These days, when it comes to the Presidential Campaign, it is sometimes difficult to know whether we are watching a bad episode of Saturday Night Live, or reading an LSD generated issue of Mad Magazine. For those who continue to fall victim to divisive race-and-sexist politics, take note—reality is not all it appears to be. Sometimes, particularly when it comes to politics and policy, what you see, hear and read has as much connection to reality as a Timothy O’Leary acid trip.
In reality, the same divisiveness, the same divide and conquer, negate the Negroes, manipulate the whites strategies of the past are alive and working today. The only difference is that today’s much subtler, more nuanced puppet masters play their games and ply their trade using the media instead of the now-defunct Jim Crow laws. Moreover, there is also a new element to this volatile cocktail, an added twist—sexism and the manipulation of the female vote as the “third rail.”
Manipulation of malleable masses has a long tradition in the United States, particularly when it comes to the manipulation of race and racial politics. Indeed, people forget that when Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, he had begun to move beyond the race-limiting valley of racial politics and was climbing the mountain toward a more enlightened vision, a vision which encompassed human rights for all.
King had seen that the true path, and had begun to see that his true task was one of inclusiveness, a vision which saw true human potential encompassed by freedom and justice for ALL. As such a visionary, he was a threat while in the valley, but when he limited his movement to blacks, he could be contained within the race-based power structure as a “black leader,” and used as a bogeyman to frighten whites. However, when his vision broadened, and as his understanding expanded, he came to realize that degradation was a matter of degrees—degrees of skin coloration, that is.
Realistically, for the poor white in the south, the only thing separating him from the blacks he supposedly despised, was his prized whiteness, which the powers that be used to manipulate both races for centuries. Even the slaves often thought of themselves as superior to ‘po white crackers’. Often during slavery, when a task was too dangerous to risk a valuable slave, plantation owners or business owners often brought in whites from the so called “poor white” class.
The enmity between poor whites and poor blacks had been manufactured and nurtured for generations. Now, all of a sudden, here comes a black preacher with a mesmerizing voice and revolutionary vision, a man who was moving beyond “race” to “justice for the poor”—black and white alike. By threatening to upset a race-based labor exploitation, King sealed his death warrant.
Just think about it. Rev. King had managed to invigorate millions of blacks, so much so that they were willing to follow his non-violent crusade against racism, to take beating after beating, with out retaliating, to risk job, liberty and life, without retaliation. He organized massive marches through baton wielding, dog launching lines of police, sheriffs and state trooper, all through the south, and still, neither King, nor his black followers were cowed or deterred. Now, if he could do that with blacks, what would happen if he broadened his mission to the poor--tens of millions of poor people of all races?
With his movement expanding beyond mere black voting rights to worker’s rights as a whole in Memphis, his death warrant was already sealed—and well he knew it. Why else would he proclaim that he “would not get to the mountain top with you?”
King was no young liberal neophyte. He was a child of the south, a man of the south, a minister of the south. He knew his nation’s history and had long since taken the measure of the “establishment”—the white one and the black one. More than one alleged black leader, fearing for his own skin, fearing repercussions from repressive whites, knew the danger, feared it and despised King for taunting the tiger.
Centuries of go along to get along blacks, what many young blacks today call “handkerchief heads,” kept the lid on black revolution by defusing, denouncing and selling out would-be black revolutionaries and political upstarts. Then, here comes Rev. King, a highly educated black, southern preacher who refused to back down to either the conservative blacks or repressive whites, who refused to slow down and “wait for a better time.”
For King, the time was now. Not tomorrow. Now.
As are all servants of justice, true servants, Rev. King was willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good of humanity. He saw the possibilities of justice, having climbed from the valley of race-limited possibilities and repression to the mountain top of enlightenment. He knew that what he and millions of blacks and poor whites had experienced was not all there was to life.
He knew that there was more to life than anger, victimhood, despair, violence and poverty. Most of all, Rev. King knew that the human potential was being constrained by racism and race-based violence.