Why We Can’t Wait

Published 06 Jun 2017

Table of content


In the early 1960s, the United States was a land of opportunity for the white majority and deprivation and discrimination for the African-American minority. Led by Martin Luther King, the Civil Rights movement at this time reached its apex, as evidenced by King’s pivotal book Why We Can’t Wait, a combination social commentary and call to action. This research will focus on several facets of King’s philosophy and this highly influential book itself.

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How the Author Develops and Supports the Arguments Made in the Work’s Title

The title of King’s book, Why We Can’t Wait, in fact is presented within the book as both an argument and a call to action. King develops and supports these assertions through the citation of several pivotal events in the Civil Rights movement which not only showed that progress was being made, but also that there was much more work to be done. Chief among these are the passage of significant Civil Rights legislation by President John F. Kennedy as well as the massive success of a march on the national capitol of Washington DC, led by King and attended by hundreds of thousands of African-Americans in search of equality in a nation which up to that point did little to accept minorities as equals (King, 1965).

Why Society So Violently Resisted the Civil Rights Movement

Society as a whole was so violently against the Civil Rights movement for a variety of reasons. At the core of the opposition was the inherited racism and prejudice that was predominant in many American communities at the time when Martin Luther King’s crusade was at its strongest. Additionally, for the white majority, the uprising of a new class of people who would demand equal access to the assets of society- good paying jobs, social programs, equal housing as a few quick examples-seemed to threaten the monopoly that whites held on all of the best that society had to offer. Therefore, a combination of hatred and greed led to violent opposition in this case.

Remedies Proposed by King

In Why We Can’t Wait, Martin Luther King did not advocate a violent overthrow of the white majority, as many falsely believe and claim; rather, he proposed a sweeping system of reimbursement for African-Americans due to the discrimination and harm that they suffered for centuries before King’s movement, as well as a system of comprehensive government programs to help African-Americans to gain the economic viability, social equality, and advancement opportunity that the majority had received in America since the days when the colonies were established on the North American continent (King, 1965).

The idea of non-violence needs to be discussed in more detail, as it forms the backbone of Why We Can’t Wait. King speaks at length in the book about not taking the quick path of violence against the majority as a source of cheap revenge, but rather to use an intelligent, civilized system of organized protest to make valid points. One of the tools which King was a master at using was the organized boycott; for example, boycotts of the Birmingham, Alabama bus system on the part of African-Americans quickly led to the relaxation of segregated seating on those buses, which in itself represented a huge milestone for the Civil Rights movement.

Conclusion: How Far Have We Actually Come?

On January 20, 2009, a huge milestone in the Civil Rights movement, and the fruition of the dreams for which Martin Luther King gave his life was realized when the United States of America inaugurated Barack Obama, the nation’s first African-American president. While this is truly a momentous milestone for the quest for equality, the question remains as to exactly how far the Civil Rights movement has come as a whole in the decades since Martin Luther King wrote, spoke and advocated for the cause of equality.

In the present day, even in light of an African-American holding what many consider to be the most powerful position in the world, America is still a land where one’s racial/financial standing dictates how they are treated in regard to education, access to social programs, employment and more. The proof of this is proliferation of degraded urban areas where minorities are forced to live and go to school, as well as the lack of employment opportunities in those communities. Moreover, the typical minority neighborhood, in addition to the blight and poverty, is infested with the deadly combination of crime and violence, fueled in large part to the purchase and sale of illegal drugs. While many would say that it is the responsibility of minorities to pull themselves up by their own proverbial boot straps, the blind eye of the government, law enforcement and corporate America makes it very difficult for this to take place. Therefore, in conclusion, what needs to be understood is that the work of Martin Luther King needs to continue.

Works Cited

  • King, Jr., Martin Luther (1964). Why We Can’t Wait. New York: Signet Books
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