Martin Luther King Jr. “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to break silence”

I had a chance to attend the MLK Commemoration’s justice dialogue about the Vietnam War, or from my country’s perspective, the Resistance War against America. After Dien Bien Phu and the Geneva Conference in 1954, the French colonial rule in Vietnam and Indochina were thought to come to an end. But instead, the north and south of Vietnam once again experienced another long and costly war that was influenced by the financial support and political power of the United States. Participating in the justice dialogue of Dr. King’s 1967’s “A Time to break silence” was refreshing, especially as a Vietnamese generation whose memory of “the War against the Americans” was only learned during high school’s history classes and through my parents’ stories. 

The speech, targeting American audiences, calls out the lasting involvement of the U.S and portrays the Vietnam war as “the enemy of the poor” to both the Vietnamese and American citizens. Dr. King argues for a “radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam” as a civil rights leader that promotes peace, morality, integrity, and non-violent coexistence. He does not limit the vision “to certain rights for black people”, but convicts to “save the soul of America”, and believes that American liberation and the descendants of its slaves are still not “freed from the shackles”.  Dr. King first points out the hypocrisy of sending the “black young men who [was] crippled by the society and […] send them to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they have not found in [the U.S].” and the irony of “Negro and white boys […] kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools [nor] live in the same block in Chicago”. Additionally, Dr. King believes the image of “revolution, freedom, and democracy” of the U.S is turned into “violence, militarism, and materialism” through the U.S’s involvement in the war. “Funds, energies, men, and skills” are invested into the “demonic destructive suction tube” instead of into the “rehabilitation of its poor”. And “the voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos” could never be heard without speaking first about “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today – [his] own government”. In short, the speech argues that being an activist for the Civil Rights is not only the more reason to promote moral peace and co-existence instead of violence but also is relevant to his vision of the American liberation. 

Additionally, Dr. King believes it is the American’s responsibility to “speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation and for those it calls ‘enemy'” because of the “privileges and burden […] bound by allegiances and loyalties [that are more vital and goes beyond] the nationalism and [the U.S’s] self-defined goals and positions”. As a Vietnamese student who has always been curious about how the contemporary Americans’ view of the Vietnam war, I was aware that there was a wave of anti-Vietnam War movement and many have strong opposition against the government’s stance of the war during that time. However, it is refreshing to see how MLK, a figure that promotes civil rights and liberation, describes the U.S’s involvement, such as “Western arrogance that poisoned the international atmosphere”, “encouraged [the French] with [the] huge financial and military supplies to continue the war even after [the French] had lost the will” – as the U.S supports 80% in terms of the finance and military – and “soon [the U.S paid] almost the full costs of this tragic attempt at recolonization”. Dr. King reaffirms many intolerant acts, such as the destruction of the “Vietnamese cherished institutions – the family and the village” and the support of “the enemy of the peasants in Sai Gon”. The speech is a powerful dialogue that radically criticizes the U.S’s imperialism, militarism, and materialism that do not only poison the international and the Indochina, but also the America and its children. 


New View On Slavery

It was eye opening to learn of the history of slavery. It was a much different story then what I have learned in High school. Reading Equiano, it gave me a perspective from someone who has been trough the slave trade. It was always explained that slaves were taken from Africa and made into slaves. I have learned that slavery always existed in Africa just not as it was in the colonies. Most slaves were prisoners of war or Indentured slaves. They worked until they were paid off. When people went to Africa it was not just for slaves at first because it took a while for the need of slaves to increase so much. Another eye opener was the Emancipation Proclamation. It was taught to me as Jefferson just wanting to free the slaves because he felt they should not be slaves anymore. I have since learned that is not the case. The freedom of the slaves was simply a war tactic. I have learned that he did not actually want to free slaves he was simply willing to do anything to win. He tried different compromises to before freeing the slaves. This course has shown and taught me many things I otherwise would not have known.

Biological determinism

This is a reflection of the book, The Mismeasurement of Man by Stephen Jay Gould which argues that the Western view of inherent inferiority and the ranking of groups of people was founded on bad science. This outlook has carried into our present thinking and social norms.

Race, racism, and other forms of bigotry have evolved over the course of our nation’s history. We have been witness to the notion that the ranking of groups is somehow dependent on innate capacities, or lack thereof, and the justification that seems to come from a common norm and understanding of our society. There is an understanding that the inferiority of minority groups is ingrained in their biology, and throughout history, science has been used as a tool for validating this myth. Biological determinism holds that social and economic differences among groups, such as race, class, and gender, is not contingent upon the their shared experience. These differences arise, however from an inherited inferiority based in the biology of that group, and that their social standings are a direct reflection of their biology. Science has been called to justify these claims. But science is not without cultural or political influence. It is not a solely objective activity, it has been used throughout history as a way for people to justify their prejudices.

Men considered historical heroes, from Benjamin Franklin to Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, have long embraced the racial attitudes and movements of their time. However, we cannot take these men out of their social context for fear of idolizing them. They used science and facts to justify their prejudice, continued to oppress slaves and black citizens, and they possessed the power and social standing to do so.