If you are not old enough to remember the March on Washington in 1963, well, there was plenty of history to learn from last weekend onward. I was thirteen at the time, so I was aware, though surely not the way I am now.
PBS did a great job, giving us the “music of the March” followed by a great little history lesson of the organization and the organizers, followed by an informative look at Whitney Young, one of the major players who was neglected by the later power players as a “tom”, although nothing could be further from the truth.
Wednesday of course offered us the original speech and those of many others, along with the President’s.
One should not avoid the other “issues” of the March. Women, many of whom had significant jobs in the March organization, were shoved to the back, kept off podiums, and marginalized. (There is probably a whole psychology that could be explored here.) Bayard Ruskin was a major organizer of the march, yet he was completely marginalized given his avowed Communist beliefs and his open homosexuality.
Yet, given that, it was a monumental undertaking and a phenomenal success. It turned the tide of public opinion, and put politicians in a box from which they could not escape. They tried to, to be sure, but after the Kennedy assassination, it was like a deck of cards had collapsed, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 65, followed quickly.
I wonder how our Republican brothers and sisters viewed the events of the past week. It is unquestioned that they have done all they can to co-opt Martin Luther King, Jr. as their own, calling him a Republican, and announcing or rather pontificating that he would be opposed to much “liberal” legislation.
If I hear, “I believe like MLK did, that you shouldn’t judge a person by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” one more time, I shall vomit. This is always in connection to some anti-African-American statement. Whether it be to vilify another Black actor for “playing the race card” (speaking up for justice for Blacks in whatever venue it is absent), or vilifying anyone who dares defend the “unfair” practice of affirmative action, a quick reference to MLK seems sufficient to establish one’s bona fides as a “non-racist.”
Of course their take on Dr. King is anything but correct. There is no evidence that King was a Republican, and his words suggest that he was a member of neither party. He considered the 1964 Republican platform to be racist, and actively campaigned against Goldwater. He thought little of Ronald Reagan.
What the uber Right refuses to remember is that King was murdered while in Memphis supporting striking sanitation workers. These workers were union men. King spoke out again and again against the economic inequalities that existed and favored redistribution of wealth. He was no fan of capitalism as it existed denying workers reasonable compensation for their work.
At least two of his closest aides had ties to the Communist party. One was an avowed gay man. These are not the signs of a TEA Party wannabe surely. People like Alan Keyes, Allen West, Herman Cain and Clarence Thomas would not have been in his camp, now would he have remained silent to their kowtowing to the white conservative element.
The usual lies about this week were rolled out by the usual players. Billo the Clown O’Reilly blatantly said that Republicans were denied a part in the festivities. This was not even remotely true. Both Bushes were invited, as were Boehner and Cantor. All declined for various reasons.
Such is to be expected of Fox of course, which routinely spouts lies, knowing that a minority of Americans watch them to the exclusion of all else, and will continue in their neighborhoods and blogs, and Facebook walls, to convey the lie to even more unknowing, unthinking individuals. With that Fox’s job is done–the lie will become “truth” to a minority of ignorant-loving TeaBirchers.
Meanwhile, nothing much changes. Fox and other crazy sites will continue to pretend that the Australian athlete who was gunned down, was killed by a couple of “black kids” when in fact there were three, and one was white. They will continue to bellow “why has the President not expressed his outrage?” when of course the two situations (this and the Trayvon Martin case) are in no way linked. Police in Oklahoma have stated again and again that race played no part in the shooting.
But something has indeed changed. John Lewis reminds us that voting rights continue to be a challenge, given that Republican-held state legislatures across the land pass law after law that limits the right to vote–of only those who typically vote Democratic. They are quite blatant in their explanations. There is no racial motivation they proclaim, but only political motives! They thumb their noses at us, claiming that they “have every right to make it hard for their opponents to vote”. Nothing illegal in that.
If voting is our most precious right, then people of color, seniors, students, and all those who threaten to power base of the modern Republican party, will rally to the cause. We will not stand still for this. And the modern NAACP and other battle-savvy warriors in the equality battle will lead us. They are rejuvenated by the behavior of the white power players. As Colin Powell said, this plan will surely backfire on the party. We mean to see that it does.
Dr. King would be proud of not where we are today, for we have much yet to do, but he would be proud of our determination to “let freedom ring”. We will get to the mountain top Dr. King, we will.