S.E. Williams | Executive Editor
“[O]ne of the great liabilities of life is that all too many people find themselves living amid a great period of social change and yet they fail to develop the new attitudes, the new mental responses—that the new situation demands. They end up sleeping through a revolution.”
– Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
It is interesting how history has a way of repeating itself. In 1968 when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his talk about remaining awake through a great revolution, he spoke of many things and in a profoundly significant way one of the areas he highlighted—the fight for human rights — is a revolution that continues.
The fight for human rights and everything it encompasses, including the need to put an end to racism, remains the enduring burden and fractious battle of this nation and its people.
“It is an unhappy truth that racism is a way of life for the vast majority of White Americans, spoken and unspoken, acknowledged and denied, subtle and sometimes not so subtle—the disease of racism permeates and poisons a whole body politic,” stressed King. “I can see nothing more urgent than for America to work passionately and unrelentingly—to get rid of the disease of racism.”
These words have relevance and vibrate with urgency today.
Some of the manifestations of racism have certainly faded since the years King called the nation’s conscious to the fore. Yet, such progress has only served as fuel for insurrection among those still clinging to the vestiges of the confederacy.
They are counted among those who kicked, screamed and resisted much of the progress experienced in race relations over the last 50 years. They are descended from those who embraced the atrocities of Jim Crow, they are in every sense the progeny of the confederacy.
For whatever reasons—anxiety, jealousy, personal failures, etc.—these people cling to the illusion of White Supremacy to justify their hatred, their own shortcomings, their lack of confidence in themselves and fear of their own inability to compete and succeed when the playing field is leveled. At every opportunity, they expend untold energy working to peel back the layers of hard-fought progress toward a multicultural nation.
Such efforts always focus first on denying the franchise because everyone knows without the ballot there is no voice and without a voice there is no seat at the table, no ability to wield influence over the governmental system, laws and other levers of power that have historically been the exclusion dominion of the White man.
King reminded America it is an unhappy truth that racism is a way of life for many Whites. And, as we are now witnessing, nothing is more urgent for America today, than finding a cure for this madness.
The nation must find a way forward, but the solution cannot be to once again, appease the hatred.
We have also learned the hard lesson that, despite the adage time heals all wounds, time has not been a friend of Blacks in this nation for more than 400 years.
For every step Blacks and the nation have taken forward, White supremacists have spent equal and opposite efforts peeling back whatever layers of hard-fought progress attained at every opportunity. This was largely made possible because too many racists and their sympathizers continued to control all levers of power due to disenfranchisement.
But the children of King’s dream, their children and grandchildren remain strong in the struggle for equality. Remembering what King taught, “[T]hat human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability,” it requires the tireless efforts and continuous work of committed individuals. And so, the work continues as it has throughout this nation’s history. Today, Black Americans and those who support them remain tireless and steadfast in their commitment to justice.
Today, however, America is in the throes of a backlash—a White nationalist insurrection.
King was right when he said, “[T]he nation does not move around questions of genuine equality for the poor and for Black people until it is confronted massively and dramatically in terms of direct action.”
I know when King said this, he was referring to direct acts of nonviolent resistance. That is not what the nation experienced on Jan. 6.
Although that action of course, was not facilitated by Blacks, the nation was confronted “massively and dramatically”
Never since the Civil War has this country stood at such a crossroads. People of good conscience know the direction this country needs to go, but must first acknowledge with brutal honesty, exactly where we are now. Because without true recognition and acceptance, without accountability for the damage wrought, without reconciliation and recommitment to the idea of America, we will never be able to live out the true meaning of its creed—that all men are created equal. But to do so, as evidenced on Jan. 6, the mindset of White supremacy must die.
This year as we honor the life of Dr. King, a man of love and peace, we simultaneously bid farewell to President Donald J. Trump, a prolific liar who has watered the seeds of racial hatred for his own aggrandizement. Trump fancies himself a king and he has flaunted his power without apology or limits.
As we navigate our way through these tumultuous days, remember the words often spoken by a humble man named King who never fancied himself as royalty, who served his people and this nation as a King in name only. He often quoted the words of James Russell Lowell as a reminder of our power as a people (of all races) who hold in our own hands the ability to sway the future of this nation: “Truth forever on the scaffold. Wrong forever on the throne. Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown, Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.”
S.E. Williams is executive editor of the IE Voice and Black Voice News.