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Martin Luther King Jr. “Where Do We Go From Here”

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    Martin Luther King Jr.’s book Where Do We Go From Here explains in the beginning that two different phases were important into ending the civil rights revolution. What were these two phases? The first phase had to do with the non-violent marches throughout Selma to Montgomery Alabama leading to the birth of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. The second phase was the realization of equality. With King explaining and deciphering between both phases, what exactly separates the two phases that makes them their own? Diving deeper into King’s writing on these phases will help explain these questions. The question of whether or not these phases worked and were correct is true. These phases worked because it put the White Americans in a position of awkwardness and guilt which is what the goal was to help find that African Americans are equal as well. Using Martin Luther King’s writing will help explain why I find that these phases were exactly what the civil rights movement needed at this time.

    The legislation was designed to put the ballot effectively into Negro hands in the South after a century of denial by terror and evasion. A year later after the signing of the Voting Rights Act, people who were hurt and part of the Selma protesters were still being jeered at, Negro leaders were discarded from their organizations, and white backlash became a problem in the southern land. Frequently Negros had dealt with much physical and emotional abuse that they had finally erupted. This violence that had become of the Negros, hurt both poor whites and negroes. Ramparts Magazine writes that after more than a decade of the Civil Rights Movement the black American in Harlem, Haynesville, Baltimore, and Bogalusa is worse off today than he was ten years ago…the movements leaders know it and it is the source of their despair. King had questioned whether or not Negroes had fumbled the opportunities described by President Lyndon and if the movement was in despair. This is why the phases were so distinguished and needed for the civil rights movement.

    King describes that most simple people explain this as riots and voices of black power hence the birth of white black lash, but King believes that the answer is more complex and less pessimistic. This brought King to be able to say that the first phases in the development of the civil rights movement had come to an end after all the riots, protests, and ratified bills. For majority of the white Americans, the first phase had been a struggle for them to treat the Negro with a degree of decency, not of equality. King, in detail, describes how white Americans were ready to fight against the beatings of the Negroes but are slow to lift a finger to help them out of poverty and other forms of discrimination. An angered white American was earnest when he took the whips from the sheriffs in the south and prevented them from causing more harm. This helped deliver us to the second phase of Martin Luther King’s two phases. When this phase had opened up, only few people knew it or were even ready for it to happen. Martin Luther King writes that Negroes were searching for the second phase of equality but many of the white Americans on their side were not there.

    African Americans had the support of the President, press and took the stage when the subject was about freedom and justice. This freedom and justice still was not the same thing as equality. There was still Negroes being beaten and dealing with to darkest of evil. This second phase had reached an obstacle of white Americans fighting back. Negroes had felt that they were sideswiped, but the white Americans feels that Negroes had already received so much that it would be selfish if there were to get more to quick after what they had earned. Everything that was gained from Selma, such as unifying blacks and whites together to fight brutality against Negroes, had started to fall apart as the new phase was to fulfill the goal of having full equality between Negroes and white Americans. At this point, the question had to be asked, why is equality so persistently being avoided and put aside? Martin Luther King, at this time, presents a good point on pointing out the contradictions that America is guilty of doing.

    He points out the fact how white America is sincerely committed to justice for African Americans, but it seems like it is just a form of white guilt comes out of this sincerity. Though the white Americans claimed that they wanted justice, Negroes at the time didn’t make as much as an average white American. Whites and blacks that had the same jobs didn’t pay both the same amount on payday. During war time was some of the worst for Negroes. Infant mortality rates of African Americans were doubled for the rate of whites. Much of the rate increased because more African Americans went to war rather than whites. King’s point when he keeps talking about the Negroes way of living after the first phase was over, was to show that they had come a little closer to the goal but still they were not finished. The way King explained it showed and highlighted how the white Americans did just enough to get past their feelings of guilt during and before the Selma, Alabama incident. The point of phase two was to gain equality between the Negroes and the whites. King wanting phase 2 was not to gain a better life for Negroes, but it was to be on the same level as the white Americans.

    King never asked for revenge against the whites nor did he ask for any special payment. King asked the whites see Negroes the same as themselves, and not as any lower form of human life. King said it best when he wrote, “Nonviolence is a powerful demand for reason and justice”. King predicted that Negroes had reached their end of abuse and they were becoming impatient. This is where King pointed out the answer to the ending of phase 2, and the growth of America. For phase 2 to work, and to prevent the violent outbreaks, the white American needs to standup against their own guilty state and fight for social justice. Martin Luther King never said that violent outbreaks is what is needed to scare America into equality, but he believed that it could hurt our nation. This is why King begged for white America to finally open their eyes and remove the blinders. The ending of phase 2 was in front of them, Negroes held one key while the white community held to other key to peace.

    Malcolm X was not very impatient on achieving social justice and equality, hence the title of his address being The Ballot or the Bullet. Malcolm X said it himself in his address when he said that he believes in actions by whatever means are necessary. Malcolm X acknowledged King in his address but did not address his opinion on how well King was doing, rather he put in his own opinion. The way Malcolm X wanted to fix equality by addressing what America had done wrong. Just because blacks had the right to vote did not make them American. They did not even have their own choice of who they truly wanted and were forced to vote for white politicians that did not care for the interest of Negroes. Malcom X even pointed out that if a black man had full voting rights in the south, then key Dixiecrats would lose their seats. Malcom wanted full rights, similar to a white citizen or American, for the blacks. He threatened violence and he promoted impatience. King did not promote violence, nor did he promote sitting around and waiting either. Malcolm X wouldn’t fully support King’s argument because Malcolm X did not want to wait for phases to happen the way they needed.

    Malcolm wanted it then and now. Malcolm X wanted blacks to be able to own their own guns for defense rather than being outnumbered and out gunned.  Malcolm X would be against King saying that violence would be bad for equality because Malcolm wanted to fight for their rights. It is not that King would be against Malcolm X, but he would not advise the things Malcolm X advocated. In conclusion, King made many futuristic theories on how things would work out. The phases that King pointed out truly did work. African Americans did finally get the rights and equality they wanted from white citizens. This is why I believe that King was correct when pointing out and separating the two phases. King proved that his way worked through history, and history has shown us that. In today’s world, it seems that we are back in phase two. If we follow King’s phases and theories, we can achieve the peace that Martin Luther King boasted about.

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    Martin Luther King Jr. “Where Do We Go From Here”. (2022, Mar 17). Retrieved from

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