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Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventuallymanifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something withinhasreminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that itcan begained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with hisblackbrothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and theCaribbean, theUnited States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land ofracialjustice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, oneshould readilyunderstand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent upresentmentsand latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayerpilgrimagesto the city hall; let him go on freedom rides -and try to understand why he must do so. Ifhis repressedemotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence;this is not athreat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: "Get rid of yourdiscontent." Rather, I havetried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creativeoutlet ofnonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist.But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as Icontinued tothink about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Wasnot Jesus anextremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them thathate you, andpray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremistfor justice:"Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream." Was notPaul anextremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Wasnot MartinLuther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And JohnBunyan: "I willstay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And AbrahamLincoln:"This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We holdthese truths tobe self evident, that all men are created equal . . ." So the question is not whether wewill beextremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or forlove? Will we beextremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In thatdramatic scene onCalvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three werecrucified for the samecrime--the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell belowtheirenvironment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, andthereby roseabove his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need ofcreativeextremists.
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