Monday, January 18, 2021

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2021

The video seems to have slipped away, but 10 years ago (or so), Chris Hayes was surprised to find out the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was not a universally beloved figure before his assassination and elevation to secular American saint.  He wasn't, of course.  King was jailed in Birmingham, but it wasn't just the South that jailed him, or rejected him.  Even WaPo turned against King after his famous anti-war sermon in Riverside Church.  And how soon we forget King's "I Have a Dream!" speech was offered at a march for social justice and economic equality:

The critics of the civil rights movement in America said much the same thing. Yet pre-eminent oral historian Studs Terkel, for his epic book RACE, interviewed dozens of African Americans for this seminal work, and suggested this ragtag element was one of the underpinning strengths of the civil rights movements. In fact, as one protester said, it really wasn't about 'blackness' or being allowed to sit in the bus or use the same toilets, it was about poverty and about class. " They play off one race against the other. That white kid on the picket line got the same problems as that black kid who don't have a job. He's on strike because his wages aren't what they supposed to be," said Union steel worker, Joseph Robinson.

And says Little Dovie Thurman, heavily involved in the civil rights struggle: "At first I couldn't understand why they hated Dr King so much. Then I began to see he wasn't just working with poor black and white. He was talking at unionizing, and against the war, all kinds of issues. That gave him a force of power that they didn't want him to have. They had to get him. He know that black power, white power, wasn't going to work. As long as he (King) was saying, "Let the black eat at the counter, let them go to the washroom," that was fine. But that didn't get at IT."

Little Dovie realised, as Martin Luther King did, that the struggle and the civil rights movement wasn't just about race, but rather a far bigger issue of understanding power and class distinction.

Which brings us back, doesn't it, to the "Twa Americas."

I've often done a post for this day.  I think today I'll leave it at this: 

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