Today in the US is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It is a day in theory we are to remember the work of Dr. King and by extension the Civil Rights Movement in this nation. Usually I am afraid to say we gloss over it looking at through safe feel good frames, of peace and brotherhood. We must force ourselves to remember. There is much still to be done. Equality is still a dream we are striving for.
I offer these reminders on this day of the work still to be done, still to be thought about and discussed. What we must remember.
The March on Washington in 1963 (The one in which Dr. King gave his "I have a dream" speech) was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. What were they advocating for?
Comprehensive and effective civil rights legislation from the present Congress — without compromise or fillibuster — to guarantee all Americans:
Access to all public accommodations
Adequate and integrated education
The right to vote
Withholding of Federal funds from all programs in which discrimination exists.
Desegregation of all school districts in 1963.
Enforcement of the Fourteenth Amendment — reducing Congressional representation of states where citizens are disfranchised.
A new Executive Order banning discrimination in all housing supported by federal funds.
Authority for the Attorney General to institute injunctive suits when any Constitutional right is violated.
A massive federal program to train and place all unemployed workers — Negro and white — on meaningful and dignified jobs at decent wages.
A national minimum wage act that will give all Americans a decent standard of living. (Government surveys show that anything less than $2.00 an hour fails to do this.)
[The minimum wage at the time of the March is $1.15/hour.]
A broadened Fair Labor Standards Act to include all areas of employment which are presently excluded.
A federal Fair Employment Practices Act barring discrimination by federal, state, and municipal governments, and by employers, contractors, employment agencies, and trade unions.
Dr King on the Vietnam War:
"A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: "This is not just.""
Dr. King on capitalism:
"You can't talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can't talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You're really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with captains of industry… Now this means that we are treading in difficult water, because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong… with capitalism… There must be a better distribution of wealth and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism."
The latter sentiments lead Dr. King to begin to push for what he thought of as the 2nd phase of the Civil Rights Movement, dealing with poverty across the board (the first phase being taking on the challenge of segregation) with the Poor People's Campaign where he was going to champion for an economic bill of rights. He was assassinated in Memphis, TN before he had to chance to really push the campaign. Dr. King was in Memphis to support striking Black sanitation workers.
We must remember. We have a long ways to go. We have a history of only going so far to deal with the inequalities in our society. We gave up on Reconstruction after the Civil War, turning the South over to the segregationists, rewriting our history to look poorly upon Reconstruction (Gone with the Wind anyone). We only ended segregation in name only. We failed to do the hard work of actual integration. Giving instead into fears of "other" breeding the modern Republican Party and with it the presidency of George W. Bush.