Analysis Of Martin Luther King's Speech Beyond Vietnam

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“They too are our brothers” (King), a statement that struck the heart of the American soul when first preached by the influential civil rights leader, Martin Luther King jr., in 1967 during his controversial speech Beyond Vietnam. To the common American this came as a surprise as a man who had united them was now adding to the divisive flame caused by the stagnant conflict in Vietnam. As a result the leaders that once supported him in his civil rights crusade, such as Lyndon B. Johnson, now looked at him as a threat to an American mission that was on the wrong side of the moral spectrum. However, although divisive as it may have seemed to leaders and common Americans who had sacrificed so much in the campaign, the speech served to shine a light…show more content…
In the foreground of his speech King argues on behalf of the poor and racial minorities indicating, “So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would hardly live on the same block in Chicago” (King). Additionally, James Lafferty’s memory of war supports King’s argument that the poor faced systematic racism domestically when he recalled that “people with legitimate ailments under the written regulations put forth by the selective service system were approved for military service” because of their inability to afford a formal doctor exemption (Appy 165). In a more explicit manner on the battlefront Yuseff Komunyakka thought back to when blacks faced name calling from those they would jump on a grenade to save and yet the cinema industrial complex gave them no face in their portrayal of war heroes (Appy 259). For the most part it was perhaps his racially inferior status given by society that enabled him to relate to the Vietnamese, friend or foe, and resultantly voice an opinion that many labeled…show more content…
As it unfolded it was continuously prolonged and justified by numerous U.S. leaders as a crusade for democracy or what Martin Luther King jr. deemed “political myth”. On the contrary it was King’s frame of reference, as a spiritual black preacher from the racially segregated southern United States, that allowed him to grasp the complexities of Vietnam that traditional orientalist views could not. Complexities that can be heard in the oral histories compiled in Patriots that touch on the life changing experiences of witnessing, supporting or fighting in the conflict that stretched over a decade long. Looking back we acknowledge that this speech given during the midst of war in 1967 was ahead of its time but when it was first voiced it was received as a risk by his opponents and as foolish by his allies. Hence, the lose-lose situation of King’s stance demonstrates that Beyond Vietnam went further than any of his own political agendas and was purely a moral act to promote freedom and democracy for those forgotten by society and the government during the
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