Whoa. You mean racism didn’t end after the civil war? I guess there’s a reason we still need a Martin Luther King Day to remind us of the struggle. I notice some things never change on the Right: the random Capitalization, the ALL CAPS (we await technology to enable random font changes), the draping of themselves in True Americanism, the poor grammar, the absence of the Oxford Comma, and, oh yeah, the implicit hate
It reminds me of how virulent anti-communism was (and still is) in this country, that just howling how much you hate the commies was sufficient cover to excuse racism, oppression, tyranny, and violence — and I’ll note that even now, the racist haters justify their contempt for MLK by accusing him incessantly of communist ties.
I can think of quite a few things
more deadly — more sinister — to American Democracy than those three fundamentally defunct ideologies: how about patriotism, piety, and inequity? In fact, all the things the Ku Klux Klan stood for were inherent corruptions of the Enlightenment ideals (fitfully and poorly implemented) that were driving forces behind the founding of this country, and those same corruptions continue to be major factors in the ideology of the Republican party.
I’m also sad to see that that letter came from Seattle, where I grew up, which I remember as a liberal part of the country, a blue-collar town that was a hotbed of labor unions and Wobblies. But there was also always a dark undercurrent of racism there: farmers of Japanese descent could tell you stories, that’s for sure, and the labor movement focused and inspired some of the nastier elements of the far right, as Jeff Sharlet explains:
…Sharlet relates how Vereide, a Norwegian immigrant, founded the Fellowship (the organization now known as the Family) in Seattle in 1935, in direct response to a wave of militant strikes along the West Coast. First regionally and then nationally, business leaders rallied to Vereide’s prayer circles as a way to inject a new spirit of purpose and unity into their fight against organized labor and the New Deal. With the Cold War, Vereide’s “International Christian Leadership” spread to western Europe, notably West Germany, where it helped to rehabilitate a number of former Nazis into anticommunist respectability. (Sharlet describes Vereide’s relationship with fascism as “weirdly ambivalent”. He cultivated Nazi sympathizers Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh and recruited at least one genuine fascist, Merwin K. Hart, to the Fellowship board, but was ultimately more at home with conservative Republicans than far right rabble rousers such as Father Coughlin.) In the 1960s, Coe succeeded Vereide as organizational leader and made two important changes: Following the trajectory of U.S. Cold War policy, he shifted the Fellowship’s international focus away from Europe toward Latin America, Asia, and Africa, and he took the organization “underground,” moving it out of the public eye as much as possible, as a protective measure against sixties radicalism and upheaval.
Of course, David Neiwert is also an invaluable investigator of the darkness gnawing at the Pacific Northwest.
This country has allowed the voices and attitudes represented by that KKK letter — attitudes that were spawned by a vicious reaction to a rising tide of liberal, egalitarian thought — to drown out the ideals of America. Those ideals were better represented by the radical revolutionary Martin Luther King than by rich Wall Street bankers and Silicon Valley moguls. Those ideals are too often forgotten. This day is a day when we should all remind ourselves of that which we oppose and what we should be fostering, a world where all human beings have equal opportunity and dignity. Read King’s “Where Do We Go From Here?” speech to remind yourselves of what we ought to aspire to.
In other words, "Your whole structure (Yes) must be changed." [applause] A nation that will keep people in slavery for 244 years will "thingify" them and make them things. (Speak) And therefore, they will exploit them and poor people generally economically. (Yes) And a nation that will exploit economically will have to have foreign investments and everything else, and it will have to use its military might to protect them. All of these problems are tied together. (Yes) [applause]
What I’m saying today is that we must go from this convention and say, "America, you must be born again!" [applause] (Oh yes)
And so, I conclude by saying today that we have a task, and let us go out with a divine dissatisfaction. (Yes)
Let us be dissatisfied until America will no longer have a high blood pressure of creeds and an anemia of deeds. (All right)
Let us be dissatisfied (Yes) until the tragic walls that separate the outer city of wealth and comfort from the inner city of poverty and despair shall be crushed by the battering rams of the forces of justice. (Yes sir)
Let us be dissatisfied (Yes) until those who live on the outskirts of hope are brought into the metropolis of daily security.
Let us be dissatisfied (Yes) until slums are cast into the junk heaps of history (Yes), and every family will live in a decent, sanitary home.
Let us be dissatisfied (Yes) until the dark yesterdays of segregated schools will be transformed into bright tomorrows of quality integrated education.
Let us be dissatisfied until integration is not seen as a problem but as an opportunity to participate in the beauty of diversity.
Let us be dissatisfied (All right) until men and women, however black they may be, will be judged on the basis of the content of their character, not on the basis of the color of their skin. (Yeah) Let us be dissatisfied. [applause]
Let us be dissatisfied (Well) until every state capitol (Yes) will be housed by a governor who will do justly, who will love mercy, and who will walk humbly with his God.
Let us be dissatisfied [applause] until from every city hall, justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream. (Yes)
Let us be dissatisfied (Yes) until that day when the lion and the lamb shall lie down together (Yes), and every man will sit under his own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid.
Let us be dissatisfied (Yes), and men will recognize that out of one blood (Yes) God made all men to dwell upon the face of the earth. (Speak sir)
Let us be dissatisfied until that day when nobody will shout, "White Power!" when nobody will shout, "Black Power!" but everybody will talk about God’s power and human power. [applause]
The bits about God I can do without, but make no mistake, I agree entirely with the larger theme of that speech. Now if only a person of prominence could express those values unreservedly without being gunned down by the powers of ignorance and oppression…if only those values were represented in Congress…if only…