January 17, 2005

King: More Remembrances

Many Kos diarists weighed in with their thoughts on what Martin Luther King's life and work meant to them, and grannyhelen has thoughtfully assembled a guide to them.

Oliver Willis laughs at the feeble attempts of conservatives to appropriate King. The only time today's wingnuts repeat any of the quotes excerpted here, or praise the causes he championed is when they're trying to convince people that all of his goals have been achieved, and there's no need for further activism. Or when they're trying to explain how his goals could be achieved by giving free rein to the very forces King identified as part of the problem. They talk a better game, but they're still the party of Trent Lott.

Over at Talk Left, Jeralyn points to an Alternet article that gives us a greatest hits roundup, and last year's commemoration, good links included.

An MLK quote from the comments at Talk Left:

"Any religion that professes to be concerned with the souls of men and is not concerned with the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them, and the social conditions that cripple them, is a dry-as-dust religion."

Prometheus 6 links to a taped interview with King, and shares some of King's thoughts on education from an address at Morehouse College:

...Education must also train one for quick, resolute and effective thinking. To think incisively and to think for one's self is very difficult. We are prone to let our mental life become invaded by legions of half truths, prejudices, and propaganda. At this point, I often wonder whether or not education is fulfilling its purpose. A great majority of the so-called educated people do not think logically and scientifically. Even the press, the classroom, the platform, and the pulpit in many instances do not give us objective and unbiased truths. To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.

...We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character--that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. The broad education will, therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge of the race but also the accumulated experience of social living. ...

Digby shares the moving transcript of a speech in which Bill Clinton paid tribute to King. But more than that, in the spirit of the civil rights movement and everything that King worked for, he reminds us why taking the African American community for granted is foolish as well as wrong. Emphasis mine:

...And when we hear some of our own complain about the Congressional Black Caucus "mau-mauing" somebody or say derisively that the African American constituency should be less race based and more class based, we need to remember that the congressional black caucus is also the fighting liberal caucus. (They were the first and loudest to protest the bogus impeachment, a fact which Clinton knew that day very well.) They are Democrats because the Democratic Party invited them in and asked them to sit at the table when it was politically difficult to do. They knew that Bill Clinton, for all his foibles, understood that and appreciated what that meant. And they stood by him when he was being persecuted by the other side. If there is today a more reliable constituency of authentic courageous liberal Democrats, I don't know what it is. ...

Nathan Newman reminds us that King was a passionate supporter of labor, he was in Memphis on that fateful day in 1968 to help organize a strike, and pointed to some of his words on labor. Courtesy of AFSCME, emphasis mine:

At the turn of the century women earned approximately ten cents an hour, and men were fortunate to receive twenty cents an hour. The average work week was sixty to seventy hours. During the thirties, wages were a secondary issue; to have a job at all was the difference between the agony of starvation and a flicker of life. The nation, now so vigorous, reeled and tottered almost to total collapse. The labor movement was the principal force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress. Out of its bold struggles, economic and social reform gave birth to unemployment insurance, old age pensions, government relief for the destitute, and above all new wage levels that meant not mere survival, but a tolerable life. The captains of industry did not lead this transformation; they resisted it until they were overcome. When in the thirties the wave of union organization crested over our nation, it carried to secure shores not only itself but the whole society.

  - Illinois AFL-CIO Convention, October 1965

When there is massive unemployment in the black community, it is called a social problem. But when there is massive unemployment in the white community, it is called a Depression.

We look around every day and we see thousands and millions of people making inadequate wages. Not only do they work in our hospitals, they work in our hotels, they work in our laundries, they work in domestic service, they find themselves underemployed. You see, no labor is really menial unless you're not getting adequate wages. People are always talking about menial labor. But if you're getting a good (wage) as I know that through some unions they've brought it up...that isn't menial labor. What makes it menial is the income, the wages.

  - Local 1199 Salute to Freedom, March 1968

It's good to remember the people in our history who inspire us, to spread their words to new ears, to refresh the hope that's hard to sustain in everyday life. Still, to paraphrase Dean, that only gets us a "C". I'm no paragon of activism, but I hope next year when it comes time to remind ourselves of King's words, I'll have done more to further his dream of what our society could be.

Posted by natasha at January 17, 2005 11:22 PM | Community | Technorati links |