Friday, January 28, 2011

Time to Reignite His Dream

Most Americans are familiar with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech of 1963. That epic speech represents the overly-romanticized version of King that too many historians and the mainstream media promote year-in and year-out. But several years later, as King's analysis had matured, there was another dream -- one cut short by an assassin's bullet.

Dr. King (as did Malcolm X too) came to realize that the only way truly to overcome the evil of racism was to do battle with the concurrent evils of economic exploitation and war. Attacking one element of this trifecta, while ignoring the other two, would doom the effort. And so, during the latter months of 1967, King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference put together the pieces of the Poor People's Campaign.
He intended to dramatize the suffering of the nation's poor by bringing them to the capital. Poor people would live together on the National Mall - the long strip of land between the U.S. Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial - and engage in widespread civil disobedience. King wanted to force the federal government to deal with poverty.

...As the date grew closer for the start of the Campaign, King vowed that he and others would engage in "militant" civil disobedience. The plan was to disrupt the daily functioning of the capital - for instance, by staging sit-ins at the Department of Agriculture or the Department of the Interior - until Congress and the White House got serious about the concerns of poor people. The longer the federal government delayed, King promised, the more the demonstrators would escalate their protests.

King was careful to emphasize, however, that the civil disobedience he and others carried out would be nonviolent. In all his life as a civil rights leader, King never wavered in his opposition to violence. As he reminded his audience at the annual SCLC convention in August of 1967, using violence to try to change society was not only morally wrong, it almost never worked...
While many things have changed since 1968, the triple-headed monster of racism, poverty and war remains. In many regions of this country, blacks still fare far worse than their white counterparts, but the extreme vitriol of racism is more directly focused on Latinos. Poverty is on the increase as jobs vanish, homes are foreclosed on and families go bankrupt under a mountain of debt. And war, as it was in 1968, continues to suck the lifeblood out of the US economy.

Don't you think it's time we make King's dream a reality? We should put into practice his vision from 1967-68.

(Note: There is a group that is organizing an event called "The March to Fulfill the Dream." For reasons I don't understand, they have chosen to march from New Orleans to Detroit from April 4 - June 20. While I support their effort, I still think we need to follow King's vision to gather in Washington, DC. to demand from our elected leaders that they seriously begin to dismantle the war machine so we can tackle the issues of racism and poverty.)

1 comment:

  1. Following the river maybe? It doesn't make any sense to me either.


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