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Tue Mar 13, 2018, 06:52 PM

The On-Going Struggle

“....George Wiley, founder and executive director of the National Welfare Rights Organization, was the first black scholar to earn an Ivy League doctorate in chemistry. Squeezed out of CORE, he considered a position at SCLC before launching NWRO with foundation grants, and (Bernard) Lafayette knew Wiley orchestrated this confrontation to promote his grassroots constituency of welfare recipients. ….Wiley soon wrote (Andrew) Young with bargaining terms for a few NWRO women to join the camp-in against poverty.”

--Taylor Branch; At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years 1965-68; Simon & Schuster; 2006; page 687.

One of the most important struggles in American history involves the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and '60s. Obviously, that struggle is not over – in fact, racism is on the rise today. It combines with other, closely related “-isms” that create a synergy that threatens the fabric of our society. Thus, I think it is important for us today, to study the Civil Rights movement, to learn how it was part of the political, economic, and health systems. And to understand what was successful, and what dynamics made it less successful.

I like to look at any group of people, large or small, in the context of a system. In this case, it was a large, diverse system, with numerous sub-systems. These sub-systems sometimes coordinated efforts, and at other times, experienced divisions due to tensions caused by personality, differences in tactics, and distinct goals. There were differences, for example, in the general experiences of black people living in the rural south, and those living in urban settings in the north.

More, there were sometimes differences between established Civil Rights organizations. For example, the NAACP leadership believed that the SCLC often started campaigns without adequate funding, and then pressured the NAACP for emergency financial assistance. Yet, when such groups worked together, they were able to achieve their greatest victories.

There were also separatist groups that did not support the concept of integration. The best example, of course, was the Nation of Islam. The NOI was a marginal group, with under 1,000 members, before Minister Malcolm X expanded it into a national organization. The NOI refused to participate in the Civil Rights movement. (Between 1964-65, after leaving the NOI, Malcolm began to support the movement, though he sought to expand it to a global human rights campaign.)

It's important to note that the Civil Rights movement was not exclusively black. There were, at various times, linkages to foundations for financial support, as well as other contributions and support from numerous other individuals, including clergy. The movement was opposed not only by racists, but by financial interests that exploited the racist system, and the political puppets they employed.

The Civil Rights movement was fluid, and ever changing. It adjusted to a variety of circumstances. For example, many of the leaders had been republicans before the 1960 presidential election. When candidate John Kennedy reached out to Coretta Scott King when Martin was in jail, it led not only to the black vote putting Kennedy in the White House, it led to a significant shift in the two parties. President Johnson noted this change while signing Civil Rights bills: the southern Dixiecrats moved to the republican party.

Dr. King would have more enemies when, in 1967, he not only came out against the war in Vietnam, but connected it to racism in the USA. He was assassinated while planning his 1969 Poop Peoples Campaign. This planned campaign was, of course, influenced by George Wiley. Both leaders understood that poverty in America was linked with racism. And both understood that a system that capitalizes upon poverty damages the lives of people of all races.

The Civil Rights movement had many victories. These included legislation and court cases, but perhaps the most important thing was that it changed the way people saw themselves and others. It contributed to other movements, including the anti-war, the women's liberation, and the environmental movements. Yet, as Justice Felix Frankfurter noted, “history has its own chains.” None of these movements is “won” like a sporting event. They are, by definition, on-going struggles that each generation faces and experiences.

We still have racism today. Some of it is individual, some groups, and some of it is systems-based. The same with sexism. Same with the economic warfare within the USA. The environment is at risk. There are wars. Tensions between religions is real. We still do not have a realistic, humane immigration policy. A war on public education. And on and on. These are all connected.

Perhaps it would be best, at this point, for Democrats to recognize that there are different points of view, and even different values, within the Party. These are rooted in life experiences. Most poor people view the country in a manner distinct from wealthy people. Young adults often interpret events a bit different than older folks. People of different races and ethnic groups tend to experience life differently than other races and ethnic groups. Men and women are different. We are all equal, but not exact. And that is as much as potential strength, as a potential stumbling block.

Dr. King knew that to achieve peace – which is necessary for progress – we need to be able to talk with those who think differently, including our enemies. Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley ended up not only talking, but actually developing mutual respect. South Africa explored Reconciliation. As the old saying goes, mercy adds power to justice. If Ireland and South Africa could travel this path towards social justice, we can, too. First, we must open our minds.


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H2O Man Mar 2018 OP
kentuck Mar 2018 #1
Me. Mar 2018 #2
coeur_de_lion Mar 2018 #3

Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Tue Mar 13, 2018, 07:13 PM

1. No society can survive long without respect for all its citizens...

in my opinion.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Tue Mar 13, 2018, 08:25 PM

2. KR

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu Mar 15, 2018, 11:01 AM

3. KnR

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