Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bullying

When I was working on Bystander (Fall, 2009), a book that centers on bullying, I kept running across different quotes by Martin Luther King, Jr. He would often express the same idea in subtle variations. In essence, Dr. King issued an indictment against the tyranny of silence, reminding us all of our responsibility to speak up. King believed in the common good. He had an abiding faith in his fellow man. If only we would all stand up and be heard, then justice and democracy and human kindness would surely prevail over cruelty and prejudice.

That’s partly why I named the book, Bystander. Not bully. Not victim. I wanted the focus to be on the overwhelming majority of us who stand by as mute witness; and how we are, therefore, complicit in acts of cruelty, our silence a form of tacit agreement. For responsibility is nothing if not an “ability” to “respond.” That’s where we find hope for real change. In our voices.

Here’s a few relevant quotes from Dr. King:

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

“Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ But conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’ And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but because conscience tells one it is right.”

This brief, one-minute clip is from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s last speech. He knew what was coming, he knew.

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  1. kayla:) says:

    the book bystander was amazing and teaches kids a great lession

  2. Sharon Joy Shoatz says:

    In todays year of 2017, I am so saddened that our future leaders have no idea what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Really stood for.
    They are still fighting in the classrooms, still killing each other in the neighborHOODS, they could care less about community service.
    They are embarresed if they receive the letter “A” grade in the classroom, in fear of being bullied or considered a NERD amongst their peers.
    So many children HEARTS are harden from watching their Mother , Father, Sister , Brother, Cousins, Neighbors being cold bloodily shot down in the HOOD by the Leaders we are to TRUST.
    Someone please give me some suggestions on how to reach our children in reference to REALLY understanding who Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “IS” and “Was”!
    If the spelling is incorrect, overlook it and STILL get the message .
    JOYS 4 U

    • Savannah says:

      As a teenager, and a junior in highschool, nobody thinks a good great is nerdy or anything of the sort. We do not get bullied for good grades, we get bullied and harrassed and physically and mentally injured by our peers due to their lack of human decency. It is nobody’s fault they get bullied though there are ways we can change our appearance to not be bullied. Such as , hair and makeup and clothing brands and shoes; Backpacks and food we eat and people we hang out with. Grades, especially good ones, has nothing to do with being bullied, nor should an adult speak on highschool students from a highschool they don’t attend or know nothing about. Adults shouldn’t act like they know everything about everyone’s feelings and actions. Nobody knows what one is thinking, bully or bullied, which is mostly the reason students feel the need to compare others to themselves or judge the other person based on how they look. Students get killed on the daily for their skin color/race/ethnicity, gender/sexuality, disabilities, etc. and nothings going to change the fact that people get insecure and take their insecurities out on people around them. that’s part of learning how to be mature and grow up, thats part of life and part of highschool. theres always gonna be somebody who doesn’t like you or they may think theyre better than you but in reality we’re all just a bag of bones and we all go the same place when we die. nothing matters when youre about to die so why should it matter when youve barely even lived yet.

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