Struggle Lives On
You can’t eat here, you can’t sit here, you can’t vote here, you can’t marry here, you can’t fight here, you can’t play here, you can’t live here, but you can die here, you can’t sit in the front of the bus or at the movie theater, you can’t sleep here, you can’t see a doctor here, in fact, you can’t be anywhere or do anything or be with anyone if I don’t give the OK and if you don’t follow the rules, you will go to prison where you will have many, many cell mates rotting for the same reasons.
We will kill you with impunity if you are African American and it doesn’t matter if you are 10 or 100 years old, male or female, healthy or infirm, rich or poor, intelligent or dumb, famous or unknown. If you are black, you see it all the time; if you are white, you never see past the blinders and so you don’t believe it.
Activist and writer W.E.B. Du Bois was spot on when he said, “Nothing in the world is easier in the United States than to accuse a black man of crime.”
Malcom X expressed the state of the nation well when he said that “you and I have never seen democracy; all we’ve seen is hypocrisy” and he explained his anger with “That’s not a chip on my shoulder, that’s your foot on my neck.”
The playing field never was even and it’s still as lopsided as ever. Don’t stand on it for too long or you’ll get dizzy and nauseous and you will fall into the abyss along with the untold numbers of other innocent and anonymous victims. And the wounds have not healed but they have festered. Jim Crow never died, he just put on a disguise. The conspiracy grows with the dark forces of the Internet and so-called media monsters like Fox News.
Malcolm X spoke of the media before his murder in 1965 and his words are just as prescient today.
“The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses,” Malcolm X said.
These were the concerns of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and they remain as powerful and inescapable and elusive as ever. Dr. King has become revered like some mythical figure, not unlike Abraham Lincoln or George Washington and like those leaders, Dr. King’s birthday is celebrated, largely with a day off from work or school and little introspection or education.
Dr. King was flesh and bone, a man, not a character of history and he did not want to be remembered as a martyr, he wanted his wisdom about the state of African Americans in America to be heard. He spoke not to celebrate himself but he spoke to spur action. I’m certain that Dr. King would have said that talk is cheap and action is paramount, talk without action leads nowhere. As the great James A. Baldwin said, “MLK didn’t want to make people feel good or to make them feel guilty or to make them feel angry, he wanted them to make things better.”
It is just about impossible for young people of today, particularly young whites, to understand that there was a time not long ago when sitting down at the counter of a Woolworth could put a black person’s life in danger or at the very least, leave him or her a victim of epithets and threats.
It has never been more important for all Americans to understand the blood that has been spilled in quest for nothing more than an equal system, something that remains elusive. The clock can never be turned back although many people would like to see life revert back to the years that were nightmarish for all people of color. But this country has come too far and too many have worked too hard to allow the nation to slip back and reverse the gains or worse, impose more restrictions on the African Americans.
Dr. King’s birthday came at a time when the president of the United States has been impeached for a second time for his attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election through unlawful means and his incitement of insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Trump will be leaving but the threats of Trumpism will remain and the far-right, pro-Trump extremists aren’t going anywhere soon.
Dr. King and many others have spoken about justice with so much more eloquence than I ever could.
“Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.” James A. Baldwin.
“I can’t believe what you say, because I see what you do.” James A. Baldwin.
“If one really wishes to know how justice is administered in a country, one does not question the policemen, the lawyers, the judges, or the protected members of the middle class. One goes to the unprotected — those, precisely, who need the law’s protection most! — and listens to their testimony.” James A. Baldwin.
“To be black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage.” James A. Baldwin.
“Either America will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy the United States.” W. E. B. Du Bois.
“There is in this world no such force as the force of a person determined to rise. The human soul cannot be permanently chained.” W. E. B. Du Bois.
“Now is the accepted time, not tomorrow, not some more convenient season. It is today that our best work can be done and not some future day or future year. It is today that we fit ourselves for the greater usefulness of tomorrow. Today is the seed time, now are the hours of work, and tomorrow comes the harvest and the playtime.” W. E. B. Du Bois.
“If we as a people realized the greatness from which we came we would be less likely to disrespect ourselves.” Marcus Garvey.
“The white man has succeeded in subduing the world by forcing everybody to think his way….The white man’s propaganda has made him the master of the world, and all those who have come in contact with it and accepted it have become his slaves.” Marcus Garvey.
“The Negro has been here in America since 1619, a total of 344 years. He is not going anywhere else; this is country is his home. He wants to do his part to help make his city, state, and nation a better place for better place for everyone, regardless of color and race.” Medgar Evers.
“If you stick a knife nine inches into my back and pull it out three inches, that is not progress. Even if you pull it all the way out, that is not progress. Progress is healing the wound, and America hasn’t even begun to pull out the knife.” Malcolm X.
“The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.” Malcolm X.
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.” The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“The SILENCE of the good people is more DANGEROUS than the BRUTALITY of the bad people.” The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
King wrote his famous “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” on April 16, 1963, but it could have been written today.
“I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”