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"Advice for Living, August 1958"

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Author: King, Martin Luther, Jr.

Date: August 1, 1958 to August 31, 1958

Location: Chicago, Ill.

Genre: Published Article

Topic: Martin Luther King, Jr. - Political and Social Views


Question: I am a deacon in the church and my wife teaches Sunday school. We were shocked recently when our youngest boy was arrested for taking part in a teen-age gang war. He is only 14, but we found he has been smoking and drinking for the last year. He has every advantage, love, spending money and a lot of friends. Where did we go wrong? What can we do to get him back on the right track?

Answer: I can well understand the deep shock that came to you and your wife after the arrest of your son for taking part in a teen-age gang war. Whether you, as parents, went wrong at some point and must take some of the responsibility for this incident, I am not sure. I would have to know more about the situation. Certainly, the environmental conditions outside of the home had something to do with it. The whole problem of urban dislocation is one of the usual factors for much of our modern juvenile delinquency. But your real concern now should be what your son needs at this moment, rather than what he has already done. He is in trouble, and he is going to need the combined love, patience and understanding of his parents. He needs to be assured that he is not lost, even though he did make a mistake; that the past is behind him and a great bright future ahead. Give him love and more love. Often youngsters are driven to gangs because they do not get the proper sense of belonging and the proper recognition in the home. Be sure that you are never so busy that you do not spend vital moments and hours with this son who needs more than anything else a real sense of belonging. This type of genuine love, combined with strong moral teachings exemplified in your lives, will do a great deal to change the course of your son’s life.

Question: My husband is having an affair with a woman in our housing project. He promised to stop, but he is still seeing her. We have children and I don’t believe in divorce, but I cannot and will not share him. What must I do?

Answer: Your unwillingness to share your husband is perfectly natural and normal. No person wants to share his or her mate with another. But your problem is a very delicate one, and needs to be handled with wisdom and patience. First, I would suggest that you attempt to get your husband to go with you to talk with your clergyman or a marriage counselor. I am sure that they could be helpful in solving your problem. In the meantime, since the other person is so near you might study her and see what she does for your husband that you might not be doing. Do you spend too much time with the children and the house and not pay attention to him? Are you careful with your grooming? Do you nag? Do you make him feel important…like somebody? This process of introspection might help you to hit upon the things that are responsible for your husband’s other affair. Certainly, I would not suggest a divorce at this point. I strongly would urge you to exhaust every possible resource in your power and seek to rectify the situation before making any drastic changes.

Question: Few Negroes in our town register to vote, although the lists are open and there is little or no intimidation or violence. Why are so many Negroes indiffient about their basic right?

Answer: Indifference of Negroes concerning their basic rights is appalling indeed. Some of this indifference is rooted in the injurious effects of segregation and discrimination on the soul of the Negro. The tragedy of segregation is that it not only harms one physically, but it injures one spiritually. It scars the soul and distorts the personality. It gives the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Many Negroes are apathetic concerning their basic rights because they have a sense of inferiority and a real lack of self-respect. Another source of the apathy of the Negro is found in the feeling that freedom is something that will be handed out on a silver platter. Many individuals fail to see that freedom is never attained without suffering and sacrifice; so they complacently sit by the wayside, waiting on the coming of the inevitable. Other individuals are apathetic because they sincerely feel that there is nothing that they can do to better the racial situation. They have come to the pessimistic conclusion that all of their struggles are in vain. Such persons have become exhausted in the quest for freedom. Of course, all of these attitudes are unfounded and unfortunate. Negroes must rise above a sense of inferiority and come to see that they can do something about the problem through persistent agitation and hard work, combined with discipline and dignity.

Question: I am a Negro, but I don't like Jews. What can I do to overcome this feeling?

Answer: It is very unfortunate that you dislike Jews. This is a problem which you need to solve immediately, because it is no different from the attitude that many whites have concerning the whole Negro race. In order to deal with this problem, you must get at the roots of your dislike for the Jews. Most hate is rooted in fear, suspicion, ignorance and pride. You must be sure that all of these factors are removed from your personality where the Jews are concerned. The word prejudice means literally to prejudge, that is, to pass judgment before you have all of the facts. You have probably prejudged the Jewish community by an experience you had with one or more Jews or by some half-truths and distorted ideas that you have heard circulated concerning Jews. You can only remove this by knowing the truth and realizing that no one shortcoming can characterize a whole race. I would suggest that you seek real personal fellowship with Jews and you will discover that some of the finest persons in our nation are members of the Jewish community. Through this type of personal fellowship, you will come to know them and love them and thereby transcend the bounds of bigotry. Men hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they are so often separated from each other.

Question: I am 13 and I want to be an air stewardess when I grow up. Do you think the air lines will ever hire Negroes? What training should I take in order to prepare myself?

Answer: A few airlines are already employing Negro stewardesses. By the time you are ready, it will not be a matter of race or color, but qualification, and that is all that we ask in our battle for equality. Write to any airline and they will be glad to tell you of their need. Your daily newspaper “People's Column” will also tell you. In the meantime, apply yourself diligently to your studies and keep in good health.

Source: Ebony, August 1958, p. 78.

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