Posts Tagged ‘Martin Luther King Jr.’

There are uncomfortable parallels between the deaths of Emmett Till and Philando Castile, as the special “Hope & Fury: MLK, The Movement, and The Media” pointed out. The special was broadcast on NBC-TV March 24, but I didn’t get a chance to watch it until a week and a half later.

Emmett Till, who narrator Lester Holt suggested every black person in America knows about – is that true? – was a 14-year-old black youth from Chicago who was visiting his uncle in rural Mississippi. He was lynched on August 28, 1955, after a white woman said that she was offended by him in her family’s grocery store. She has only recently recanted that tale.

Philando Castile was shot and killed by a local Minnesota police officer after the car was pulled over on July 6, 2016, with his girlfriend and her four-year-old daughter in the vehicle.

In the Till case, it was the decision of Emmett’s mother Mamie to allow, nay, insist on photographers to take pictures of her now-misshapen son. In the Castile case, girlfriend Diamond Reynolds had the wherewithal to livestream ten minutes of video via Facebook.

The MLK special also noted the fickle nature of the mainstream press. It was only the black press that covered some of the seminal stories of the civil rights movement, such as the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955/56.

“When MLK’s peaceful protests aren’t covered by the national media in Albany, Georgia, he organized a children’s march in Birmingham, Alabama, making for some of the most powerful, iconic imagery of the civil rights movement.”

In general, the MSM was attracted if the action included white people – the freedom riders, e.g., or they can establish a clear good guy/bad guy narrative, as in the children’s march, when dogs and fire hoses were unleashed.

“Hope & Fury” pointed out the parallels between the bloody Selma march of March 7, 1965, and the demonstrations occurring after some young black children and men, with the social media-savvy demonstrators willing to challenge the accepted narrative in the latter case.

As Arthur noted: “The USA has so very far to go before achieving Dr. King’s dream. Not only is the promised land he glimpsed still over that mountaintop, the mountain is much higher than any of us could have imagined.”

If I were a believer in conspiracy theories, I would wonder about this coincidence: on April 4, 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a speech against the US involvement in Vietnam, an address that most civil rights leaders opposed because it could threaten his relationship with President Lyndon Johnson. And on April 4, 1968, he was dead.

It was that speech, which I read only after the assassination, that really fueled my own antiwar sentiment, that U.S. intervention in Southeast Asia was imperialistic and that the war diverted resources from domestic programs created to aid the black poor. Further, “we were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem.”

One could note that the struggle in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968 wasn’t the mere bigotry in public accommodations, which prompted the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott of 1955/56, but about government injustice that provided sanitation workers, all black men, with substandard wages and unsafe working conditions. And that was the city in which MLK died.

I vividly remember the I AM A MAN signs on the nightly news. The strike began on February 12, but it was King’s presence starting on March 18 that really attracted attention. The labor action didn’t end until April 16, 12 days after MLK’s murder.

I was home when I heard the awful news, and almost immediately my father, the late Les Green, went downtown to try to “keep the peace.” He had been involved with something called the Interracial Center at 45 Carroll Street in Binghamton.

In answer to a Facebook query I posted, someone wrote that my dad “was very involved with the kids who hung out there, talking to them, and a little counseling if needed.” Whatever his role might have been, Binghamton did NOT have any “rioting” that night, as many US cities did in that painful period.

In 1970, I got to go by the Lorraine Motel where MLK was killed. It is now a civil rights museum.

While the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. had an effect on me, his death may have had the greater impact.
***
Fort Wayne, IN tribute to MLK, April 7, 1968

My friend Carla, who I’ve known since high school choir, suggested:

I have an idea for your blog… or maybe just a title…. something like “keep it up Mr. President and the tsunami in November is going to be very, very blue”

What she means is that there could be be far more Democrats in Congress after the November 2018 election than after the 2016 vote.

My immediate reaction is that I’m not so sure that it’s true. Sure the Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has allowed drilling along all the coastline of the United States. And then excluded Florida because 1) Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, is probably running for the US Senate and Floridians HATE looking at off-shore rigs, like the rest of us do, and 2) Mar-a-lago, where Agent Orange likes to spend time, is in Florida.

And sure The Tweeter-in-Chief says stupid stuff on a wide swath of issues, from marijuana to immigration – I need to write on these more extensively – and I feel he makes the US a laughing stock all over the world.

He lies so much that I don’t think he’s even fully aware of it. When his trip to the UK was canceled, he blamed it on the Obama administration’s design of the new embassy even though it was arraigned by George W. Bush.

In short, he is an embarrassment.

Yet, if the stock market is up, and the tax bill cuts people’s taxes in the short term, and unemployment, which fell sharply under Obama, continues to do so, and stores such as Walmart raise wages (from $9 to $11 per hour, even as they slash jobs at Sam’s Club outlets), then some people will be satisfied with the status quo.

It is true that in the generic electoral ballots, Democrats are doing quite well. But one does not vote for a generic candidate, but for specific individuals. I’m pleased that over 30 Republicans have deigned not to run for reelection. An “open” seat is much easier to win rather than running against an incumbent.

Nevertheless, unless people go out and work these elections, getting people registered and then get out to vote, Democrats will not automatically win. It can happen, as it did in Alabama in December 2017, when Doug Jones beat Roy Moore for the US Senate seat that had not been blue in a quarter century.

Just counting on disdain for the guy occasionally at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to translate into Congressional victory is a terrible plan. But the blue tsunami IS possible.

Oh, I love this picture above. Read the story about its creation.

Here’s my annual repudiation of the notion “If Martin Luther King Were alive, he’d be a Republican,” from his own words. This is an excerpt (900 out of 4000 words) of The Role of the Behavioral Scientist, an address to the American Psychology Association’s annual convention on 1 September 1967. You can find the whole speech here or here.

If the Negro needs social sciences for direction and for self-understanding, the white society is in even more urgent need. White America needs to understand that it is poisoned to its soul by racism and the understanding needs to be carefully documented and consequently more difficult to reject…

A profound judgment of today’s riots was expressed by Victor Hugo a century ago. He said, ‘If a soul is left in the darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but he who causes the darkness.’

The policymakers of the white society have caused the darkness; they create discrimination; they structured slums; and they perpetuate unemployment, ignorance and poverty. It is incontestable and deplorable that Negroes have committed crimes; but they are derivative crimes. They are born of the greater crimes of the white society…

I believe we will have to find the militant middle between riots on the one hand and weak and timid supplication for justice on the other hand. That middle ground, I believe, is civil disobedience. It can be aggressive but nonviolent; it can dislocate but not destroy…

Negroes today are experiencing an inner transformation that is liberating them from ideological dependence on the white majority. What has penetrated substantially all strata of Negro life is the revolutionary idea that the philosophy and morals of the dominant white society are not holy or sacred but in all too many respects are degenerate and profane…

The worst aspect of their oppression was their inability to question and defy the fundamental precepts of the larger society. Negroes have been loath in the past to hurl any fundamental challenges because they were coerced and conditioned into thinking within the context of the dominant white ideology. This is changing and new radical trends are appearing in Negro thought. I use radical in its broad sense to refer to reaching into roots…

The slashing blows of backlash and frontlash have hurt the Negro, but they have also awakened him and revealed the nature of the oppressor. To lose illusions is to gain truth. Negroes have grown wiser and more mature and they are hearing more clearly those who are raising fundamental questions about our society whether the critics be Negro or white. When this process of awareness and independence crystallizes, every rebuke, every evasion, become hammer blows on the wedge that splits the Negro from the larger society.

Social science is needed to explain where this development is going to take us. Are we moving away, not from integration, but from the society which made it a problem in the first place? How deep and at what rate of speed is this process occurring? These are some vital questions to be answered if we are to have a clear sense of our direction…

And may I say together, we must solve the problems right here in America. As I have said time and time again, Negroes still have faith in America. Black people still have faith in a dream that we will all live together as brothers in this country of plenty one day…

And I assert at this time that once again we must reaffirm our belief in building a democratic society, in which blacks and whites can live together as brothers, where we will all come to see that integration is not a problem, but an opportunity to participate in the beauty of diversity.

The problem is deep. It is gigantic in extent, and chaotic in detail. And I do not believe that it will be solved until there is a kind of cosmic discontent enlarging in the bosoms of people of good will all over this nation…

But on the other hand, I am sure that we will recognize that there are some things in our society, some things in our world, to which we should never be adjusted… We must never adjust ourselves to racial discrimination and racial segregation. We must never adjust ourselves to religious bigotry. We must never adjust ourselves to economic conditions that take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. We must never adjust ourselves to the madness of militarism, and the self-defeating effects of physical violence.

Thus, it may well be that our world is in dire need of a new organization, The International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment. Men and women should be as maladjusted as the prophet Amos, who in the midst of the injustices of his day, could cry out in words that echo across the centuries, ‘Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream’; or as maladjusted as Abraham Lincoln, who in the midst of his vacillations finally came to see that this nation could not survive half slave and half free… And through such creative maladjustment, we may be able to emerge from the bleak and desolate midnight of man’s inhumanity to man, into the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom and justice.

I have not lost hope. I must confess that these have been very difficult days for me personally. And these have been difficult days for every civil rights leader, for every lover of justice and peace.

Mike Royko was a columnist for the Chicago Daily News, and later, the Chicago Sun-Times, and the Chicago Tribune. His column was syndicated, for I remember reading him, even as a child.

His 1997 obit in the New York Times – he died at age 64 of an aneurysm – called the 1972 Pulitzer Prize winner the “Voice of the Working Class.”

“In his column of Sept. 23, 1981, Mr. Royko sought to explain President Ronald Reagan’s policies of ‘hacking away’ at Federal programs for the poor ‘while spending more and more on the military.’ ‘Contrary to popular belief,’ Mr. Royko wrote, ‘it’s much wiser to take money from the poor than the rich.'”

He published “Millions in his firing squad,” this column of April 5, 1968, the day after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Read the whole thing here.

It’s useful because it speaks to today’s conservatives who seek to co-opt Dr. King’s message:
***
Millions in his firing squad

FBI agents are looking for the man who pulled the trigger and surely they will find him.

But it doesn’t matter if they do or they don’t. They can’t catch everybody, and Martin Luther King was executed by a firing squad that numbered in the millions.

They took part, from all over the country, pouring words of hate into the ear of the assassin.

The man with the gun did what he was told. Millions of bigots, subtle and obvious, put it in his hand and assured him he was doing the right thing.

It would be easy to point at the Southern redneck and say he did it. But what of the Northern disk-jockey-turned-commentator, with his slippery words of hate every morning?

What about the Northern mayor who steps all over every poverty program advancement, thinking only of political expediency, until riots fester, whites react with more hate and the gap between the races grows bigger?

Toss in the congressman with the stupid arguments against busing. And the pathetic women who turn out with eggs in their hands to throw at children…

They all took their place in King’s firing squad.

And behind them were the subtle ones, those who never say anything bad but just nod when the bigot throws out his strong opinions.

He is actually the worst, the nodder is, because sometimes he believes differently but he says nothing. He doesn’t want to cause trouble. For Pete’s sake, don’t cause trouble!

So when his brother-in-law or his card-playing buddy from across the alley spews out the racial filth, he nods…

The bullet that hit King came from all directions. Every two-bit politician or incompetent editorial writer found in him, not themselves, the cause of our racial problems.

It was almost ludicrous. The man came on the American scene preaching nonviolence from the first day he sat at the wrong end of a bus. He preached it in the North and was hit with rocks. He talked it the day he was murdered.

Hypocrites all over this country would kneel every Sunday morning and mouth messages to Jesus Christ. Then they would come out and tell each other, after reading the papers, that somebody should string up King, who was living Christianity like few Americans ever have.

Maybe it was the simplicity of his goal that confused people or the way he dramatized it.

He wanted only that black Americans have their constitutional rights, that they get an equal shot at this country’s benefits, the same thing we give to the last guy who jumped off the boat.

So we killed him…

Last Sunday night the President said he was quitting after this term. He said this country is so filled with hate it might help if he got out. Four days later we killed a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

We have pointed a gun at our own head and we are squeezing the trigger. And nobody we elect is going to help us. It is our head and our finger.

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