK Jr. Speech, February 25, 1967