“When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered... A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies.”
- Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Beyond Vietnam Speech, April 4, 1967
On MLK day I listened to an interview on the NPR program “Fresh Air” with Melba Pattillo Beals. She was one of nine black students who integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957.
It was at the same time sickening and inspiring. She's written a new memoir called "I Will Not Fear" and a book about her childhood for younger readers, "March Forward, Girl."
Here is a partial list of the things that she and the other eight students suffered. They were knocked down stairs, spit upon, kicked on the shins, had raw eggs poured over their head and acid thrown in their eyes, their lockers were trashed, they were pushed against a wall and choked, Melba was hit across the back with a tennis racket so hard that she spit up blood, and they were pelted with snowballs that had large rocks in the middle.
With putrid consistency the hostile occupier of the White House demonstrates his racism and all other American original sins through words, actions, appointments and policies. His S-hole country comments are just the latest assault, and will surely be trumped (pun intended) by the time you read this.
The broader context of America's legacy of white supremacy reveals that DACA crisis he created can only be understood as racism in practice.
However, Trump is A problem but not THE problem.
50 years ago MLK offered this incisive diagnosis of our nation. “The white backlash of today is rooted in the same problem that has characterized America ever since the black man landed in chains on the shores of this nation." (“The Three Evils of Society," August 31, 1967.)
Rev. King continued his USA soul assessment, “We are now experiencing...a 'triple prong sickness' that 'has been lurking within our body politic from its very beginning. The sickness of racism, excessive materialism and militarism.' These three problems are the 'plague of western civilization."
I have spoken at two Impeach Trump rallies. These movements operate on the false premise that we have never seen anything like this before in America and if we get rid of Trump all will be well in the land.
Don't get me wrong. I want this regime OUT too. But, I also know that the current demagogues are only symptoms of a lingering systemic cancer.
I also listened to a Rev. William Barber sermon on MLK day. He preached, “People say - 'We have never faced a crisis like this.' What history books did you read?! What nation did you grow up in?!”
Gasps like this are a graphic illustration of separate but unequal. I only hear them from well meaning privileged white liberals who have lived siloed lives (including myself). White privileged segregation allows us to sound this late; very late alarm.
The first step for good hearted white people is committing to get out of our segregated silos! Go fellowship with, listen to, and walk beside people of color.
Rev. King goes on to preach. “One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see than an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.” (Beyond Vietnam)
For this to occur, escapism will need to be replaced by empathy. MLK portrayed this reality with crisp clarity - “We all came over on different ships but we are all in the same boat now.”