The Law Cannot Make a Man Love Me But It Can Keep Him from Lynching Me

Now the other myth that gets around is the idea that legislation cannot really solve the problem and that it has no great role to play in this period of social change because you’ve got to change the heart and you can’t change the heart through legislation. You can’t legislate morals. The job must be done through education and religion. Well, there’s half-truth involved here. Certainly, if the problem is to be solved then in the final sense, hearts must be changed. Religion and education must play a great role in changing the heart. But we must go on to say that while it may be true that morality cannot be legislated, behavior can be regulated. It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless. It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me but it can keep him from lynching me and I think that is pretty important, also. So there is a need for executive orders. There is a need for judicial decrees. There is a need for civil rights legislation on the local scale within states and on the national scale from the federal government.

–Martin Luther King
Address at Western Michigan University, 1963
From Between Two Worlds

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2 Comments

Filed under Martin Luther King, persecution, racism

2 responses to “The Law Cannot Make a Man Love Me But It Can Keep Him from Lynching Me

  1. an interesting post, i found your blog when i was searching for the exact wording of that mlk comment.

    its funny that you talk about legislating morals, because ive had similar thoughts.

    i think however, every law we pass in a way, is legislating morals. everything that is illegal, we consider immoral- murder, rape, theft, etc

    things that are promoting by law are on the other hand generally considered moral

    we do need to change hearts and minds (to steal a phrase from the iraq discussion) for meaningful social change to happen, but we also need legislation to encourage that forward progression.

    if we were waiting for complete benevolence of the populace on their own we would have never gotten some of the social advances we have such as women’s suffrage and the civil rights movement victories

  2. I actually made a blog named after that quote. Click my name.

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