Dr Cornel West and the Politic of Hate

Cornel West on CNN

 

CORNEL WEST: You can’t talk about wealth and inequality, you can’t talk about education, you can’t talk about massive unemployment and under employment and you can’t talk about drones being dropped on people in other parts of the world without talking about white supremacy and its ways in which it operates. It doesn’t have to be overt. The president is right about that.

But too many black people are niggerized. I would say the first black president has become the first niggerized black president.

CNN ANCHOR: What do you mean by that?

WEST: A niggerized black person is a black person who is afraid and scared and intimidated when it comes to putting a spotlight on white supremacy and fighting against white supremacy. So when many of us said we have to fight against racism, what were we told? ‘No, he can’t deal with racism because he has other issues, political calculations. He’s the president of all America, not just black America.’ We know he’s president of all America but white supremacy is American as cherry pie.

We’re talking about moral issues, spiritual issues, emotional issues. White supremacy has nothing to do with just skin pigmentation, it has to be what kind of person you want to be, what kind of nation we want to be. Democrats and Republicans play on both of those parties in terms of running away from the vicious legacy of white supremacy until it hits us hard. Thank God for Ferguson. Thank God for the young folk of all colors. Thank God for Staten Island and fighting there. Thank God in Baltimore, now the precious folk in Charleston.

President Obama delivers the eulogy for the dead in Charleston…

 

RESIDENT OBAMA: Giving all praise and honor to God.

(APPLAUSE)

The Bible calls us to hope, to persevere and have faith in things not seen. They were still living by faith when they died, the scripture tells us.

(APPLAUSE)

They did not receive the things promised. They only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.

We are here today to remember a man of God who lived by faith, a man who believed in things not seen, a man who believed there were better days ahead off in the distance, a man of service, who persevered knowing full-well he would not receive all those things he was promised, because he believed his efforts would deliver a better life for those who followed, to Jennifer, his beloved wife, Eliana and Malana, his beautiful, wonderful daughters, to the Mother Emanuel family and the people of Charleston, the people of South Carolina.

I cannot claim to have had the good fortune to know Reverend Pinckney well, but I did have the pleasure of knowing him and meeting him here in South Carolina back when we were both a little bit younger…

(LAUGHTER)

… back when I didn’t have visible gray hair.

(LAUGHTER)

The first thing I noticed was his graciousness, his smile, his reassuring baritone, his deceptive sense of humor, all qualities that helped him wear so effortlessly a heavy burden of expectation.

Friends of his remarked this week that when Clementa Pinckney entered a room, it was like the future arrived, that even from a young age, folks knew he was special, anointed. He was the progeny of a long line of the faithful, a family of preachers who spread God’s words, a family of protesters who so changed to expand voting rights and desegregate the South.

Clem heard their instruction, and he did not forsake their teaching. He was in the pulpit by 13, pastor by 18, public servant by 23. He did not exhibit any of the cockiness of youth nor youth’s insecurities. Instead, he set an example worthy of his position, wise beyond his years in his speech, in his conduct, in his love, faith and purity.

As a senator, he represented a sprawling swathe of low country, a place that has long been one of the most neglected in America, a place still racked by poverty and inadequate schools, a place where children can still go hungry and the sick can go without treatment — a place that needed somebody like Clem.

(APPLAUSE)

His position in the minority party meant the odds of winning more resources for his constituents were often long. His calls for greater equity were too-often unheeded. The votes he cast were sometimes lonely.

But he never gave up. He stayed true to his convictions. He would not grow discouraged. After a full day at the Capitol, he’d climb into his car and head to the church to draw sustenance from his family, from his ministry, from the community that loved and needed him. There, he would fortify his faith and imagine what might be.

Reverend Pinckney embodied a politics that was neither mean nor small. He conducted himself quietly and kindly and diligently. He encouraged progress not by pushing his ideas alone but by seeking out your ideas, partnering with you to make things happen. He was full of empathy and fellow feeling, able to walk in somebody else’s shoes and see through their eyes.

No wonder one of his Senate colleagues remembered Senator Pinckney as “the most gentle of the 46 of us, the best of the 46 of us.”

Clem was often asked why he chose to be a pastor and a public servant. But the person who asked probably didn’t know the history of AME Church.

(APPLAUSE)

As our brothers and sisters in the AME Church, we don’t make those distinctions. “Our calling,” Clem once said, “is not just within the walls of the congregation but the life and community in which our congregation resides.”

(APPLAUSE)

He embodied the idea that our Christian faith demands deeds and not just words, that the sweet hour of prayer actually lasts the whole week long, that to put our faith in action is more than just individual salvation, it’s about our collective salvation, that to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and house the homeless is not just a call for isolated charity but the imperative of a just society.

What a good man. Sometimes I think that’s the best thing to hope for when you’re eulogized, after all the words and recitations and resumes are read, to just say somebody was a good man.

(APPLAUSE)

You don’t have to be of high distinction to be a good man.

Preacher by 13, pastor by 18, public servant by 23. What a life Clementa Pinckney lived. What an example he set. What a model for his faith.

And then to lose him at 41, slain in his sanctuary with eight wonderful members of his flock, each at different stages in life but bound together by a common commitment to God — Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, DePayne Middleton Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel L. Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Myra Thompson.

Good people. Decent people. God-fearing people.

(APPLAUSE)

People so full of life and so full of kindness, people who ran the race, who persevered, people of great faith.

To the families of the fallen, the nation shares in your grief. Our pain cuts that much deeper because it happened in a church.

The church is and always has been the center of African American life…

(APPLAUSE)

… a place to call our own in a too-often hostile world, a sanctuary from so many hardships.

Over the course of centuries, black churches served as hush harbors, where slaves could worship in safety, praise houses, where their free descendants could gather and shout “Hallelujah…”

(APPLAUSE)

… rest stops for the weary along the Underground Railroad, bunkers for the foot soldiers of the civil-rights movement.

They have been and continue to community centers, where we organize for jobs and justice, places of scholarship and network, places where children are loved and fed and kept out of harms way and told that they are beautiful and smart and taught that they matter.

(APPLAUSE)

That’s what happens in church. That’s what the black church means — our beating heart, the place where our dignity as a people in inviolate.

There’s no better example of this tradition than Mother Emanuel, a church…

(APPLAUSE)

… a church built by blacks seeking liberty, burned to the ground because its founders sought to end slavery only to rise up again, a phoenix from these ashes.

(APPLAUSE)

When there were laws banning all-black church gatherers, services happened here anyway in defiance of unjust laws. When there was a righteous movement to dismantle Jim Crow, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached from its pulpit, and marches began from its steps.

A sacred place, this church, not just for blacks, not just for Christians but for every American who cares about the steady expansion…

(APPLAUSE)

… of human rights and human dignity in this country, a foundation stone for liberty and justice for all.

That’s what the church meant.

(APPLAUSE)

We do not know whether the killer of Reverend Pinckney and eight others knew all of this history, but he surely sensed the meaning of his violent act. It was an act that drew on a long history of bombs and arson and shots fired at churches, not random but as a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress…

(APPLAUSE)

… an act that he imagined would incite fear and recrimination, violence and suspicion, an act that he presumed would deepen divisions that trace back to our nation’s original sin.

Oh, but God works in mysterious ways.

(APPLAUSE)

God has different ideas.

(APPLAUSE)

He didn’t know he was being used by God.

(APPLAUSE)

Blinded by hatred, the alleged killer would not see the grace surrounding Reverend Pinckney and that Bible study group, the light of love that shown as they opened the church doors and invited a stranger to join in their prayer circle.

The alleged killer could have never anticipated the way the families of the fallen would respond when they saw him in court in the midst of unspeakable grief, with words of forgiveness. He couldn’t imagine that.

(APPLAUSE)

The alleged killer could not imagine how the city of Charleston under the good and wise leadership of Mayor Riley, how the state of South Carolina, how the United States of America would respond not merely with revulsion at his evil acts, but with (inaudible) generosity. And more importantly, with a thoughtful introspection and self-examination that we so rarely see in public life.

Blinded by hatred, he failed to comprehend what Reverend Pinckney so well understood — the power of God’s grace.

(APPLAUSE)

This whole week, I’ve been reflecting on this idea of grace.

(APPLAUSE)

The grace of the families who lost loved ones; the grace that Reverend Pinckney would preach about in his sermons; the grace described in one of my favorite hymnals, the one we all know — Amazing Grace.

(APPLAUSE)

How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.

(APPLAUSE)

I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.

(APPLAUSE)

According to the Christian tradition, grace is not earned. Grace is not merited. It’s not something we deserve. Rather, grace is the free and benevolent favor of God.

(APPLAUSE)

As manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. Grace — as a nation out of this terrible tragedy, God has visited grace upon us for he has allowed us to see where we’ve been blind.

(APPLAUSE)

He’s given us the chance where we’ve been lost to find out best selves. We may not have earned this grace with our rancor and complacency and short-sightedness and fear of each other, but we got it all the same. He gave it to us anyway. He’s once more given us grace.

But it is up to us now to make the most of it, to receive it with gratitude and to prove ourselves worthy of this gift.

For too long, we were blind to the pain that the Confederate Flag stirred into many of our citizens.

(APPLAUSE)

It’s true a flag did not cause these murders. But as people from all walks of life, Republicans and Democrats, now acknowledge, including Governor Haley, whose recent eloquence on the subject is worthy of praise…

(APPLAUSE)

… as we all have to acknowledge, the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride.

(APPLAUSE)

For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression…

(APPLAUSE)

… and racial subjugation.

(APPLAUSE)

We see that now.

Removing the flag from this state’s capital would not be an act of political correctness. It would not an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be acknowledgement that the cause for which they fought, the cause of slavery, was wrong.

(APPLAUSE)

The imposition of Jim Crow after the Civil War, the resistance to civil rights for all people was wrong.

(APPLAUSE)

It would be one step in an honest accounting of America’s history, a modest but meaningful balm for so many unhealed wounds.

It would be an expression of the amazing changes that have transformed this state and this country for the better because of the work of so many people of goodwill, people of all races, striving to form a more perfect union.

By taking down that flag, we express adds grace God’s grace.

(APPLAUSE)

But I don’t think God wants us to stop there.

(APPLAUSE)

For too long, we’ve been blind to be way past injustices continue to shape the present.

(APPLAUSE)

Perhaps we see that now. Perhaps this tragedy causes us to ask some tough questions about how we can permit so many of our children to languish in poverty…

(APPLAUSE)

… or attend dilapidated schools or grow up without prospects for a job or for a career.

Perhaps it causes us to examine what we’re doing to cause some of our children to hate.

(APPLAUSE)

Perhaps it softens hearts towards those lost young men, tens and tens of thousands caught up in the criminal-justice system and lead us to make sure that that system’s not infected with bias.

(APPLAUSE)

… that we embrace changes in how we train and equip our police so that the bonds of trust between law enforcement…

(APPLAUSE)

… and the communities they serve make us all safer and more secure.

(APPLAUSE)

Maybe we now realize the way a racial bias can infect us even when we don’t realize it so that we’re guarding against not just racial slurs but we’re also guarding against the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for a job interview but not Jamal…

(APPLAUSE)

… so that we search our hearts when we consider laws to make it harder for some of our fellow citizens to vote…

(APPLAUSE)

… by recognizing our common humanity, by treating every child as important, regardless of the color of their skin…

(APPLAUSE)

… or the station into which they were born and to do what’s necessary to make opportunity real for every American. By doing that, we express God’s grace.

(APPLAUSE)

For too long…

(APPLAUSE)

For too long, we’ve been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation.

(APPLAUSE)

Sporadically, our eyes are open when eight of our brothers and sisters are cut down in a church basement, 12 in a movie theater, 26 in an elementary school. But I hope we also see the 30 precious lives cut short by gun violence in this country every single day…

(APPLAUSE)

… the countless more whose lives are forever changed, the survivors crippled, the children traumatized and fearful every day as they walk to school, the husband who will never feel his wife’s warm touch, the entire communities whose grief overflows every time they have to watch what happened to them happening to some other place.

The vast majority of Americans, the majority of gun owners want to do something about this. We see that now.

(APPLAUSE)

And I’m convinced that by acknowledging the pain and loss of others, even as we respect the traditions, ways of life that make up this beloved country, by making the moral choice to change, we express God’s grace.

(APPLAUSE)

We don’t earn grace. We’re all sinners. We don’t deserve it.

(APPLAUSE)

But God gives it to us anyway.

(APPLAUSE)

And we choose how to receive it. It’s our decision how to honor it.

None of us can or should expect a transformation in race relations overnight. Every time something like this happens, somebody says, “We have to have a conversation about race.” We talk a lot about race.

(APPLAUSE)

There’s no shortcut. We don’t need more talk.

(APPLAUSE)

None of us should believe that a handful of gun safety measures will prevent every tragedy.

It will not. People of good will will continue to debate the merits of various policies as our democracy requires — the big, raucous place, America is. And there are good people on both sides of these debates.

Whatever solutions we find will necessarily be incomplete. But it would be a betrayal of everything Reverend Pinckney stood for, I believe, if we allow ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again.

(APPLAUSE)

Once the eulogies have been delivered, once the TV cameras move on, to go back to business as usual. That’s what we so often do to avoid uncomfortable truths about the prejudice that still infects our society.

(APPLAUSE)

To settle for symbolic gestures without following up with the hard work of more lasting change, that’s how we lose our way again. It would be a refutation of the forgiveness expressed by those families if we merely slipped into old habits whereby those who disagree with us are not merely wrong, but bad; where we shout instead of listen; where we barricade ourselves behind preconceived notions or well-practiced cynicism.

Reverend Pinckney once said, “Across the south, we have a deep appreciation of history. We haven’t always had a deep appreciation of each other’s history.”

(APPLAUSE)

What is true in the south is true for America. Clem understood that justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other; that my liberty depends on you being free, too.

(APPLAUSE)

That — that history can’t be a sword to justify injustice or a shield against progress. It must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, how to break the cycle, a roadway toward a better world. He knew that the path of grace involves an open mind. But more importantly, an open heart.

That’s what I felt this week — an open heart. That more than any particular policy or analysis is what’s called upon right now, I think. It’s what a friend of mine, the writer Marilyn Robinson, calls “that reservoir of goodness beyond and of another kind, that we are able to do each other in the ordinary cause of things.”

That reservoir of goodness. If we can find that grace, anything is possible.

(APPLAUSE)

If we can tap that grace, everything can change. Amazing grace, amazing grace.

Amazing grace…

(SINGING)

(APPLAUSE)

… how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind, but now, I see.

(APPLAUSE)

Clementa Pinckney found that grace…

(APPLAUSE)

… Cynthia Hurd found that grace…

(APPLAUSE)

… Susie Jackson found that grace…

(APPLAUSE)

… Ethel Lance found that grace…

(APPLAUSE)

… DePayne Middleton Doctor found that grace…

(APPLAUSE)

… Tywanza Sanders found that grace…

(APPLAUSE)

… Daniel L. Simmons, Sr. found that grace…

(APPLAUSE)

… Sharonda Coleman-Singleton found that grace…

(APPLAUSE)

… Myra Thompson found that grace…

(APPLAUSE)

… through the example of their lives. They’ve now passed it onto us. May we find ourselves worthy of that precious and extraordinary gift as long as our lives endure.

May grace now lead them home. May God continue to shed His Grace on the United States of America.

 

Dr. Martin Luther King said:

“Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.”

Think it’s time Cornel West heed those words.

What Martin Luther King Actually Accomplished

“The negro has no rights which the white man is bound to respect”

March 6, 1857, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, of the United States Supreme Court This article talks a bit about the horrors of the Jim Crow era in America.

Mary Turner 1918 Eight Months Pregnant Mobs lynched Mary Turner on May 17, 1918 in Lowndes County. Georgia because she vowed to have those responsible for killing her husband arrested. Her husband was arrested in connection with the shooting and killing Hampton Smith, a white farmer for whom the couple had worked, and wounding his wife. Sidney Johnson. a Black, apparently killed Smith because he was tired of the farmer’s abuse. Unable to find Johnson. the killers lynched eight other Blacks Including Hayes Turner and his wife Mary. The mob hanged Mary by her feet, poured gasoline and oil on her and set fire to her body. One white man sliced her open and Mrs. Turner’s baby tumbled to the ground with a “little cry” and the mob stomped the baby to death and sprayed bullets into Mary Turner.  

So…One of the things MLK did was to finally put the skids, if not the end to this sort of “domestic terrorism”, against black folks. Now, our black conservative Uncle Toms would like you believe that liberals are using the past as an excuse for everything. But do you see the Jewish people forgetting the Holocaust? Black conservatives, and white conservative racists they support are big on black on black violence. But the thing hy won’t tell you, and you will never find in their pseudo-scientific statistics is that 92% of the men locked up or child sexual abuse …Are white. During Jim Crow white men were free to rape, sodomize and brutalize not only black women…But black children. While lynchings were sometimes reported, these other categories of violence and sexual predation were entirely swept under the rug.

The second thing they lie about is the violence statistics. Sexually abusing a child in the FBI’s version of the violent crime world doesn’t qualify as a “violent crime” – and thus is excludes from the statistics which include murder, and the rape of adult women (or men). We are going to count veggies, but green tomatoes don’t count.

Back to that pre-Civil Rights time – there was little or no hope of actually prosecuting these white criminals in the southern “Justice” system. Laying the groundwork of why black folk will never trust the conservative judges the right is so desperate to appoint.

Gaining the right to walk down the street unmolested may not seem like that big a deal solely from a cynical intellectual viewpoint – but it is pretty freaking important if it is you trying to get down the street.

Most of you have no idea what Martin Luther King actually did

This will be a very short diary.  It will not contain any links or any scholarly references.  It is about a very narrow topic, from a very personal, subjective perspective.

The topic at hand is what Martin Luther King actually did, what it was that he actually accomplished.

The reason I’m posting this is because there were dueling diaries over the weekend about Dr. King’s legacy, and there is a diary up now (not on the rec list but on the recent list) entitled, “Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Dream Not Yet Realized.”  I’m sure the diarist means well as did the others.  But what most people who reference Dr. King seem not to know is how Dr. King actually changed the subjective experience of life in the United States for African Americans.  And yeah, I said for African Americans, not for Americans, because his main impact was his effect on the lives of African Americans, not on Americans in general.  His main impactwas not to make white people nicer or fairer.  That’s why some of us who are African Americans get a bit possessive about his legacy.  Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy, despite what our civil religion tells us, is not color blind.

I remember that many years ago, when I was a smart ass home from first year of college, I was standing in the kitchen arguing with my father.  My head was full of newly discovered political ideologies and black nationalism, and I had just read the Autobiography of Malcolm X, probably for the second time.

A bit of context.  My father was from a background, which if we were talking about Europe or Latin America, we would call, “peasant” origin, although he had risen solidly into the working-middle class.  He was from rural Virginia and his parents had been tobacco farmers.  I spent two weeks or so every summer on the farm of my grandmother and step grandfather.  They had no running water, no gas, a wood burning stove, no bathtubs or toilets but an outhouse, pot belly stoves for heat in the winter, a giant wood pile, a smoke house where hams and bacon hung, chickens, pigs, semi wild housecats that lived outdoors, no tractor or car, but an old plow horse and plows and other horse drawn implements, and electricity only after I was about 8 years old.  The area did not have high schools for blacks and my father went as far as the seventh grade in a one room schoolhouse.  All four of his grandparents, whom he had known as a child, had been born slaves.  It was mainly because of World War II and urbanization that my father left that life.

They lived in a valley or hollow or “holler” in which all the landowners and tenants were black.  In the morning if you wanted to talk to cousin Taft, you would walk down to behind the outhouse and yell across the valley, “Heeeyyyy Taaaaft,” and you could see him far, far in the distance, come out of his cabin and yell back.

On the one hand, this was a pleasant situation because they lived in isolation from white people.  On the other hand, they did have to leave the valley to go to town where all the rigid rules of Jim Crow applied.  By the time I was little, my people had been in this country for six generations (going back, according to oral rendering of our genealogy, to Africa Jones and Mama Suki), much more under slavery than under freedom, and all of it under some form of racial terrorism, which had inculcated many humiliating behavior patterns.

Anyway that’s background.  I think we were kind of typical as African Americans in the pre Civil Rights era went.

So anyway, I was having this argument with my father about Martin Luther King and how his message was too conservative compared to Malcolm X’s message.  My father got really angry at me.  It wasn’t that he disliked Malcolm X, but his point was that Malcolm X hadn’t accomplished anything as Dr. King had.

I was kind of sarcastic and asked something like, so what did Martin Luther King accomplish other than giving his “I have a dream speech.”

Before I tell you what my father told me, I want to digress.  Because at this point in our amnesiac national existence, my question pretty much reflects the national civic religion view of what Dr. King accomplished.  He gave this great speech.  Or some people say, “he marched.”  I was so angry at Mrs. Clinton during the primaries when she said that Dr. King marched, but it was LBJ who delivered the Civil Rights Act.

At this point, I would like to remind everyone exactly what Martin Luther King did, and it wasn’t that he “marched” or gave a great speech.

My father told me with a sort of cold fury, “Dr. King ended the terror of living in the south.”

Please let this sink in and and take my word and the word of my late father on this.  If you are a white person who has always lived in the U.S. and never under a brutal dictatorship, you probably don’t know what my father was talking about.

But this is what the great Dr. Martin Luther King accomplished.  Not that he marched, nor that he gave speeches.

He ended the terror of living as a black person, especially in the south.

I’m guessing that most of you, especially those having come fresh from seeing “The Help,” may not understand what this was all about.  But living in the south (and in parts of the mid west and in many ghettos of the north) was living under terrorism.

It wasn’t that black people had to use a separate drinking fountain or couldn’t sit at lunch counters, or had to sit in the back of the bus.

You really must disabuse yourself of this idea.  Lunch counters and buses were crucial symbolic planes of struggle that the civil rights movement decided to use to dramatize the issue, but the main suffering in the south did not come from our inability to drink from the same fountain, ride in the front of the bus or eat lunch at Woolworth’s.

It was that white people, mostly white men, occasionally went berserk, and grabbed random black people, usually men, and lynched them.  You all know about lynching.  But you may forget or not know that white people also randomly beat black people, and the black people could not fight back, for fear of even worse punishment.

This constant low level dread of atavistic violence is what kept the system running.  It made life miserable, stressful and terrifying for black people.

White people also occasionally tried black people, especially black men, for crimes for which they could not conceivably be guilty.  With the willing participation of white women, they often accused black men of “assault,” which could be anything from rape to not taking off one’s hat, to “reckless eyeballing.”

This is going to sound awful and perhaps a stain on my late father’s memory, but when I was little, before the civil rights movement, my father taught me many, many humiliating practices in order to prevent the random, terroristic, berserk behavior of white people.  The one I remember most is that when walking down the street in New York City side by side, hand in hand with my hero-father, if a white woman approached on the same sidewalk, I was to take off my hat and walk behind my father, because he had been taught in the south that black males for some reason were supposed to walk single file in the presence of any white lady.

This was just one of many humiliating practices we were taught to prevent white people from going berserk.

I remember a huge family reunion one August with my aunts and uncles and cousins gathered around my grandparent’s vast breakfast table laden with food from the farm, and the state troopers drove up to the house with a car full of rifles and shotguns, and everyone went kind of weirdly blank.  They put on the masks that black people used back then to not provoke white berserkness.  My strong, valiant, self educated, articulate uncles, whom I adored, became shuffling, Step-N-Fetchits to avoid provoking the white men.  Fortunately the troopers were only looking for an escaped convict.  Afterward, the women, my aunts, were furious at the humiliating performance of the men, and said so, something that even a child could understand.

This is the climate of fear that Dr. King ended.

If you didn’t get taught such things, let alone experience them, I caution you against invoking the memory of Dr. King as though he belongs exclusively to you and not primarily to African Americans.

The question is, how did Dr. King do this — and of course, he didn’t do it alone.

(Of all the other civil rights leaders who helped Dr. King end this reign of terror, I think the most under appreciated is James Farmer, who founded the Congress of Racial Equality and was a leader of non-violent resistance, and taught the practices of non violent resistance.)

So what did they do?

They told us: — whatever you are most afraid of doing vis a vis white people, go do it.  Go ahead down to city hall and try to register to vote, even if they say no, even if they take your name down.

Go ahead sit at that lunch counter.  Sue the local school board.  All things that most black people would have said back then, without exaggeration, were stark raving insane and would get you killed.

If we do it all together, we’ll be OK.

They made black people experience the worst of the worst, collectively, that white people could dish out, and discover that it wasn’t that bad.  They taught black people how to take a beating — from the southern cops, from police dogs, from fire department hoses.  They actually coached young people how to crouch, cover their heads with their arms and take the beating.  They taught people how to go to jail, which terrified most decent people.

And you know what?  The worst of the worst, wasn’t that bad.

Once people had been beaten, had dogs sicked on them, had fire hoses sprayed on them, and been thrown in jail, you know what happened?

These magnificent young black people began singing freedom songs in jail.

That, my friends, is what ended the terrorism of the south.  Confronting your worst fears, living through it, and breaking out in a deep throated freedom song.  The jailers knew they had lost when they beat the crap out of these young Negroes and the jailed, beaten young people began to sing joyously, first in one town then in another.  This is what the writer, James Baldwin, captured like no other writer of the era.

Please let this sink in.  It wasn’t marches or speeches.  It was taking a severe beating, surviving and realizing that our fears were mostly illusory and that we were free.

So yes, Dr. King had many other goals, many other more transcendent, non-racial, policy goals, goals that apply to white people too, like ending poverty, reducing the war like aspects of our foreign policy, promoting the New Deal goal of universal employment, and so on.  But his main accomplishment was ending 200 years of racial terrorism, by getting black people to confront their fears.  So please don’t tell me that Martin Luther King’s dream has not been achieved, unless you knew what racial terrorism was like back then and can make a convincing case you still feel it today.  If you did not go through that transition, you’re not qualified to say that the dream was not accomplished.

That is what Dr. King did — not march, not give good speeches.  He crisscrossed the south organizing people, helping them not be afraid, and encouraging them, like Gandhi did in India, to take the beating that they had been trying to avoid all their lives.

Once the beating was over, we were free.

It wasn’t the Civil Rights Act, or the Voting Rights Act or the Fair Housing Act that freed us.  It was taking the beating and thereafter not being afraid.  So, sorry Mrs. Clinton, as much as I admire you, you were wrong on this one.  Our people freed ourselves and those Acts, as important as they were, were only white people officially recognizing what we had done.

PS.  I really shouldn’t have to add this but please — don’t ever confuse someone criticizing you or telling you bad things over the internet with what happened to people during the civil rights movement.  Don’t.  Just don’t do it.  Don’t go there.

PSS  Weird, but it kind of sounds like what V did to Evie.

UPDATE:  There is a major, major hole in this essay as pointed out by FrankAletha downthread — While I was focusing on the effect on black men, she points out that similarly randomized sexual violence against black women was as severe and common and probably more so, because while violence against black men was ritualistic, violence against black women was routine.

UPDATE 2: Rec list — I’m honored!!!

He’s Black!

At least back in 1939 when Marian Anderson had to sing here (on the National Mall) “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” rather than at the Constitution Hall because they said the reason was she was black. At least they were honest back then. Today in American politics you have people like Donald Trump who hangs around with Mitt Romney talking about the president being an illegal immigrant, basically being a con artist on the street corner. You’ve got people talking about nullification of the law of the land. You got people talking impeachment like Coburn. You’ve got Ted Cruz out there. They never say their problem with Obama is that he is black, but look at the pattern. The pattern is rejection of his legitimacy at the first point, saying he is not really here legally. It’s rejection of the law he has passed, the landmark bill passed in 2010. It’s an attempt to impeach him on no grounds. At least the Daughters of the American Revolution knew what they were saying, and they said it out loud. He’s black. She’s black, she can’t sing here. These guys today use all of the techniques of nullification and talking about illegitimacy and accusing the president of being a crook basically for even being president because he’s here illegally. And then they talk about impeaching him on grounds they can’t even come up with. At least in the old days they were honest about it. Today, they’re not. And that’s how rough it’s going to be today, I think. – CHRIS MATTHEWS

If There Were a 1% Debate… MLK vs. Romney

What would MLK do? What would MLK say?

There is very little evidence that MLK would have anything good to say about today’s Republican Party. Indeed – for many folks today’s Republican have gone about as low as you can go.

Here is a mash up of points by MLK and “Willard” Romney…

The Black Church Joins Occupy

No surprise here. The Civil Rights Movement was about Justice, including economic justice.

African American pastors express support for Occupy movement

As the country observed Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Rev. Jamal Harrison Bryant was outside the District headquarters of the Federal Reserve, protesting.

Instead of lingering at an MLK memorial prayer breakfast with the Rev. Al Sharpton and other icons of the civil rights movement, the Rev. Delman Coates also made his way to the protest, which included churchgoers, students and people from the Occupy Wall Streetmovement.

And rather than reminiscing about old speeches and discussing King’s legacy, the Rev. Graylan S. Hagler used his airtime on WPFW, a public radio station, to note the similarities between the Occupy movement and those who camped in “Resurrection City,” in the shadows of the Washington Monument, after King was slain.

growing number of African American pastors in the Washington area are embracing the Occupy movement. In December, leaders of Occupy D.C. left their encampments at McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza to worship at Empowerment Temple, Bryant’s church in Baltimore. Hagler has held services on Freedom Plaza. Others donate food and clothing to protesters. And Bryant, who ministers to many in the Maryland suburbs, co-founded Occupy the Dream with former NAACP leader Benjamin Chavis Muhammad.

The pastors’ pleas for economic justice sound a lot like King’s.

“This is the continuation of the [civil rights] movement. It was the economic movement that King was killed for,” said Hagler, pastor of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Northeast Washington.

Coates, pastor of Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, echoed Hagler’s sentiments.

“When Dr. King was killed, he was . . .fighting for the rights of sanitation workers,” he said. “It is critically important that we relate our faith to issues of economic justice and systemic inequality.”

Some critics say the focus of the Occupy movement, which by design does not have leaders, is unclear. But Bryant, who observed the movement from a distance before deciding he wanted to be part of it, was adamant that Occupy the Dream has a defined agenda.

“Number one, we are asking for more Pell grants so that our young people might be able to compete and go to colleges and universities,’’ he said. “Number two, we are asking for an immediate freezing on foreclosures.” The group is also seeking billions of dollars “from Wall Street for economic development and for job training.”

Beginning in February, Bryant plans to launch a campaign to urge people to pull their money out of their banks and to move it to a minority-owned financial institution.

Bryant, 40, a former national youth director for the NAACP, said his involvement in Occupy the Dream feels like a “coming home” to his civil rights roots.

“I think the Occupy Wall Street movement has held the legacy of Dr. King and has brought the church back into accountability,” Bryant said. “Dr. King would be here today. He wouldn’t be at a breakfast; he wouldn’t be at a mall. He would be here with us.”

But some pastors hesitate to throw their support behind Occupy.

The Rev. William Bennett, pastor of Good Success Christian Church and Ministries in Northeast and a founding member of the Washington Interfath Network, hasn’t joined. But, he said, “I understand what they are fighting for.”

“We have not had an economic time like this since the Great Depression, and it does call for some actions,” Bennett said. “But what I have observed . . . is that there are not clear goals and objectives. The Occupy movement does seem to be organized with a goal to create chaos. The civil rights movement was organized with a clear list of demands.”

The Rev. Joe Watkins, pastor of Evangelical Lutheran Church in Philadelphia, said churches should stick to their primary mission.

“The role of the church is to lead people to Christ and to tell them the good news and to live the good news,” Watkins said. “The young people part of the Occupy movement are just as precious as anybody. But the primary focus of the church is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.” (more)

Fred Shuttlesworth – Civil Rights Pioneer

A brave sould has passed. Fred Shuttlesworth was one of the early leaders in Birmingham, Alabama who spoke out from the pulpit – and survived beating beaten and bombed as a result.

Wish we still had some leaders around with his sort of courage.

“I went to jail 30 or 40 times, not for fighting or stealing or drugs.  I went to jail for a good thing, trying to make a difference.” –  Fred Shuttlesworth to a group of schoolchildren in 1997

Birmingham civil rights leader Fred Shuttlesworth dies

The Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, who was once described by Martin Luther King Jr. as “the most courageous civil rights fighter in the South,” died in Birmingham, Alabama, on Wednesday at age 89.

Shuttlesworth, who had been in declining health, passed away at the Princeton Baptist Medical Center, hospital spokeswoman Jennifer Dodd told Reuters.

A major leader in the civil rights movement, Shuttlesworth was beaten, bombed and injured by fire hoses for his public stances against segregation in Birmingham in the 1950s and 1960s.

Though he and King worked closely together and both helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Shuttlesworth often bristled against his more contemplative counterpart.

“He was sometimes slow in doing things. Too slow for me,” Shuttlesworth said in an interview at age 85. “He’d meditate on things a lot and agonize over them. I think if things need doing, be about them.”

Shuttlesworth, who served as pastor of the Bethel Baptist Church and several other churches in Birmingham, began hammering away at that city’s hard shell of segregation in the early 1950s.

He formed the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights in May 1956 and urged its members to take a stand against segregated buses. He refused to relent even after his home was bombed on Christmas Day in 1956. He and his family escaped unharmed.

“When he came out covered in rubble, we knew he was anointed to lead the movement,” the late Rev. Abraham Woods, a fellow activist, said in a 2007 interview.

Warned by a Klansman police officer to vacate the city, Shuttlesworth said he shot back: “I wasn’t saved to run.”

The minister later was beaten by a mob with baseball bats, chains and brass knuckles as he tried to enroll his children in an all-white school and hospitalized after being sprayed by fire hoses during a demonstration against segregation.

Shuttlesworth once told Reuters he had expected to die by age 40 for his civil rights efforts. He had vowed “to kill segregation or be killed by it.”

For his own safety, he left Alabama in 1961 to lead a church in Cincinnati, Ohio. But he still marshaled forces for change in the South, including helping organize the historic march for voting rights from Selma to Montgomery in 1965.

The march ended in a bloody police attack, sparking civil rights protests.

During a commemoration of “Bloody Sunday” in March 2007, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama pushed Shuttlesworth in his wheelchair across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where the attack occurred.

“We have truly lost a great soldier, a warrior for civil rights,” Jefferson County Commission President Pro tem Sandra Little Brown said. “I am serving on the back of the changes that he was a part of for people of color.”

What Would King Do?

This from a website, “Campaign for America’s Future”, written by Terrence Heath –

MLK’s Dream Deferred

Dr. King’s words, invoked during President Obama’s inauguration, suggest what he would call us to remember and how he would challenge us today.

As long as there is poverty in the world I can never be rich, even if I have a billion dollars. As long as diseases are rampant and millions of people in this world cannot expect to live more than twenty-eight or thirty years, I can never be totally healthy even if I just got a good checkup at the Mayo Clinic. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the way our world is made. No individual or nation can stand our boasting of being independent. We are interdependent.

The ultimate measure of a man or woman is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others. In dangerous valleys and hazardous pathways, he will lift some bruised and beaten brother or sister to a higher and more noble life.”

But he would not stop there.

It was popular in Right Wing circles for a while to try and steal from MLK’s words to justify their perverted logic. Fortunately that level of insanity has largely ceased, if for no other reason than the explosive nature of the “conversations” that typically followed.

Funny thing is, I don’t think King would be fighting just for the poor, and lower middle class in America right now… I think he would be fighting to change a system which has become so perverted there is no reasonable expectation of living as well as our parents did – or being able to hold a job even after pushing all the right buttons along the educational highway while CEOs and Wall Street Barons make billions in bonuses and salary.

Yeah…Something is wrong here.

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 178 other followers