Dear White People: Stop Whitesplaining Martin Luther King, Jr.

Have you seen this meme?


For some reason, people who complain about “playing the race card” really love laying down this Black King…

Seems nice enough, right? I’ve seen a whole lot of people post this picture on social media. After the police killing of Keith Scott, the streets of Charlotte, North Carolina erupted in protest, and–as sometimes happens–some of those protests turned violent. Basically, this meme is saying, “Hey, black people… Cut that shit out! Remember Martin Luther King, Jr.? Remember what he said about non-violence? Violence never solved anything!”

Now, I freely admit–There was a time in my life where I would have posted this same meme. I am inspired by the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., and I believe in non-violence… Not just because I consider myself a follower of Jesus and his clear, non-violent, enemy-loving call to his followers, but because I believe that non-violence simply works best. Violence, as a response to acts of violence, only begets more violence. It never fixes things–Not for long, at least… And certainly not if your goal is peace. That being said, over the past few years I have grown more and more disgusted at the phenomenon of white people bringing up Dr. King every time someone at a protest decides to throw a stone, trash a police car, or steal a television set.

So please–PLEASE!–I’m begging you, fellow white people: If violence breaks out at a protest… Before you post another ignorant meme featuring a picture of Dr. King, or quote that one line you know from the “I Have A Dream” speech, or (God forbid) spout some awfulness about “catching flies with honey,” please consider the following points:

ANYONE CAN SHOW UP TO A PROTEST. It’s not like there some sort of gate, and only people wearing special wristbands (showing they have been properly vetted by Black Lives Matter organizers) are allowed to show up. Anyone can show up. And if you have a few thousand people show up to a protest, even if 95% of them are non-violent, that can still mean a couple hundred people who aren’t… People who have seen one too many black bodies lying dead on a street, while the white guy who murdered nine black folks at a Church gets a bulletproof vest and taken out for some Burger King. And that kind of thing can make anyone angry… Maybe angry enough to throw some fucking rocks. The fact that EVERY black person in this country is not out throwing rocks as an act of protest is already a testament to King’s legacy of non-violence within the black community. They are not angry, as Congressman Robert Pittenger said, because “They hate white people because white people are successful and they’re not.” Watch below…

PROTESTS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE DISRUPTIVE. They are meant to be seen. If a protest is going to be effective, it has to be visible… But if there is not a disruption, things don’t get noticed. Gather a few hundred people inside a Church somewhere to peacefully protest racial injustice, and see how many news cameras show up. Gather in a public park, and you *might* make the news… But if you and the rest of the protestors shut down a road for a short time, that might be the leading story that night (and then WATCH THE RACIST RESPONSES come pouring in). Ironically, even though most protesters want a non-violent disruption, the only time the national news seems to care is when violence breaks out… You better believe they are sending the cameras out for THAT. Then they sum up a four hour protest with a 30 second video clip of some kids jumping on a police cruiser, some tear gas canisters, and an officer face that got bloodied when it got hit by a stone that was thrown… As if that was what the whole protest was all about. The news doesn’t seem to care unless they can get a clip of a burning cop car.


“We let you have a black president… What more do you WANT??”

IT’S NOT LIKE THERE IS NO REASON TO THROW STONES. Non-violence is great, but if you don’t think there is a really good reason for people to be angry enough to take a baseball bat to the window of police cruiser, you haven’t been paying attention. King’s voice was not the only voice in the struggle for civil rights. There was no consensus among the civil rights leaders of that era that non-violence is the only way to handle things. We literally white-wash how radical and disruptive MLK was. He was not well-liked by the white people of his day. In 1964, 63% of Americans said the civil rights movement “pushed too fast,” 58% said they thought “most were violent,” and 58% believed they “hurt their own cause.” There is a reason for the violence. A lot of white folks have closets full of guns, talking about being fully prepared to kill people because they think taxation is tyranny… Well, these people throwing stones are seeing video after video of unarmed black folks being gunned down. If I was out there protesting with them, and the anger toward the injustice all around us spilled over into violence against me, I would not be happy about getting my ass kicked… But I would sure understand why it happened.



Remember this guy? Guess who else “looted nothing, burned nothing, and attacked no one?” A little someone named Colin Kaepernick. I seem to remember that whole non-violent protest not going over so well. In fact, I seem to remember a lot of people losing their damn minds over him taking a knee during the national anthem, and I also seem to remember calls for Colin Kaepernick to take his unpatriotic ass out out of “our” country. But you can learn a lot about someone by seeing which things they are offended by and which things they aren’t…


Cartoon truth, from Drew Sheneman.


Now…If–after reading what I’ve just written–you’re still incapable of understanding where “all this anger comes from,” and you feel compelled to tell people of color–people you don’t know–about how Dr. King would be disappointed in them, do me a favor, and just wait a couple days… This urge to “whitesplain” non-violence to black folks using their own hero will pass… Just as quickly as the memory of this most recent “Black Life That Didn’t Matter” will pass…

Can’t you feel it? It’s only been a few days since yet another black man was killed, and we’re already starting to not care anymore. Before long, we will have moved on to other things… Soon, Keith Scott’s name will get mixed up with all the rest… All the other Hash Tags. What was the guy’s name who was killed a couple days earlier, again? You know–the one who was shot while his hands were up in the air against that SUV? Crap, am I going to need to Google it already? OH, right… Terence Crutcher. It’s hard to remember. I find myself remembering the circumstances more than the names. You know, the one who was shot as he ran away? The one who was gunned down in a Walmart for holding a toy gun they sold at that Walmart? The one they choked to death for selling loose cigarettes? The 12-year-old kid who had a fake gun, who they shot before the car even stopped moving? The teenager who was shot 16 times and executed in the street as he walked away? The one they killed by giving him a “rough ride” in the back of the van? The Ferguson one… The one who got killed because the cop said he thought he was grabbing his taser… The one who got killed for selling CDs…The one who got pulled over for a broken taillight and wound up dead? There are so many, I can’t keep them all straight. But we want so badly to believe that we live in a just society… So  we try to justify their deaths by believing that it was something they did (instead of who they were and what they looked like) that caused them to get killed. If only they had just been more like Martin Luther King, Jr., right?

Regardless, even when someone with brown skin does everything right, there’s no guarantee he’s not going to end up getting shot anyway… Remember this guy?


The man’s name–the one with his hands in the air–is Charles Kinsey. He laid on the ground, on his back, hands in the air… And he loudly and clearly identified himself as a therapist for people with disabilities, told the police officers that the man next to him was Autistic and one of his patients, and made sure they knew that the item in the man’s hand was not a weapon, but was–in fact–a toy truck. And he STILL ended up getting shot. The officer who shot him gave some conflicting testimonies, but he ended up landing on the explanation that he was attempting to shoot the man next to him… You know, the one with the toy truck. We found out recently that no charges will be filed against the officer who shot him, but luckily Kinsey lived.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Philando Castile. After being pulled over for a broken taillight, the officer asked him for his ID. As he was reaching for his ID, Philando disclosed that he had a gun that which he was licensed to carry… The officer yelled, “Don’t move!” and proceeded to shoot him four times. We probably wouldn’t even know his name, except that his girlfriend got on Facebook Live and filmed as the man she loved died in the seat next to her. Much like Keith Scott’s wife filmed as her husband lie dying on the street… Though strangely enough, the NRA didn’t really come to Philando Castile’s defense after he was killed for having a legal firearm… Maybe the NRA isn’t as interested in defending the 2nd Amendment rights of people with dreadlocks.

But we already knew that a black man can do everything right and still end up getting shot, didn’t we? Yeah, we learned that a long time ago…


There is this disturbing double standard where nobody cares about a peaceful protest until some sort of violence takes place… At which point, people dismiss the just cause behind the protest based on the violence that took place. And they do this using the standard set by a moral superhero. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a moral giant. He’s a hero… But he’s THEIR hero, not ours. Listen very closely: You don’t get to use the name of Martin Luther King, Jr. to tell black folks how they should or shouldn’t act. Non-violence is NOT something which is demanded by the ones with their boots on the necks of the oppressed. Non-violence is born of strength and self-control and mostly love… but it is ALWAYS the choice of the person who is being oppressed. STOP BRINGING UP MLK EVERY TIME A PROTEST TURNS VIOLENT. Seriously. Stop. If you’re white and you want to help, start standing close enough to ones who are protesting that YOUR eyes are getting burned by the tear gas too. Loving your enemies is only possible when you could have chosen to punch them square in the face. When non-violence is demanded by the people in power, it just becomes more oppression.

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19 Responses to Dear White People: Stop Whitesplaining Martin Luther King, Jr.

  1. Kendall says:

    Thank you! And ditto for the “THIS is how you protest” memes.

  2. Colleen says:

    “Catch more flies with honey than vinegar” is bogus, anyway. Catch more fruit flies with vinegar and soap than honey.

    People riot when they feel that they have nothing to lose. Anyone with a brain, feelings, a willingness to think for 30 seconds, and a willingness to look at something from someone else’s point of view, with the knowledge that your comfort and convenience *right now* is not the most important thing in the world can see why Black people might be rioting. Sure, I wish they wouldn’t. As fast as I can see, Black people wish they wouldn’t, too. That doesn’t mean they don’t have a right to want to! It’s hard to have a protest where there is just the right amount of anger and disruption to get attention, get results, without making the dominant group angry at the protester’s issue. That is totally unreasonable and rarely manageable. We White people need to support BLM, period. Because they do and we aren’t treating them as if they did.

  3. rsw73 says:

    Thank you for this post! Excellent explanation of how radical Dr. King really was, and how we’ve just about forgotten that part of his legacy. When I was still teaching, my students wrote a rhetorical analysis of “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” It’s 9-1/2 pages long, single-spaced. They’d never even read it before, and were amazed at the context of his remarks in the letter.

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  5. Blaine Kehl says:

    I absolutely love this article.

  6. You talk a lot of subterfuge for someone advocating for law enforcement taking responsibility for their misdeeds…I bet your ignorant ass thinks that it’s mostly black people being gunned down by cops and treated badly…I’ve got news for that the media will not show you because it doesn’t bring them ratings…

    White people die at almost 2 times the rate of black people at the hands of cops. Black people commit more than twice the amount of crime that white people commit, and it’s mostly VIOLENT crime that Black folk are most guilty of. Check the fuckin’ statistics on the FBI crime datasheets. Even thought hey have 1 third the population of white people, they commit MORE violent crime, per capital, than white people.

    Another thing I’d like to point out is that we have to point out what MArtin Luther King said and did because y’all motherfuckers obviously forgot, because you tout his name as this benevolent fuckin’ badass leader-type, but when it comes to getting what you want, you say “Fuck King!” or some other bullshit to try and discredit all the years of work that man put into bridging the gap between people by calling him either an “Uncle Tom”, or some other uncouth moniker.

    The man advocated non-violence because he knew black people can be extremely reactionary, and his message was that people of color needed to start practicing self-restraint. During the years he was leading the charge toward equality, MORE GOT DONE THAN HAS BEEN DONE SINCE HE PASSED AWAY in terms of race relations, now all of a sudden people just seem to have forgotten everything that he fought for, everything that he said.

    Tell me, buddy..When was the last time you saw a white kid standing at the front of Current Affairs class and being “allowed” to read, out loud, Martin Luther King’s speech?

    Stop trying to defend Black Lives Matter. If they gave so much of a shit about their image, they’d have pushed the violent nutters to the fringes and formally disassociated themselves from those particular individuals, but they have not. They have not said a FUCKIN’ WORD about how it was uncalled for for those blacktivists to interupt Bernie Sanders and take his fuckin’ mic and his time and make him look weak in front of his supporters and constituents, which may very well have cost him this election.

    I don’t see any black people, en masse, denouncing the city of Ferguson going fuckin’ batshit insane and burning down entire neighborhoods. I don’t see them shaming black people for chanting “Pigs in a blanket fry’em like bacon” and “What do we want? DEAD COPS! When do we want them? NOW!”

    If your ignorant ass thinks, for a second, that groups like this give a fuck about equality, then I have some land in a swamp for sale at a lovely price.

    I bet I can name ten white people you’ve never heard of who were gunned down by cops since Trayvon and Brown. But I’ll let you sift through them since you’re the one making the accusations against white cops and white people. I love how morons like you have this guilty-conscience complex that you try to push others into buying into. “Oh, I’m guilty of racism because I’m a white male”..Fuck all that shit. Fuck you, for that matter, on this particular subject.

    In fact, here’s a whole list of people, white, black, hispanic, other…who were killed by cops over the past year, and you’ll find that MOST of these were as a result of having a weapon in their hands at the time they were killed.

  7. Gail Davis says:

    You make a lot of sense and have valid points. But, please do not lump all white people into one bucket. Not all white people are racists. And not all are white. I have met people of various ethnicities and from different countries that hate one group of people, and I mean the entire race, and feel it is ok to voice their hatred to me. I find hating someone based on color, religion, sexual orientation etc. is disgusting. If I don’t like someone it is because they are a jerk and no other reason. I take offense to being called a racist just because I don’t like someone who is not white. Also, conservatives are not racist. Are some racists conservative? Probably, but to call someone a racist just because they are a republican or a conservative , shows ignorance.

  8. Tristan says:

    Sorry forgot being white makes anything I say invalid. Oops.

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  10. Tim Peek says:

    and don’t say anything about the 15 Black people killed by Police if you haven’t said anything about the 400 black people killed by other black people in Chicago this year..

  11. Hawg hollis says:

    May God save your hate filled heart before the judgement day……..

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  13. Sherri baker says:

    I don’t post these or leave comments to make black people feel bad , I post them to remind my generation why they marched and protested before they got comfortable and decided to throw Bible verses at people different than them, or to remind them that civil rights , equal rights, haven’t been met. I may be white, but that doesn’t mean I can’t stand with my friends anymore, or try to remind people where they came from.

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