the black power advocates are disenchanted with the inconsistencies in the militaristic posture of our government. over the last decade they have seen america applauding nonviolence whenever the negroes have practiced it. they have watched it being praised in the sit-in movements of 1960, in the freedom rides of 1961, in the albany movement of 1962, in the birmingham movement of 1963 and in the selma movement of 1965. but then these same black young men and women have watched as america sends black young men to burn vietnamese with napalm, to slaughter men, women and children; and they wonder what kind of nation it is that applauds nonviolence whenever negroes face white people in the streets of the united states but then applauds violence and burning death when these same negroes are sent to the fields of vietnam.
all of this represents disappointment lifted to astronomical proportions. it is disappointment with timid white moderates who feel that they can set the timetable for the negro’s freedom. it is disappointment with a federal administration that seems to be more concerned about winning an ill-considered war in vietnam than about winning the war against poverty here at home. it is disappointment with white legislators who pass laws on behalf of negro rights that they never intend to implement. it is disappointment with the christian church that appears to be more white than christian, and with many white clergymen who prefer to remain silent behind the security of stained-glass windows. it is disappointment with some negro clergymen who are more concerned about the size of the wheel base on their automobiles than about the quality of their service to the negro community. it is with disappointment with the negro middle class that has sailed or struggled out of the muddy ponds into the relatively fresh-flowing waters of the mainstream, and in the process has forgotten the stench of the backwaters where their brothers are still drowning.
excerpt from where do we go from here: chaos or community?
martin luther king, jr.