In May 1967, NBC correspondent Sander Vanocur asked Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “What is it about the Negro? I mean, every other group that came as an immigrant somehow—not easily, but somehow got around it? Is it just the fact that Negroes are black?” Dr. King patiently explained the unique history of African Americans in the United States of America:
An ignorant question leads Dr. King to offer a strong lesson in black history in two minutes flat. I can tell that he’s slightly irritated, but also determined to break it ALL the way down. Which he does brilliantly. A king. #MLK90 pic.twitter.com/YJvvv4X22N
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) January 21, 2019
…when white Americans tell the Negro to lift himself by his own bootstraps, they don’t look over the legacy of slavery and segregation. Now I believe we ought to do all we can and seek to lift ourselves by our own bootstraps, but it’s a cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps [Dr. Martin Luther King, interviewed by Sander Vanocur, NBC News, May 8, 1967].
History happened. We live in that history. The past is immutable; the future is ours to change for the better, in recompense for our sins.
The above exchange takes place with Vanocur’s question at 13:45; Dr. King’s full response begins there. Here’s the full 26-minute interview: