MLK Reflections

As I think today about Dr. King and what he stood for, I’m reminded of a lecture I heard many years ago about inadvertently reinforcing stereotypes.

Suppose I said, “I was tired when I got back from my vacation.” This is a comment about my being tired. But suppose I said, “I was tired when I got back from my European vacation.” Now the emphasis is on going to Europe.

Now consider the following:

  • “I consulted a lady doctor about my condition.”
  • “The ruling was made by a woman judge.”
  • “This black guy ran a red light.”

In all these cases the emphasis is on the adjective, making it the most important part of the statement. We are suggesting that it is significant that a woman can be a physician or a judge. In the last case, why is it significant that the person who ran the light was black?

I suggest we honor Dr. King and his quest for equality for all humankind by becoming aware of how our language can reinforce stereotypes.

Speaking of Dr. King, if you haven’t done so, you should really read “Letter From A Birmingham Jail.”

I have put a copy below for your convenience.




  1. I agree with this to a point.. but .. if you are looking for a person, you have to use descriptive words about them. For example If when the guy ran a light, he ran over a little old lady and jumped out of the car and fled the scene. First off we’d probably care more than if he ran over a big fat chain-smoking child molester and… we’d need to know what color he was so we looked for him, we’d know when we found him,

    • Oh I agree Vic. But in that case it’s not superflous. If you say which singer did you like best and I say the black woman, that seems legitimate.

  2. ;0)

  3. Read this with my class on Friday. It was interesting to hear their thoughts.

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