On Inauguration Day in 2009, many including myself pondered, “Imagine how Martin Luther King would feel today, after all the years of his dedication and sacrifice, to see a black man being inaugurated as President of the United States. ”
In light of the last two years of couched and outright racism against Pres. Obama, one might wonder how Rev. King would feel about that today. A triumph of content of character in 2008 followed by so much judgment of the same man over the next two years based on the color of his skin.
I think Rev. King would not be surprised. In his time, he experienced successes against racism but also saw backsliding. If we think back to the end of the Civil War we’re also reminded of the backsliding during Reconstruction that led to a continued and oppressive racism in The South.
Triumphing over human prejudice does seem to be a case of two steps forward, one step back. I do believe though that Rev. King would still be exulting in the progress our nation has made with regards to race while acknowledging that those still struggling with it can’t be ignored without allowing their fear and hatred to fester in them into something worse.
With such powerful entities as Fox News and the GOP encouraging and affirming racism, albeit sometimes through code words like “states rights” “birth certificates”, “marxist”, “urban”, “Muslim”, etc, it is a big challenge to turnaround the backwards opinions of those still clinging desperately to the emotional need to believe in white superiority. They may not have money, a job, financial stability or a promising future but at least they used to be able to cling to being superior because of the color of their skin.
The events of last weekend in Arizona have seemed to have muted some of the openly expressed racism and hatred that has become such a stable of the MSM. And an assassination attempt, coming a week before the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s birthday should have a heavy impact on our collective sensibilities.
As I noted in a comment yesterday, polls out now show that strong opposition to the HCR Act has fallen markedly in the last few weeks…in direct relation to Obama’s approval numbers rising. Ultimately, all of this is good news but it does seem to portray how some voters’ political beliefs are quite malleable and often shaped by prejudices and negative emotions rather than reason and principles. How could so many, almost overnight, flip from seeing HCR as a socialist plot to destroy America to an okay plan for trying to fix problems in our health care system? The conclusion would appear to be that instead, people who were angry at Obama just wanted to attack him and everything he worked for, whether or not it was to their benefit, because they use their opinions as reflections of their emotional feelings about politicians or parties.
Why would the unemployed, newly health-insured white man who couldn’t get insurance before HCR due to a pre-existing condition, vote Republican? Why would he vote for cutting off his family’s only income as Unemployment Insurance and losing his Health Care and maybe that of his family’s? How would he actually benefit from GOP policies in his own day to day life?
Such absurd perspectives can only be explained by emotional motivations. It isn’t as simple as saying “racism” but for many of these white males, that is at least a main component of it. Poverty, tradition and poor educational systems may be the concrete base that’s laid for racism to be constructed upon*. The sense that the American Dream that was promised to “real” Americans (white men) never came true and the reason for that is that someone stole it from them. The black man. The Latino man. The Jew. The Woman. The Foreigner.
Here, they grew up their whole lives believing they would be wealthy and have everything they want, just as all the propaganda of the American Dream promised to them. Then, unemployed or underemployed, working for Walmart or McDonalds, they look up to see a black man ascending to the presidency. Of course they feel things have gone wrong in America, of course they “want their country back”, of course they blame the “lesser” people from taking away the comfortable lifestyle and success that should rightfully have been passed down to them from their white ancestors.
There is an intersection of two issues here, one which is unique to some white people and another that is universal between people of all races struggling to stay in or climb into the shrinking Middle Class.
The unique issue that prejudiced white people have to deal with is that they have grown up believing a fairy tale that can no longer be sustained. America is no longer a society where white people have superiority over those of other races and are privileged above them. When things are good, we all live better, when they are bad, we all struggle. They must learn to accept that it is cold, soulless corporations that are taking their jobs away (and shipping them overseas), not the scapegoats both the racists and corporations use (to deflect responsibility), minorities.
This is the issue that all Americans, regardless of color share in common. The domination of corporate control over our politics and economy are at the root of why the American People grow poorer each year and lose more power over their own government and democracy. The “enemy”, the ones literally affecting and diminishing most Americans’ lives are corporations, not people worshiping other religions than Christianity or with different skin colors.
If Martin Luther King was around today, might not his campaign against poverty, poor education, ignorance and inequity be aimed at the wealthy, the top 1% who are oppressing so many to satisfy their own greed? Might not that be a unifying movement, to fight for the 99% of Americans who are being exploited by that top 1%? As education, health, police, fire and so many other crucial social services are slashed during this economic instability…and Wall Street, Banks and the wealthy see profits that shatter records…would not Rev. King see this as the fight that had to be fully engaged and won?
Unfortunately, we don’t have Rev. King here today to support such a movement, if it would indeed be something he saw as connected to his previous and remarkable campaign of justice and equality. However, let us hope that his unforgettable example of standing up for those who are being oppressed by those in power, those pressed to live as a lower class of citizen, inspires more and more to take up that cause today in a quest to return economic and political justice to the people of this nation.