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America"s Race Problem

Theoretical Perspectives on America's Race Problem

In his 1963 speech titled ôThe Ethical Demands of Integration,ö Martin Luther King, Jr. stated that ô[t]he problem of race remains AmericaÆs greatest moral dilemma. When one considers the impact it has upon the nation, its resolution might well determine our destiny.ö As the primary representative of the civil rights movement until his death in 1968, KingÆs focus was on the treatment and legal status of blacks in the United States. However, his philosophy as to the resolution of AmericaÆs ôrace problemö remains applicable today as the United States become more diverse internally, but also as the actions of peoples of other races external to the United States begin to impact more and more the ôAmerican way of life.ö Because of its inclusiveness of all peoples and its reliance on non-violent methods of revolution, KingÆs philosophy of race remains the best theoretical perspective on race relations.

As one of AmericaÆs Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson believed that slavery was morally wrong. In 1806 he wrote that slavery imposed upon blacks ôviolations of human rightsö that the United States had ôlong been eager to proscribeö (Memorial Edition 3: 421). But Jefferson could see no reasonable solution if the slaves were freed because he did not believe in the equality of the black race with the white race. Thus, in 1820, he worried about how to ôrelieveö the United States ôfrom this heavy reproach [of slavery] in any practicable wayö (Memorial Edition, 15: 249). Jefferson had no solution. All he could see resulting from the social and political intermingling of the races was that ô[d]eep rooted prejudices entertained by the whites; ten thousand recollections, by the blacks, of the injuries they have sustained; new provocations; the real distinctions which nature has made; and many other circumstances, will divide us into parties, and produce convulsions...

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America"s Race Problem. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 20:51, May 25, 2020, from