MLK on Life in Social Death

“And so being a Negro in American is not a comfortable existence. It means being a part of the company of the bruised, the battered, the scarred and the defeated. Being a Negro in America means trying to smile when you want to cry. It means trying to hold on to physical life amid psychological death. It means the pain of watching your children grow up with clouds of inferiority in their mental skies. It means having your legs cut off, and then being condemned for being a cripple. It means seeing your mother and father spiritually murdered by the slings and arrows of daily exploitation and then being hated for being an orphan. Being a Negro in America means listening to suburban politicians talk eloquently against open housing while arguing in the same breath that they are not racists. It means being harried by day and haunted by night by a nagging sense of nobodyness and constantly fighting to be saved from the poison of bitterness. It means the ache and anguish of living in so many situations where hopes unborn have died.”

from Where do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? p. 127

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3 Responses to MLK on Life in Social Death

  1. anonymousguy says:

    social death and psychological death are not the same thing.

  2. Tim McGee says:

    Agreed–I’d love to hear more thoughts.

    MLK’s quote interests me because it succinctly weaves together the social context in which both biological and psychological life are threatened and yet still upheld. The “amputation” reference echoes Fanon and his discussion of the corporeal “lived experience of the black man” in a society that suspends its life or renders it socially dead (the “nobodyness”).

  3. Pingback: Unemployment is making me depressed | Cary Tennis

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