Mon Jan 18th, 2010 at 01:08:53 PM EST
return our calls.
Today is Black History Month formerly known as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The date is a national holiday in the USA. All trading on US exchanges is suspended. Banks are closed. Government offices are closed. Schools and libraries are closed. Today, everything that anyone ever wanted to know or to remember about the history of Africa, the travails and triumphs of the diaspora, the political and social achievements of countless people is hereforth collapsed into twenty-four hours of leisure. Punctuated by predictable television programming and solemn testaments, notably that given in the mere presence of the first African American president of the United States. I'm told, he said again, Martin Luther King Jr. "made it possible for me to be here today" and urged Americans to recognize progress comes in fits and starts. Just ten percent more to the mountain top.
Mr King is dead, so is black history, some fear, though habits pass unwilling. In that spirit, I'm surrendering the drift of literature I once posted elsewhere, dumb server, and was lost.
I've got a date to play Disney-edition Monopoly with the ME now.
return our calls.
Allen Willis is the documentary filmmaker whose work is archived at Stanford University. You may screen a video M.L. King's 14 April 1967 speech "The Other America" found here (Real Player). You may read the transcript of the speech pdf. The speech itself is twelve pages. Twenty additional pages document the proceedings of the Aurora Forum following the film's screening. Below are excerpts that I found particularly interesting in juxtaposition to the purported significance of Mr Obama's nomination to be president of the United States as well a to much exercised, published anticipation of an address commemorating one speech by Dr King. I was there, you know, in DC in August 1963, making me possibly the first "unborn child" citizen to disabuse now over the interboobz the the distinction of moral prescience demanded of interfaith deacons. At the time, the address made no impression upon me.
Dean Napier, Mr Bell; members of the faculty and members of the student body of this great institution of learning; ladies and gentlemen.
Now there are several things that one could talk about before such a large, concerned and enlightened audience. There are so many problems facing our nation and our world, that one could just take off anywhere. But today I would like to talk mainly about the race problems since I'll have to rush right out and go to New York to talk about Vietnam tomorrow, and I've been talking about it a great deal this week and weeks before that.
But I'd like to use a subject from which to speak this afternoon, the Other America. And I use this subject because there are literally two Americas. One America is beautiful for situation. And, in a sense, this America is the habitat of millions of people who have food and material necessities for their bodies; and culture and education for their minds; and freedom and human dignity for their spirits. In this America, millions of people experience every day the opportunity of having life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in all of their dimensions. And in this America millions of young people grow up in the sunlight of opportunity.
But tragically and unfortunately, there is another America. This other America has a daily ugliness about it that constantly transforms the ebulliency of hope into the fatigue of despair. In this America millions of work-starved men walk the streets daily in search for jobs that do not exist. In this America millions of people find themselves living in rat-infested, vermin filled slums. In this America people are poor by the millions. They find themselves perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.
In a sense, the greatest tragedy of this other America is what it does to little children. Little children in this other America are forced to grow up with clouds of inferiority forming every day in their little mental skies. And as we look at this other America, we see it as an arena of blasted hopes and shattered dreams. Many people of various backgrounds live in this other America. Some are Mexican-Americans, some are Puerto Ricans, some are Indians, some happen to be from other groups. Millions of them are Appalachian whites. But probably the largest group in this other America in proportion to its size in the population is the American Negro.
Ten days later Mr King went to New York to participate in a protest march from Central Park to the UN. Mr LaFayette, speaking at the Aurora Forum some forty years later, estimates the numbers of people rallied were nearly one million -- too many to breach the UN's plaza before Dr King had finished the other famous speech, the "Beyond Vietnam" excoriation, 27 April 1967
Now let me say that the struggle for Civil Rights and the struggle to make these two Americas one America, is much more difficult today than it was five or ten years ago. Fro about a decade or maybe twelve years, we've struggled all across the South in glorious struggles to get rid of legal, overt segregation and all of the humiliation that surrounded that system of segregation.
In a sense this was a struggle for decency; we could not go to a lunch counter in so many instances and get a hamburger or a cup of coffee. We could not make use of public accommodations. Public transportation was segregated, and often we had to sit in the back and within transportation --transportation within cities-- we often had to stand over empty seats because sections were reserved for whites only. We did not have the right to vote in so many areas of the South. And the struggle was to deal with these problems.
Mr King performs here an exegesis preceded by public data points that describe unemployment. His inferences presage marginalized debates over policy formulations culled from "shadow statistics" of the US economy today.
But we must see that the struggle today is much more difficult. It's more difficult today because we are struggling now for genuine equality. And it's much easier to integrate a lunch counter than it is to guarantee a liveable income and a good solid job. It's much easier to guarantee the right to vote than it is to guarantee the right to live in sanitary, decent housing conditions. It is much easier to integrate a public park than it is to make genuine, quality, integrated education a reality. And so today we are struggling for something which says we demand genuine equality.
It's not merely a struggle against extremist behavior toward Negroes. And I'm convinced that many of the very people who supported us in the struggle in the South are not willing to go all the way now. I came to see this in a very difficult and painful way in Chicago the last year where I've lived and worked. Some of the peole who came quickly to march with us in Selma and Birmingham weren't active around Chicago. And I came to see that so many people who supported morally and even financially what we were doing in Birmingham and Selma, were really outraged against the extremist behavior of Bull Connor and Jim Clark toward Negroes, rather than believing in genuine equality for Negroes. And I think this is what we've gotta see now, and this is what makes the struggle more difficult.
It has come to my attention this morning that Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor, is advocating for applications of "income-based affirmative action in college admissions . This is a paradigm well-developed by litigants against "reverse racism" and racial preferences. Mr Reich suggests this policy will mitigate income inequality, in the long run, and "the fires of economic resentment" over the short run. "[L]ower-income people," he says, "without adequate education and connections are competing for a smaller and smaller slice of the economic pie." Brother bakho at Economistview writes," Sounds like Pell Grants. Put more money in them." Quite, to borrow a Tanta-(euphem)ism. We are all subprime now.
And this all leads me to say something about another discussion that we hear a great deal, and that is the so-called 'white backlash.' I would like to honestly say to you that the white backlash is merely a new name for an old phenomenon. It's not something that just came into being because shouts of Black Power, or because Negroes engaged in riots in Watts, for instance. The fact is that the state of California voted a Fair Housing bill out of existence before anybody shouted Black Power, or before anybody rioted in Watts.
It may well be that shouts of Black Power and riots in Watts and the Harlems and the other areas, are the consequences of the white backlash rather than the cause of them. What is necessary to see is that there has never been a single solid monistic determined commitment on the part of the vast majority of white Americans on the whole question of Civil Rights and on the whole question of racial equality. This is something that truth impels all men of good will to admit.
I note here with interest Dr King's observation "That in a real sense it is impractical for the Negro to even think of mounting a violent revolution in the United States." It has not been uncommon to find however interboobz commenters predicting violence instigated by African Americans in the event, first, Mr Obama failed to win his party's nomination, then if Mr Obama fails to win the general election. This certainty is wishful thinking for a great number of convictions, not least of which the fallacy that Mr Obama's assay --win or lose-- is the end of "black politics."
But after saying this, let me say another thing which gives the other side, and that is that although it may be true that morality cannot be legislated, behavior can be regulated. Even though it may be true that the law cannot change the heart, it can restrain the heartless. Even though it may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, it can restrain him from lynching me. And I think that's pretty important also. And so while the law may not change the hearts of men, it can and it does change the habits of men. And when you begin to change the habits of men, pretty soon the attitudes will be changed; pretty soon the hearts will be changed. And I'm convinced that we still need strong civil rights legislation. And there is a bill before Congress right now to have a national or federal Open Housing Bill. A federal law declaring discrimination in housing unconstitutional.
They say, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
Let me say another thing that's more in the realm of the spirit I guess, that is that if we are to go on in the days ahead and make true brotherhood a reality, it is necessary for us to realized more than ever before, that the destinies of the Negro and the white man are tied together. Now there are still a lot of people who don't realize this. The racists still don't realize this. But it is a fact now that Negroes and whites are tied together, and we need each other. The Negro needs the white man to save him from his fear. The white man needs the Negro to save him from his guilt. We are tied together in so many ways; our language, our music, our cultural patterns, our material prosperity, and even our food are an amalgam of black and white.
And so there can be no separate path to power and fulfillment that does not intersect white groups. There can be no separate white path to power and fulfillment short of social disaster. It does not recognize the need of sharing that power with black aspirations for freedom and justice. We must com to see now that integration is not merely a romantic or aesthetic something where you merely add color to a still predominantly white power structure. Integration must be seen also in political terms where there is shared power, where black men and white men share power together to build a new and great nation.