010: The Myth of Time with Martin Luther King, Jr.
The idea that social ills will just work themselves out over time is a myth. In his March 31, 1968 speech, Martin Luther King, Jr., explains how we must use time for the good of society or it will be used to our detriment by those who are using it for ill will. We can’t be “too busy” to stand up to protect each other and our planet.
Time-stamped notes:[1:00] Somehow, protecting and caring for the planet has come to be seen as a luxury if/when we have time and resources to do it. [1:20] The idea that we don’t have time now, but maybe we or someone else in the future will: “myth of time” [1:40] Martin Luther King, Jr. speech given on March 31, 1968, four days prior to being assassinated [2:00] Speech excerpt: The Myth of Time (below) [4:50] Takeaway: We can’t be too busy to stand up for the injustices. We can’t assume that time is going to work things out. Time is neutral. It’s how we use it that will determine the outcome.
The hour has come for everybody, for all institutions of the public sector and the private sector to work to get rid of racism. And now if we are to do it we must honestly admit certain things and get rid of certain myths that have constantly been disseminated all over our nation.
One is the myth of time. It is the notion that only time can solve the problem of racial injustice. And there are those who often sincerely say to the Negro and his allies in the white community, “Why don’t you slow up? Stop pushing things so fast. Only time can solve the problem. And if you will just be nice and patient and continue to pray, in a hundred or two hundred years the problem will work itself out.”
There is an answer to that myth. It is that time is neutral. It can be used wither constructively or destructively.
And I am sorry to say this morning that I am absolutely convinced that the forces of ill will in our nation, the extreme rightists of our nation—the people on the wrong side—have used time much more effectively than the forces of goodwill. And it may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, “Wait on time.”
Somewhere we must come to see that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and the persistent work of dedicated individuals who are willing to be co-workers with God. And without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the primitive forces of social stagnation. So we must help time and realize that the time is always ripe to do right.
Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution
Martin Luther King Jr Reseatch and Education Institute Stanford University
Speech delivered March 31, 1968 at the National Cathedral, Washington DC
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The time for action is now because there is no Planet B!