Monday, January 21, 2008

MLK on "Maladjustment" & Social Justice

While probably not his most famous speech, Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke before the annual convention of the American Psychological Association back in September 1967, held in Washington D.C. Dr. King would be dead before the next convention could meet, the victim of an assassination. While the plot that ended his life may have been murky or ultimately unprovable, it is a fact that Dr. King was a central target for disruption and disinformation by the U.S. federal government, especially as part of the FBI's Cointelpro program.

A copy of the speech was published in the APA's house organ in January 1999, most likely as a commemorative to Dr. King on his eponymous federal holiday. It was originally published in the Journal of Social Issues (Vol. 24, No. 1, 1968). I thought it would be worth quoting a small excerpt (and thanks to colleagues B.O. and E.T. who brought this to the attention of the APA's Social Justice listserv):

There are certain technical words in every academic discipline which soon become stereotypes and even clichés. Every academic discipline has its technical nomenclature. You who are in the field of psychology have given us a great word. It is the word maladjusted. This word is probably used more than any other word in psychology. It is a good word; certainly it is good that in dealing with what the word implies you are declaring that destructive maladjustment should be destroyed. You are saying that all must seek the well-adjusted life in order to avoid neurotic and schizophrenic personalities.

But on the other hand, I am sure that we will recognize that there are some things in our society, some things in our world, to which we should never be adjusted. There are some things concerning which we must always be maladjusted if we are to be people of good will. We must never adjust ourselves to racial discrimination and racial segregation. We must never adjust ourselves to religious bigotry. We must never adjust ourselves to economic conditions that take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. We must never adjust ourselves to the madness of militarism, and the self-defeating effects of physical violence.

In a day when Sputniks, Explorers and Geminies are dashing through outer space, when guided ballistic missiles are carving highways of death through the stratosphere, no nation can finally win a war. It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence, it is either nonviolence or nonexistence....

Thus, it may well be that our world is in dire need of a new organization, The International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment.


Sister Sassy said...

Thanks for the article :) it was good reading.

Valtin said...

Glad you liked it.

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