The Misremembering of ‘I Have a Dream’
August 23, 2013 11:42 AM   Subscribe

 
Along the same lines...With the upcoming anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, test your knowledge beyond Dr. King's famous 4 words and challenge your assumptions about the 1963 event with this 15 question quiz and excellent educational tool by Teaching for Change.
posted by skenfrith at 11:46 AM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Though I completely agree that King was looking for a lot more than change in the law, and that racism is an enduring issue that has still not been appropriately addressed, I found this essay rather irritating. Unlike the speech, which is beautifully clear, the essay is turgid and wordy. Please, honor King with clarity and eloquence, as well as pursuit of his objectives.
posted by bearwife at 11:50 AM on August 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yesterday's "Democracy Now" focused in part on this, and provided details that were new to me - e.g.:

Gary Younge: When [King] gets to the podium, for the most part he’s quite faithful to the text. . . . If you listen to the speech, he’s winding down: "Go back to Mississippi. Go back to South Carolina." And behind him is Mahalia Jackson, his favorite gospel singer. He used to call Mahalia Jackson when he was down and on the road and ask her to sing to him, so they had a very intimate connection. Mahalia Jackson shouts, "Tell them about the dream, Martin!" because she had heard him give that speech in Detroit a few months earlier. King continues. Mahalia Jackson shouts again, "Tell them about the dream!" And then, just about that time, King—in the words of Clarence Jones, he puts the text to his left, and Clarence Jones says, in his body language, he shifted from a lecturer to a preacher. And then Jones turned to the person standing next to him and said, "Those people don’t know it, but they’re about to go to church." And then King starts on his "I have a dream" refrain.

Now, we don’t know for sure whether King heard Mahalia Jackson, though Clarence Jones said he must have done, because he heard [her] and he was 20 feet from both of them. King has never said that he did, but we do know that she said it, and we do know that around the time that she said it, that is the direction that he took the speech. And it’s within the tradition of the Baptist Church, a sermon or a speech is crafted—it’s drafted by the preacher, but then it’s crafted as you go along in response, call and response, to the crowd. And this was definitely not in the words that was written before him at the time.

posted by ryanshepard at 11:54 AM on August 23, 2013 [17 favorites]


More, from Tavis Smiley.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:11 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Gary Younge:
...[King's] star begins to wane as he starts talking about class and poverty and government intervention to address issues of poverty. People say, "You know, you’re stepping off the reservation here. You stick to what you know, which is race and civil rights." Then he starts to talk about Vietnam, and he opposes the Vietnam War, and after that, everything really gets tough for him.

...Well, how do we remember this man then? ... He can’t be remembered as the man who said that America was "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world," because, arguably, America still is, and that issue has not been resolved. They can’t remember him as the man who railed against poverty and for further government intervention, because we’re still having that argument. So, none of those things raise him above the fray; they actually insert him into it. But they can remember him as the man who gave the most eloquent articulation of this superb moral moment in America’s history, I argue the last great moral act that America has achieved which is still a consensus, which is the end of segregation.


This is a strong and interesting point -- that King's "I have a dream" speech was actually a whitewashing of all of the issues that King was fighting for -- the easiest way to talk about King, since ending segregation is now pretty much a consensus. King was really an Occupy-like dissident who organized 'occupations' in D.C., and who was subsequently subject to FBI surveillance and monitoring -- not quite the universally celebrated figure he is now.
posted by suedehead at 12:30 PM on August 23, 2013 [9 favorites]


It's a damned fine article. But I found one passage a bit strange and contradictory:

To remember him now as a leader who sought greater government intervention to help the poor, or who branded the United States “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today,” as he did at Riverside Church in 1967, would sacrifice posterity for accuracy. He did stand for those things. But those issues, particularly at a time of war and economic crisis, remain live, divisive and urgent. To associate him with them would not raise him above the fray but insert him into it, leaving him as controversial in death as in life.

In other words, we need a deeper reading of King-- except the parts where he talks about war and poverty. Let's ignore them.
posted by Mike Smith at 12:52 PM on August 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Something I originally posted to MeFi on Nov. 6, 2012:

A day to look forward to:
August 28, 2013.

On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in front of hundreds of thousands of Americans, The President of the United States approaches the podium to speak on the 50th anniversary of a momentous day in our nation's history.

He says the words...
"I have a dream..."

Looks like I was right.
posted by markkraft at 12:56 PM on August 23, 2013


To remember him now as a leader who sought greater government intervention to help the poor, or who branded the United States “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today,” as he did at Riverside Church in 1967, would sacrifice posterity for accuracy. He did stand for those things. But those issues, particularly at a time of war and economic crisis, remain live, divisive and urgent. To associate him with them would not raise him above the fray but insert him into it, leaving him as controversial in death as in life.

In other words, we need a deeper reading of King-- except the parts where he talks about war and poverty. Let's ignore them.

Maybe I misread it, but I thought that the author was pointing out that this is how modern America has chosen to deal with King's legacy, not how it should. He's saying we shouldn't ignore them, but that most people do. The passage is descriptive, not prescriptive.
posted by AdamCSnider at 12:58 PM on August 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


Sadly I can't think of the speech without thinking of the Onion's spin on it:

Brothers and sisters, I had a dream. Jackie Gleason and I were in danger from a giant roll of paper towels. Why there was such an object, I do not know, but that roll of paper towels struck within the depths of our souls a raging fear, and we ran from the monstrosity as fast as we could carry us. But we did not move. As mightily as we tried to lift our feet, it seemed an invisible quicksand kept us from moving them. We could not outrun the giant household item ... I woke up and said, 'I am awake at last. Awake at last. Thank God Almighty. I am awake at last'.
posted by crapmatic at 1:14 PM on August 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm not American, so I don't know: do people generally engage with King as someone who was anti-imperialist and in favour of wealth redistribution? Are people celebrating him as a socialist? I've never had the sense that people really want to touch that any more than they want to touch his analysis of racism. That informed how I read that passage. But I could be wrong.
posted by Mike Smith at 1:14 PM on August 23, 2013


Unlike the speech, which is beautifully clear, the essay is turgid and wordy.

Yes, it could have been two pages shorter, at least. It took forever to get to the point.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:17 PM on August 23, 2013


I always find it strange how people conflate his allegorical reference to "wealth of opportunity" into the belief that Dr. King was advocating for Communism. He most certainly was not.

And I also find it odd that no one ever seems to be able to comprehend what "institutional racism" means. It does not mean that the people who work at some institutional body are racists. It means that the structures of society are fixed in a manner that are detrimental to a particular class or demographic. Take inner city schools, as an example. The main reason those schools are so bad and never have enough money is because of how the tax codes are written to pay for those schools. School funding through most of the country is based upon property tax revenues. This, by default, advantages the wealthy and land owning population. If you live in government housing, or are simply a renter, the amount of money going into the coffers of your local school district is severely limited. If you live in the suburbs, or cloistered neighborhoods of the upscale uptown crowd, the tax base is decidedly different. And through pre-existing conditions of poverty and ghetto-ization of many minority populations, you end up with a huge institutional imbalance of the ability of a community to pay for the education of it's population. Let this system sit for a few decades, and you end up with several generations of students (well, those who graduate anyway) who have never had the same education level of anyone in their same age cohort who sometimes only lived a few miles away. This is an a problem where society has created an institutionally racist system. And this is just one of the things in which Dr. King was preaching against.

And on preview and review:
God dammit. If you find this writing turgid or too long winded, then I really have no idea how you can follow anything that doesn't follow a 3-act narrative script. Sometime ideas and evidence and concepts are more than just a beginning, middle and end. If you are so limited in your ability to conceptualize something that has a longer history than a single sitcom episode, I seriously hope you don't have to deal with anything that has more than 3 variables in it. This article is talking about a man's lifetime of work (which was cut short, in case you forgot), and how it is remembered today. You cannot sum up a man in 3 acts. To do so is to fail to recognize something more important that a brief synopsis of the life of a very important historical figure.
posted by daq at 1:31 PM on August 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


God dammit. If you find this writing turgid or too long winded, then I really have no idea how you can follow anything that doesn't follow a 3-act narrative script.

That's your limitation and issue.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:35 PM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


I really liked this article. Thank you for sharing it.

Mike Smith, I read that passage the same way that AdamCSnider did: As the author voicing the nation's (lack-of-)thought process in determining which parts of the speech would be remembered and glorified by white America. He's pointing out that the mainstream US has glibly picked up the parts that make us look like we've triumphed, and ignored or glossed over the parts that would make King a controversial figure and that would make the US look like it still has work to do.

And no, King is not widely remembered as a socialist. That's the article author's point, I think; he's saying that King was very much more of a radical than he's remembered for, and that mainstream US culture has perverted his message in order to push a "colorblind" agenda that lets us ignore racial inequalities.
posted by jaguar at 1:38 PM on August 23, 2013


Yeah, King is widely thought of as the friendly inspirational guy who ended racism once and for all.
posted by brundlefly at 1:43 PM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't think I've ever talked to someone who thought of King that way, brundlefly. Thinking of him as the guy who ended segregation once and for all, sure. As the guy who got explicitly racist laws overturned, sometimes. But I don't think I could find someone opining that he ended racism without using Google.
posted by hattifattener at 1:52 PM on August 23, 2013


I had a junior high history teacher who said exactly that, hattifattener, so perhaps that has just colored my perception of what others have said since. I know there are plenty of people who think that racism is over and done with, though.
posted by brundlefly at 1:55 PM on August 23, 2013


King isn't widely misunderstood. He's widely mistaught. Because teaching kids socialism???
posted by DU at 1:57 PM on August 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


Hattifattener, maybe not always so bluntly, but that seems to be generally the wider understanding of him, especially when racism only is about segregation and lynchings and every other racial inequality is about laziness. It was a lot different from the guy I learned about in junior high, who talked a good game, was part of a large support network of activists, was largely successful in the south but was effectively cut off at the knees by machine politicians in the north, killed for being a radical and threat to the powerful and then neutered through deification into a nice, fuzzy ideal (my junior high history teacher had ties to the civil rights movement).

Talking about MLK jr with other Americans is always one of those moments that convinces me that I grew up in an alternate universe.
posted by dinty_moore at 2:04 PM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ugh, yeah, we've had pretty different experiences. I know there are plenty of people who think that racism is over (I mean, there are plenty of people who believe dinosaur fossils are satan's fakes, too) but that's a far cry from "widely thought of".
posted by hattifattener at 2:06 PM on August 23, 2013


I always find it strange how people conflate his allegorical reference to "wealth of opportunity" into the belief that Dr. King was advocating for Communism. He most certainly was not.

No, although he did count a few avowed communists among his closest supporters and advisers, King was essentially a Social Democrat (or in the loose modern sense, a "socialist"). But then, arguably some of the founders were socialists too by modern standards, given that they unashamedly embraced the idea that the state had an obligation to promote the general welfare of its people, and used proto-Marxist, collectivist rhetoric like it was going out of style before it was even in style. And Thomas Jefferson was a huge supporter of the French Revolution, which was partly inspired by the American Revolution.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:10 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I read that passage the same way that AdamCSnider did: As the author voicing the nation's (lack-of-)thought process in determining which parts of the speech would be remembered and glorified by white America.

Still not seeing it, unless white America is glorifying a man 'who branded the United States “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today".' Or is the point that it's white activists focusing on that, and ignoring structural racism?

Not trying to be difficult-- honestly confused by responses here. It might be that I don't know who the author's supposed audience for this piece is, or that I've little exposure to how Americans talk about MLK Jr. My understanding of the man was always that toward the end of his life he really started turning toward a socialist view (even if he wouldn't have preferred the term). And it seems like the author is saying, "But let's not talk about that right now, OK? Let's wait for some fantasy future where it's totally not awkward to speak out against Empire."
posted by Mike Smith at 2:11 PM on August 23, 2013


Interesting that dinty_moore's and brundlefly's junior-high vs. other-people experiences are kind of opposites. Mine are more like dinty_moore's.

In my own case, the simplification that came in when learning about King in junior high was probably concentrating only on his successes. So, lots of stuff about desegregation, less stuff about poverty or abstract institutional structures of oppression. I think the side agenda was to convince children that skilled oratory and meticulous planning can make large lasting changes in the world without recourse to violence or to directly opposing authority. A lot of subtlety is lost on 13-year-olds.
posted by hattifattener at 2:11 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


King gets painted with the socialist brush as a sort of echo of the sentiments of his day. In the early 60s many nations were in turmoil and colonial rule was being toppled by communist revolutions. It was actually unusual, looking from a global perspective, that the civil rights movement wasn't predicated on overthrowing the government and establishing a communist state. When some of King's language refers to the common good and fairly sensible social justice themes it is easy to interpret him as socialist-leaning and many of his opponents in his time did just this.
posted by dgran at 2:18 PM on August 23, 2013


Yeah, King is widely thought of as the friendly inspirational guy who ended racism once and for all.

Right here on this site (but it's not the only one), I had an exchange a while back with someone who argued that MLK would not have approved of whatever political activism thing we were discussing because he was non-confrontational.

I've heard this a lot over the years, this idea that boycotts or sit-ins or kiss-ins or die-ins or other in-your-face protest tactic that is scary and rude is bad and alienating that we should take a page from the actions of people like Martin Luther King, Jr. According to them, Dr. King was never confrontational and never rude. And I wonder how we managed to grow up in alternate universes.
posted by rtha at 2:33 PM on August 23, 2013 [10 favorites]


We've pretty much whitewashed the truth about America's popular socialist traditions out of the history books. Even the pledge of allegiance was a product of America's forgotten socialist roots, authored by an avowed Christian socialist... But now socialism is just a scare-word in American politics.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:42 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


hattifattener - I've had this conversation with a lot of people. Very, very few of them have said that what they learned in history matched what I learned. This was the teacher that recommended lies my teacher told me to a bunch of 12 year-olds, for one thing. I'm pretty comfortable saying we're in the minority.

For another thing, a large thrust of the conversation is that MLK failed to achieve everything that he wanted to achieve. That was the point. That there were still battles to be fought, and it is up to us to still fight for them, to be aware of what it looks like when our rights are infringed. And that it wasn’t a nice thing that happened – that it was a fight, that people were angry, and there was fighting and bottles thrown and that the news media wasn’t always on their side – especially when it was on their turf.

It’d be one thing if a more nuanced view of MLK was ever taught later, but I don’t think that ever happens outside of a particular college course? Mention right to work, or Daley vs. King, and people look so confused.

The deification is what’s important here. People seem to make it sound like it was preordained that the right side would win, that King just sort of spoke up and everyone came to their senses except for a couple bigots in the south. It makes it easier for people to dismiss activists today for not being King, because even King wasn’t King.
posted by dinty_moore at 2:48 PM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Anybody else reminded of the scene in The History Boys when Irwin takes the lads out to the war memorial? ("It's not 'Lest We Forget', it's 'Lest We Remember'.") Isn't that the same point that Younge is making when he talks about the Riverside Church speech?

BTW - Younge's - 'Who Are We - and Should it Matter in the 21st Century?' is well worth a read.
posted by stanf at 2:55 PM on August 23, 2013


I know a lot of people who think racism doesn't exist any more...they also say "nigger" almost daily.
posted by notsnot at 4:16 PM on August 23, 2013


Still not seeing it, unless white America is glorifying a man 'who branded the United States “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today".' Or is the point that it's white activists focusing on that, and ignoring structural racism?

Try reading that piece as if the author is condemning that viewpoint and presenting it sarcastically. Does that help? (I'm not trying to be sarcastic myself; I just think you're running into a reading comprehension issue, and I'm not sure how better to explain it.)
posted by jaguar at 5:19 PM on August 23, 2013


I mean, look at all the framing around that particular paragraph. The author talks about "misremembering," "misunderstanding," and "inaccuracy" in almost every other paragraph. In that one section, he's presenting how the speech is currently understood by mainstream America rather than how King intended it.

Read it with the first sentence of the paragraph, and with the quotation a few paragraphs down:

The only question remaining was what version of King should be honored. To remember him now as a leader who sought greater government intervention to help the poor, or who branded the United States “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today,” as he did at Riverside Church in 1967, would sacrifice posterity for accuracy. He did stand for those things. But those issues, particularly at a time of war and economic crisis, remain live, divisive and urgent. To associate him with them would not raise him above the fray but insert him into it, leaving him as controversial in death as in life....

“The speech is profoundly and willfully misunderstood,” says King’s longtime friend Vincent Harding, who drafted the Riverside Church speech. “People take the parts that require the least inquiry, the least change, the least work. Our country has chosen what they consider to be the easier way to work with King. They are aware that something very powerful was connected to him, and he was connected to it. But they are not ready to really take on the kind of issues he was raising even there.”

Instead, the country has chosen to remember a version of “I Have a Dream” that not only undermines King’s legacy but also tells an inaccurate story about the speech itself. King made explicit reference in his oration to both the limits of legal remedy and the need for economic redress to confront the consequences of centuries of second-class citizenship.


I'm getting to the point where I want to copy and paste the entire article here, so I'll stop now.
posted by jaguar at 5:24 PM on August 23, 2013


I know a lot of people who think racism doesn't exist any more...they also say "nigger" almost daily.

I'd probably start avoiding those people if I were you.
posted by axiom at 5:26 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thinking of him as the guy who ended segregation once and for all, sure.

The US is in some ways more segregated than it was before the civil rights era but black people can live wherever they want in the city of Detroit.
posted by ennui.bz at 5:41 PM on August 23, 2013


Pushing aside all the doubts and divisions and second-guessing: The numerous gains made in the 60s - despite the fact that everyone making them was human - despite the real threat of nuclear annihilation modern analysts like to ignore - made it a great time in US history. Thoroughly reflected in the music. There you can still feel it. Always.

US political leaders have had to spend 50 years trying to claw back all of those gains. Real freedom, jobs, justice just don't want to stay in the bag. Yes, you can fool some of the people. And so visionaries and dreamers - who won't stay on the page broadcasting fear, uncertainty, doubt - are what uncharismatic, political leaders fear most, to this very day.
posted by Twang at 6:17 PM on August 23, 2013


he didn't end racism, and I don't think anyone thinks he did, but its not uncommon to hear him described as an "end of history"-ish turning point, the point at which a broad consensus formed against gross racism.

that said, the article's "no one knew the real King, man" conceit has turned into a bit of a trope. been there, done that.
posted by jpe at 6:23 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hell Twang, when it comes to MLK's broader vision of economic and social justice, we're rolling back gains we made in the 20s now, forget the 60s!
posted by saulgoodman at 6:30 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Must have been too popular an article, for all I got was a block screen gateway asking for subscription fees in order to proceed (I could glimpse the article behind it but not see it). Dammit.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 6:40 PM on August 23, 2013


King gets painted with the socialist brush as a sort of echo of the sentiments of his day. In the early 60s many nations were in turmoil and colonial rule was being toppled by communist revolutions. It was actually unusual, looking from a global perspective, that the civil rights movement wasn't predicated on overthrowing the government and establishing a communist state. When some of King's language refers to the common good and fairly sensible social justice themes it is easy to interpret him as socialist-leaning and many of his opponents in his time did just this.

Just reading the Dream speech, one would almost think he was a libertarian. I haven't read enough of his stuff, but what I've read doesn't ring socialist to me at all. He is simply asking the nation to make good on the promises it made.
posted by gjc at 6:52 PM on August 23, 2013


He got shot speaking at a rally for a labor action, a trash collector's strike.

gjc: that's probably because the new right stole almost all of its rhetorical technigues and its language of rights from the left wing/Liberal traditions they rejected. As other's have pointed out (with cites) here on the blue, traditionally, Libertarianism was synonymous with the anarchist left. But the rich guys appropriated the original Libertarian philosophy and rhetoric opportunistically, realizing they could use all this nonsense about rights and freedom to get themselves more wiggle room to make money by whatever means necessary without gov't interferencen if they couched their defenses against regulation in the traditional language of political Liberalism.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:28 PM on August 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm a former AmeriCorps VISTA and we had a number of required "service days" during my term, where we were required to volunteer in some way shape or form. MLK day was one of these days and it galled me to no end that the rhetoric surrounding the holiday for us was all about Martin Luther King Jr.'s commitment to service and absolutely nothing about racial or (explicitly) economic equality. Whitewashing, indeed.

Also, Seekerofsplendor I think that's actually just an ad. I had to hunt for a second but was able to close it by clicking in the upper right hand corner.
posted by Polyhymnia at 10:06 PM on August 23, 2013


Just reading the Dream speech, one would almost think he was a libertarian. I haven't read enough of his stuff, but what I've read doesn't ring socialist to me at all. He is simply asking the nation to make good on the promises it made.

Given any form of government-induced desegregation is the antithesis of libertarian "gubmint hands off mah business" philosophy, I fail to see how the speech could possibly be construed as libertarian. He is straight-up demanding the government get involved in the equalization of the races. That kind of intimate government intervention is a nightmare to the Rand lovers.
posted by schroedinger at 10:10 PM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Will Martin Luther King's dream ever become a reality?

I, for one, am confident that its corporate sponsors will make it happen!
posted by markkraft at 7:19 AM on August 25, 2013


Given any form of government-induced desegregation is the antithesis of libertarian "gubmint hands off mah business" philosophy, I fail to see how the speech could possibly be construed as libertarian. He is straight-up demanding the government get involved in the equalization of the races. That kind of intimate government intervention is a nightmare to the Rand lovers.

Rand-lovers are Objectivists, not libertarians.

Anyway, the way I read the speech is that King just wants the government to stop allowing racists to use its power to discriminate. Ending things like poll taxes, jim crow laws and other overtly racist impediments to liberty.

It seems like the extent of his desired intervention is for the federal government to step up to the plate, live up to the ideals they espoused in the constitution, and force more local governments to stop being racist. The intervention he seeks seems to be for the government to stop being evil and to stop allowing others to be evil, so that everyone can get on with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The list of demands from that march don't read like interventions on behalf of minorities. They weren't asking for a handout. They just wanted roadblocks removed. Which is very much a libertarian philosophy.

(Yes, there can be the derail about forcing private businesses to serve and employ people they don't want to, but that "libertarian" argument always struck me as a misinterpretation or dog whistle kind of thing. Not actually a libertarian philosophy as much as a thing conjured up by assholes who only believe in their own freedom and liberty and don't really care about others'. A post-facto justification, not a principle to live by. ANY barrier to a marketplace is bad, even if the barrier is a "no coloreds" policy by the merchant in his own store.)
posted by gjc at 8:51 PM on August 25, 2013


gjc: "Yes, there can be the derail about forcing private businesses to serve and employ people they don't want to, but that "libertarian" argument always struck me as a misinterpretation or dog whistle kind of thing. Not actually a libertarian philosophy as much as a thing conjured up by assholes who only believe in their own freedom and liberty and don't really care about others'."

Sounds like a "no true libertarian" thing to me. I've known plenty of libertarians who believe exactly that.
posted by brundlefly at 11:10 AM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's a (much) better written essay -- beware, pdf format.
posted by bearwife at 12:22 PM on August 26, 2013


Great interview with Congressman John Lewis, the last surviving speaker from the March for Freedom and Jobs from Atlanta's public radio station in honor of the 50th anniversary today.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:00 AM on August 28, 2013


Martin Luther King vs. Today’s Conservatives
Since MLK is now officially a hero, you’d like him to be a civic hero rather than a hero of the faction opposed to yours. But while he was alive, and for some time after his death, your faction hated him, and everything he stood for, and tried to defame him. No prominent conservative or libertarian politician, writer, or thinker supported the civil rights movement he led.

The factional split was not identical to the partisan split. There were (mostly Southern) Democratic racists who opposed the civil rights movement; they were known as Dixiecrats or “conservative Democrats,” and their heirs followed Strom Thurmond into the Republican Party, which they now dominate. There were also Republican supporters of civil rights; they were called “liberal Republicans” (I voted for a few of them) and your faction now calls people like them RINOs and has successfully purged them from the Republican Party.

Your faction was, adamantly and unanimously, on the wrong side of history, as spectacularly as the small share of progressives who supported the Soviet dictatorship. Even today, I have failed to find a single libertarian or conservative prepared to speak out against gutting the Voting Rights Act.

Martin Luther King died while on a campaign to support a public-sector labor union. You’re entitled to say that he was a bad man and a Communist, as your faction did while he was alive, and that his assassination was the natural result of his use of civil disobedience, which is what Ronald Reagan said at the time. You’re entitled to say that he was a great man but that his thoughts are no longer applicable to the current political situation. But what you’re not entitled to do is to pretend that, if he were alive today, MLK would not be fighting against you and everything you stand for. He would.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:17 AM on August 28, 2013 [4 favorites]






President Obama shows the progress we’ve made. His speech shows how terribly we’ve failed.
Here at Wonkblog we wanted to do two sets of posts to mark the anniversary. The first would show, in charts and graphs, how much has gotten better over the last 50 years. The second would show, in charts and graphs, how much hasn’t. It proved depressingly easy to find the charts showing how little progress we’ve made and depressingly hard to find the charts showing how much.

The case for optimism can be found most clearly in political participation. African Americans have entirely closed the voting gap with whites. They’ve gone from five members of Congress in 1965 to 44 in 2013. Fifty years after African Americans couldn’t use public bathrooms, a black man now lives in the White House.

The economic data, however, tells an almost completely opposite story. Unemployment among African Americans was more than twice as high as it was among whites in 1965, and that remains true today. In fact, over the last 50 years, the average unemployment rate among blacks has been 11.6 percent — worse than the national average at the deepest point of any recession. If the unemployment black America has lived with for 50 years afflicted white America for even a month, it would be a national emergency.

Predictably, the income gap hasn’t closed and the wealth gap has actually widened. The poverty rate among African Americans fell by 20 points between 1965 and 2000, but it’s risen by six points — to 28 percent — in the last decade. That is to say, more than one out of four African Americans is poor. The marriage gap has widened sharply, and today, more than half of all African American children live in a single-parent household.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:03 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]




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