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The Lockean Project

How word is used

How word is used”, Carmel Pine Cone – Nov. 5, 2021

Thank you for reporting on the Pacific Grove Unified School District cracking down on a teacher who had the temerity to quote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She was quoting from his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” which I recommend to all of your readers. Because King himself used the n-word, this teacher must have thought that it was alright for her to use it. How dare she accurately quote a historical document?

We residents of Pacific Grove and of other adjacent areas had a spirited discussion of the issue on Nextdoor the day after your paper came out. While the person who started the discussion seemed to see it as obvious that one should not quote the whole of King’s relevant sentence, many of us disagreed. There’s a huge difference between using the word to put someone down and quoting someone who used the word to explain his hurt and anger at the word’s use. One of the main things educators can teach us is to make crucial distinctions. It’s too bad that the PGUSD, which is in the business of education, does not seem able to master what seems to be a simple distinction.

 David R. Henderson, Pacific Grove

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Excerpt from “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” by Martin Luther King Jr., April 16, 1963

“We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, ‘Wait.’ But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: ‘Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?’; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading ‘white’ and ‘colored’; when your first name becomes ‘nigger,;’ your middle name becomes ‘boy’ (however old you are) … then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.”