Tens of thousands of people gathered on the National Mall this past Saturday to mark the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 March on Washington and what is one of the most important speeches in American history. But, as usual here in the *ahem* “Land of the Free,” there’s lots of whitewashing going on with the corporate media and ruling establishment reframing MLK’s “dream” solely – and safely – in the realm of racial equality rather than in the more “radical” realm of economic disparity – which is sadly worse today than it was 50 years ago.
As I wrote in a post over a year ago, “…income inequality is higher now than when Dr. King died in 1968 and the working class is worse off now than when King organized his first “Poor People’s Campaign,” in which he confronted issues of jobs, income and housing.
Dedrick Muhammad, Senior Director of the NAACP Economic Department and Nicole Kenney, NAACP Economic Program Specialist posted at the NAACP website,
“Dr. King states,’There is nothing new about poverty. What is new, however, is that we now have the resources to get rid of it.’ We are currently funding three unpopular wars that, like the Vietnam War, are diverting a significant amount of dollars that could be used to aggressively combat poverty and provide opportunities to reclaim the American Dream. It is simply a matter of priorities. Therefore, in the spirit of Dr. King’s legacy, let us reevaluate our country’s commitment to the groups Dr. King sacrificed his life to protect- the economically vulnerable and recognize that advancing a strong middle class economy must have progressive policy as the center of the struggle (e.g., social safety net, government investment in opportunity and equity, and progressive taxation on the wealthiest of Americans). Let’s not commemorate Dr. King’s memorial without recommitting ourselves to fulfilling the vision he and so many brave men and women fought for – economic justice for all.”
King said, “We believe the highest patriotism demands the ending of the war and the opening of a bloodless war to final victory over racism and poverty.” Then, as it is now, ensuring that society works for ALL is the highest form of patriotism.
This MLK day, as in years prior, people all over the country learned that Martin Luther King, Jr. “had a dream” that black children and white children would one day play and go to school together without having to call National Guard to protect them from the red-blooded CONservatives who can’t deal with, among many things, non-white people and/or progress. With the election of our first black President, we were told King’s dream is surely now a reality… so much so, that we can can now congratulate ourselves on our evolution by adding a made-in-China MLK statue to the National Mall. Tragically, among the many myths we’re told in America, it’s no surprise that MLK has undergone the standard whitewash from which he’s been transformed from an anti-militarism revolutionary for social & economic justice into an orator who pondered, Rodney King-style platitudes about “why can’t we all just get along?”
On King’s national holiday, our so-called “leaders” from sea to shining sea gave their standard speeches meant to, not rally us to change the structures that create poverty for the many and affluence for the few, but convince us all of the importance of the maintaining of the status quo while conservative governance drags us back to the bad-old-days of voter suppression we thought we left behind.
Yes, King said, “the arch of history is long, but it bends towards justice.” But he ALSO said, “The dispossessed of this nation – the poor, both white and Negro – live in a cruelly unjust society. They must organize a revolution against that injustice, not against the lives of the persons who are their fellow citizens, but against the structures through which the society is refusing to take means which have been called for, and which are at hand, to lift the load of poverty.”
Far from criticizing our broken system, the establishment seeks to convince us that King’s dream was that “men,” “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” – A palatable phrase our corporate-sponsored government can regularly regurgitate for the masses to swallow, while easily neglecting the message King concentrated on in the last years of his life – economic justice – a dream of which we’ve not even come close to bringing to fruition.
(Portions of this text were taken from an earlier post)
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