The Other America, MLK, and Baltimore Riots

My concordance collage of text from MLK's speech, "The Other America"

My concordance collage of text from MLK’s speech, “The Other America”

The Baltimore Riots are all over Twitter, and I’m trying to find a way to understand it all. Protests have turned violent, and there are a lot of people quoting and referencing MLK’s non-violent strategy for social change.

I did a Natural Language Processing art project on MLK speeches the other day, and while I was doing it I read through some of his speeches to try and get a sense of what he was ultimately communicating. While he does preach non-violence and peaceful protest in much of his rhetoric, he also isn’t afraid to acknowledge where violent anger comes from, as he does in his 1967 speech The Other America:

highlighted text

“A riot is the language of the unheard.”

Because without the violence, would there any media coverage? Would anybody actually pay attention? I doubt it.

Here are cold, hard statistics about life in Freddie Gray’s hometown:

baltimore poverty and community statistics

Here is a September 2014 investigation by the Baltimore Sun about police brutality.

Another man has been killed by the police, and there’s still no update from authority about consequence for those responsible. These people are angry and they can’t take it anymore. And nothing that they’ve done peacefully has worked to drive change.

At this point, can you really blame them?


David Simon (creator of The Wire) has a take. The comments section is also worthwhile
Hillary Clinton publicly addresses the issue of mass incarceration after Baltimore riots
Riots as a form of “Altruistic Punishment”
How the New York Times favors the police when reporting on this story
How somebody is leaking false narratives through The Washington Post
Bob Lefsetz writes my favorite email newsletter, and these are his thoughts on Baltimore


It appears that the six officers have been charged with a variety of crimes

This Vox explainer does a good job of outlining the charges

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