Saturday, January 7, 2012

Martin Luther King, Jr. on the Semantics of Black and White

Let me get out of the way so you can read the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Even semantics have conspired to make that which is black seem ugly and degrading. In Roget's Thesaurus there are 120 synonyms for blackness and at least sixty of them are offensive, as for example, blot, soot, grim, devil and foul. And there are some 134 synonyms for whiteness and all are favorable, expressed in such words as purity, cleanliness, chastity and innocence. A white lie is better than a black lie. The most degenerate member of a family is a "black sheep." Ossie Davis has suggested that maybe the English language should be reconstructed so that teachers will not be forced to teach the Negro child sixty ways to despise himself, and thereby perpetuate his false sense of inferiority, and the white child 134 ways to adore himself, and thereby perpetuate his false sense of superiority."

Source: I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches that Changed the World. Edited by James Melvin Washington. Pages 170-171. From a speech delivered on August 16, 1967 at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference annual meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.

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