Today is Doctor Martin Luther King, Junior’s seventy ninth birthday. Just in time for the latest political spat between Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. It seems that Ms. Clinton is being taken to task because she had the audacity to suggest that Doctor King’s dream for a united America started to become real when President Lydon Baines Johnson signed into law the bills driven by the civil rights movement. Mr. Obama says that he didn’t say anything about Ms. Clinton’s ill advised comment. He admits that he thought that her comment was in poor taste. However, he never said that her comment was in poor taste. And then to top this off, Robert Johnson, the billionaire founder of the modern minstrel channel Black Entertainment Television, is coming out swinging at Barack Obama and making poorly veiled innuendos to Mr. Obama’s rather embarrassing exuberance of a younger time. It is a racial melee that is sure to get nastier as more Democratic primaries and caucuses come closer.
For many people, Dr. King is the very epitome of the black community’s struggle for civil rights. He is very symbolic. But let’s keep things in perspective. A lot of people worked to put civil rights into law. A lot of people put their very lives on the line to get civil rights implemented. A lot of people paid with their lives to do what they could to get civil rights implemented. The vast majority of people who made these sacrifices were black people. But some white people made sacrifices as well, for whatever reason they may have had. These people sat in at food counters that refused to provide them service while people from the white community assaulted the protestors verbally and physically. Protestors were assaulted and then, to add insult to their injury, arrested for their peaceful demonstration. Medgar Evers was killed in his driveway as a cowardly Byron De La Beckwith shot him from the shadows. Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to relinquish her seat on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama and sparked the movement. Many black people were assaulted with police dogs, sprayed with fire hoses, beaten with police batons, and punished for being the kind of uppity niggers that would have the audacity to believe that they had the same value as white people. Little black girls were blown up in churches. People helping the black community register to vote were pulled over by the local sheriff and disappeared only to have their bodies found floating in the river days later.
Through this struggle, gangs of white people worked to keep the status quo and protect white privilege and fought to continue the subjugation of black people. Amazingly, many people with a white mindset today mimic this behavior of their white elders and segregationist ancestors. I don’t know of any white people who lost their lives on a dark two lane road because they were working hard to protect white privilege. I don’t know of many white people who were hanged from trees for fighting to keep black people subjugated. I don’t know of any white people who protested in quiet dignity and with great courage by crossing the racial divide and going into the black community to demand that white privilege be protected while black people assaulted them verbally and physically. White people didn’t have the police beating them with clubs and batons for fighting for the continuation of inequality and racial disparity. But so many people who fought for the black community were tortured and were killed at the hands of white people for what they believed in. Yet propaganda teaches us that blacks are more violent.
Although he was a significant figure head for change on behalf of the black community Doctor King did not do it alone. If he were alive today I don’t believe Doctor King would beat his chest and say that he was responsible in bringing civil rights laws to the America’s legal books. I would like to believe that genuine humility would keep the civil rights symbol from minimizing the efforts and contributions of so many people. He was not the singularity of the civil rights movement. The unity of the black community was that singularity.
Whatever civil rights laws exist today, watered down as they may be with claims of reverse discrimination and special treatment for minorities and unfair treatment for white people because the white community is obviously suffering from racial discrimination when compared to its black counterpart, would not have gotten on the books without significant help from politicians. Unfortunately, during this period in America’s history, there were no black politicians at the federal level to fight for the enactment of these laws. The way the American legal system works, in order to get these laws on the books, white politicians had to be persuaded to work for this cause. Initially, the protest of our elders and ancestors were designed not to change the minds of the local white racist who would see the errors of their ways and offer blacks a seat at their table of privilege. These peaceful protests were designed to obtain the compassion of people with the political muscle to make the change on behalf of the black community. Change was coming. The violence of white people couldn’t stop it. And it was better to make that change civilly, before black people decide to meet white people’s violence with violence of their own. Blacks and whites had to work together to get this accomplished.
Doctor King isn’t solely responsible for civil rights. He didn’t get help from President Johnson. The two didn’t do it together. The civil rights took a concerted effort from a variety of different sources from all over this country. A lot of people sowed the seeds that bore this fruit. It didn’t come from one person, two people, a hundred, or even a million. To say otherwise minimizes the sacrifices of a lot of people. A lot of these people were black. A lot of them were white. But it is one of the very few times the people in this country worked together to offset this disease of white privilege and black subjugation. To argue otherwise is to demonstrate a very juvenile understanding of the entire process of the civil rights struggle.
Unlike a lot of American presidents or presidential families, the Clintons have done better than most with respect to issues associated with racial matters. I know eight years ago I didn’t worry so much about working, housing, medical care, violation of my civil rights, and the like. They have made some glaring mistakes but they have also made some significant achievements for the black community. To suggest that the Clintons would bold facedly disrespect Doctor King is powerfully disingenuous. To publicly suggest that Barack Obama formerly indulged in behavior that he had the courage to admit and put behind him is out of line. People here have the opportunity to do something great that has never been done before in the history of the world. In a few months time the system that has perpetuated the epitome of white male privilege can be changed with our first president that is someone else. But instead, we are degenerating into the typical mudslinging so ingrained in the contest for a position in the American political system. None of this is doing anything to convince me to vote for either one and everything to make me look elsewhere. John Edwards is actually looking better and better.