December 24, 2021

MLK’s Missing Legacy: Woke Warrior Part 4

Mike Green
Contributor to The Narrative Matters
Photo By:Mike Green

Sadly, too many of today’s generations of White Americans, including those in positions of power and influence who were young adults when King was alive, still lack awareness of the three demands of the Negro Revolution:

In 1963, two months before King would deliver his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, he stood before 25,000 in Detroit’s Cobo Hall and delivered a scathing critique of America’s segregationist society. King described segregation as a “cancer in the body politic,” while LBJ would later ascribe the systemic condition due to a “racist virus” afflicting White America. Whether a cancer or virus, this disease is still with us. And the generational illness has metastasized into generational amnesia.

Sadly, too many of today’s generations of White Americans, including those in positions of power and influence who were young adults when King was alive, still lack awareness of the three demands of the Negro Revolution:

  • End segregation in schools
  • End discrimination in housing
  • End discrimination in banking and access to capital

Today, none of these demands are reflected in national narratives, public policies or even in the ongoing protests and efforts for racial equity. Rather, the focus remains stuck on the importance of voting rights, which of course, is extremely important today … just as it was in King’s era. Voting is, of course, a vital means through which to achieve an end goal, but not the end goal itself.

We seem to have lost the central message in sounding an alarm to get out the vote. In so doing, we have succeeded in electing representatives whose messages span a spectrum of interests and issues yet still miss the point that was hammered home throughout the rise of the Negro Revolution. King ensured the messaging that would drive voters to the polls remained focused:

  • End segregation in schools
  • End discrimination in housing
  • End discrimination in banking and access to capital
  • The result of American amnesia: Today, schools remain as segregated as in King’s day. White Americans own more than 90% of the nation’s wealth, represent 80% of all employer firms, 80% of teachers, politicians and journalists, and own more than 80% of the total housing stock in the nation. The homeownership gap between Black and White Americans, which was 26% in 1960 … is today more than 30%. Banks continue to receive federal fines in the millions every year; and since the Great Recession, banks have been fined $243 billion for ongoing discriminatory behavior. This is happening today. But what happened to the demands of the Negro Revolution? Did they die with King?
  • It was these three demands that catapulted JFK over Richard Nixon in the 1960 election, lifted by Black voters to victory by a mere 1%. But eight years later, JFK (’63), Medger Evers (’63), Malcolm X (’65), Dr. King (’68) and Bobby Kennedy (’68) would all be dead. These leaders joined a chorus of other courageous voices opposing segregationist policies and practices that protected white supremacy, whose lives were also cut short by a viciously violent backlash from White America that celebrated the election of Nixon by a landslide in 1968.
  • To add insult to injury, Governor George Wallace, traveled to Detroit in the fall of 1968 and stood in the same venue where King denounced segregation a handful of years prior and shouted, “segregation today, tomorrow and forever!” More than 11,000 White attendees roared their approval with a thundering applause.

To be continued.

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