Misremembering the past, Hollywood is drowning us in a veritable avalanche of self-congratulation for the “great advances” of the Civil Rights movement. Commemorations, dramatic movies, documentaries – all are coming out now to celebrate 50th Anniversaries. These Anniversaries have a common theme: how bad things were back then, and, by implication, how much things have improved. Hollywood uses the Civil Rights Movement to undermine the goals of that movement. We’re being played.
Things haven’t improved. Laws were passed to outlaw segregation and to establish voter rights. But segregation still prevails in the US. Voting rights are everywhere under siege. The greatest victory of the Civil Rights Movement was it curtailed the racist violence that had kept the racial order intact. But the violence of night riders is replaced by police killings. Under the pretext of a war on drugs millions of innocent people are incarcerated for the crime of being black. Where is the improvement?
The CRM took a revolutionary turn conveniently ignored amidst all the contrived celebration. King led the way in this and was killed for it.
King’s assassination came one year to the day after he forcefully supported the movement to end the war in Vietnam and stated his support for world revolution.
Several things he said probably sealed his doom. (The speech, at https://archive.org/details/MartinLutherKing-BeyondVietnam-1967, remains stirring):
“The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom, and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism.”
And “(O)ur nation (is) on the wrong side of a world revolution… if we are to get on to the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and economic exploitation are incapable of being conquered.”
And “our country is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today”
On April 4, 1968, exactly one year after his revolutionary speech, King was killed. The timing of this murder has been called the government sending a signal. African-Americans heard that signal and rose up in 110 cities in response. It was the greatest wave of social unrest the United States experienced since the Civil War. It was a revolutionary upheaval that threatened to overwhelm the entire order.
Some of the biggest uprisings took place in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Louisville, Kansas City, and Chicago.
Since these upheavals, the African-American community has been under siege. With the pretext of a “war on drugs,” the government has incarcerated millions of people of color, most of them innocent of any violent offense, in a massive campaign of political repression.
The FBI was once told to prevent the emergence of a “black messiah.” US government policy has become to prevent any movement of the African-American community from emerging. From mass incarceration to police acting as violent occupiers in their communities, African Americans are subjected to the heavy hand of government repression as never before. It’s a counterinsurgency before an insurgency, to prevent an insurgency.
America’s first black president portrays himself a disciple of Dr. King. Like King he received the Nobel Peace Prize, yet he insists he has the right to kill anyone at any time for any reason. There is no more glaring evidence of America’s moral and political decay.
Obama’s insistence on a presidential right to kill is part of developing a streamlined system of legal repression. Police impunity for murders, militarized police forces with domestic drones, criminalizing dissent such as calling environmentalists “eco-terrorists,” widespread surveillance of everyone, these all add up to a trend toward repression.
The rulers have no solutions for the twin crises of economic and ecological collapse and they rightly expect growing political upheavals. They need unlimited governmental powers to cope with the expected unrest.
The upheavals have begun. In response to official police impunity after brazen murders, the Black Lives Matter Movement shows no sign of letting up. Significantly, young people of all colors have taken up the struggle of African-Americans as their own. Slogans like “I am Mike Brown, I am Eric Garner; Akai Gurley” show an identification that cuts away at the racial divide that has been the foundation of social control by America’s rulers. The way to repudiate white skin privilege is for white people to take up the struggle of African-Americans as their own. Young people are showing the way to unite the 99%.
Some of you know I am the survivor of a government attack, shot in the head at an anti KKK rally in NC, over 35 years ago. The police organized the Klan and Nazis who did the shooting; they didn’t want to do it themselves. But these are more bald-faced times. The police are doing their own shooting to terrorize the population.
If there is anything to learn from the CRM, and there is plenty, it’s that we all need to be fearless in the face of official repression. We also need to understand how we are being lied to.
Racism will persist as long as a tiny elite needs to divide people to maintain its rule. Only by ending that rule can we put an end to racism. So… Happy Anniversary.