Dr. Martin Luther King’s Forgotten Message – The Other America
Just a moment ago, I heard the news play Donald Trump’s statement where he said he’s the “least racist person …” Mr. Trump, “least racist” means you are “racist” but by your own comparisons, you think others are more racist than yourself. Other than the Supreme Court of the United States, you hold the highest power in the land. Racism is defined as person who shows or feels bigotry or prejudice against people of other races, because they believe their particular race is superior to others.
Give such people power and authority over the lives of others, and we have systemic, institutionalized racism.
Mr. Trump, being “least racist” is unacceptable. You represent a country of people of all races, all genders, all economic statuses. You represent the healthy and the sick; the educated and poorly educated; people of all ages; people in rural and urban communities. You represent this nation, and your representation is not making America great. In fact, it has impugned us to the world. If you think that returning America to the days before the Civil War, or to the days of Jim Crow is making it great, then you might want to remember that it was those very things that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. challenged. This country made promises and wrote privileges in its constitution. There is no room for racism. We’ve come too far to turn back now.
Dr. King said,
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
How did that come to be interpreted by Whites to mean that they shouldn’t see skin color? As Jane Elliot has said, that is insulting. How would people feel if others said to them “When I look at you I don’t see your gender”?
Dr. King’s statement is much deeper because in order to judge by character, it means withholding judgment until we get to know others by their character. It means putting aside the racial stereotypes. It means to first see, then get to know people as individuals.
Yesterday, I was reading an article written Rev. Dr. William Barber. Reverend Barber reminds us that Dr. King’s message was not only about love and nonviolence, but a historical and prophetic message to America.
“In 1967, King joined forces with Native American elders and sharecroppers, welfare rights organizations and farmworker unions, poor white people from Appalachia and gang members from Northern ghettoes to mount a Poor People’s Campaign that would demand a Marshall Plan for America’s poor people — black, white and brown.”
Imagine being a person without education, forced to work without monetary compensation; who does not know geography, who had no sir name; whose parents and siblings were sold to people on plantations located where you do not know. Suddenly, you are told that you are free. Where do you go? What do you do? How are you going to be able to keep shoes on your feet, eat, have shelter? What the heck is “money” that people say you must have? How do you get it?
There are no immigration intake centers to go to that will access your talents and skills, notify your next of kin, and suggest where you might want to settle where you can earn a living. There are no reservations that will accept you as a tribal member giving you all rights and privileges in participating in establishing your own government. There are no centers or schools for you to attend to learn to read, write, speak proper English and learn math.
You are in the proverbial position of being out in the cold. You are told that you are free, but it only means you no longer have to work for no wages. It makes no difference that you have no idea what a living wage is or isn’t. You are paid a quarter but it costs 50 cents for the basic food stuffs at the General Store. You have no control over how much you are paid or how much things cost. It’s like a disease that has no cure.
There’s an economic and educational history in the United States that is present today. You see, I remember the days in the late 1960’s when Black children and girls of all races were told to get a high school diploma. Many of our parents, Black and immigrants, did not have an education where they could help their children with homework. In fact, many immigrant parents relied on their children to teach them how to read, write, and speak English. Math was a subject limited to adding, subtraction and multiplying so people would not be cheated when buying goods and services.
We can see through history how White parents who could afford private schools avoided having their children educated in classrooms along with the poor and middle-class, thereby depriving their children of experiencing diversity. We also see that Whites moved away from urban areas and how developers and builders used their migration to, as a song says, take paradise and put in a parking lot.
America has expanded, but the expansion itself has been to keep segregation and people ignorant of inequalities.
No matter when the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, or the 14th Amendment was added to the Constitution, this country’s acknowledgement that its system was not designed to provide equal education, economic equity, and opportunities to Blacks and others, was not until the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The 1964 Civil Rights Act authorized the federal government to establish federal agencies and give those agencies authority to file law suits for unlawful discrimination. Let me say that another way — it gives federal government agencies authority to establish requirements to determine whether or not unlawful discrimination has occurred.
People, mostly Whites, thought this resolved the problems of discrimination in the work place, housing, and education. They do not realize that federal agencies do not take all cases. Even worst, they do not realize that generations of people lacking basic educational skills are unable to write sufficient complaints to start the process.
Call it Band-Aids or Sticking Head In Sand.
Reverend Barber addresses the prophetic diagnosis and radical prescription of Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy; mainly, that Americans have failed to address the disease, and only address the symptoms.
There is more than one America co-existing on the same land. There are those such as Dr. King who address the disease, and there are those who still today, talk about the symptoms. The Band-Aid approach does not rid the disease of disenfranchisement and white supremacy ideologies. Until our politicians are educated in this area, “land of the free” is the same as standing 5 blind men in different positions around an elephant and asking them to describe it.
Many Republicans have spoken out against the president’s Tweets and antics and many who are Democrats are advocating that Republicans be replaced at voting booths. But these are Band-Aids on a bleeding wound. Some of us are old enough to remember, and others currently involved in social issues know, that Democrats have consistently betrayed minorities.
While Democrats might be the lesser of two evils, history tells us that they have also been those who carry the disease. Chicago, under the Democratic leadership of Rahm Emmanuel, hides police body cams so officers involved in police shootings do not face indictments.
President, Bill Clinton supported a crime bill that he made clear was intended to oppress, imprison and execute Blacks.
Eric Holder, under Barack Obama’s presidency, led a Department of Justice where it would not charge a man who looked at one 17-year old and referred to him collectively as “These assholes.” Even that man’s attorney used the defense that the “assholes” in the community looked like Trayvon Martin because they are Black. Yet, the DOJ under a Democratic president said it lacked evidence that George Zimmerman followed and killed Trayvon Martin because of the color of his skin, thereby violating Trayvon’s civil rights.
The question, “Is he racist?” “Is she racist?” cannot be answered in the affirmative nor negative by the subject people. As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. It was the 1964 Civil Rights Bill that gave government agencies the authority to establish requirements for finding unlawful discrimination that violates civil rights. Thus, if the accused say they are not racist, that becomes indisputable evidence????!!!!????
“Pull yourselves up by your boot straps” assumes that the people own boots with straps. It assumes that when a people work to acquire those boots, that they can live prosperous lives. History shows us otherwise, such as Black Wall Street. That is a history that many do not know and so they cannot see how the same is done today, just without burning down buildings and intentionally taking lives. It’s done today by city ordinances, business licenses, and professional licenses. It’s done by high interest rates in certain zip codes. It’s done by insurance redlining.
As Dr. King stated in his speech about two Americas, the struggle to get Bills passed such as the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act were strides. What faces America today is genuine equality. His 1967 speech applies to today.
Posted on 01/15/2018, in Black lives matter, civil rights, Holiday, politics and tagged Black Wall Street, Donald Trump, Dr. William Barber, holiday, Jr., least racist, Martin Luther King, racism, two Americas. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.