Martin Luther King, Jr as a civil rights activist sought to end sanctioned racial disparities in opportunity. That -- racial inequity -- has been the hallmark of many societies throughout human existence. Primarily, these inequalities are expressed in a racial caste system which may have stated or implicit lines of demarcation for establishing the social or employment status of individuals. In the United States it has be held that “men” are white males of high European ancestry. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
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Racial inequities inherently seem to be an injustice which holds that there is oppressor on one extreme and oppressed on the other with varying degrees of both falling on a gradient plane somewhere between. The desire for a pluralistic society free of this gradation has long been dreamt by many, particularly those toward the oppressed end of the scale.
In early 19th Century America utopian societies abounded based upon an equitable share principle for all members and elimination of hierarchies or class but most of these were short-lived and disbanded over internal power squabbles.
Interestingly, these societies were nearly universally homogenous. Consisting of white members of high European ancestry The New Harmony settlement in Indiana added the additional qualifier of being in a position of scientific leadership. But it also fell apart in only a few years. So even the geniuses couldn’t make a go of it.
Thus, it would be a struggle of greater magnitude to then seek equity in class for a heterogenous group. In the United States the turmoil over the status of black people, notably slaves, would reach a tumult in both oratory fashion and physical contention. A portion of the United States would create a separate country over the ensuing financial and subsequent political ramifications. The two countries would engage in a protracted battle but not before Republican presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln addressed the issue of racial disparity.
“I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, [applause] ... I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will for ever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be a position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.” [fn1]
Lincoln is later credited with “ending slavery” in the United States by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. This is not entirely accurate though. The Emancipation Proclamation was applied to the opposing combatant country, the Confederate States of America, during the middle period of the conflict. Slavery in the United States, to where recently freed slaves would migrate from the Confederate States and assist in the U.S. war effort, would remain intact however.
These former slaves would remain subjugated citizens in the position of inferior class as Lincoln had demanded and proclaimed. Their freedom was not to elevate their status but was designed to weaken the Confederacy by draining it of a labour pool and the financial benefit of exploited blacks whose exploitation in the U.S. would turn the tide of the war. The remaining slaves would subsequently be freed following cessation of combat.
To his credit, candidate Lincoln, while still being a white supremacist, did argue that slavery was morally unjust and should be ended through legislative action which was a hallmark of his candidacy and presidency. As president he was impeded by his Democratic counterparts who supported slavery. Some withdrew from the United States.
As it stood 150 years ago Democrats supported slavery while Republican leadership sought an end to the practice although their president was an ardent white supremist.
To check on the progress of racial equity in the United States as mandated through three constitutional amendments I advance you nearly 100 years. The issue of racial inequity and subjugation was being brought to the fore by Martin Luther King Jr. In 1960, just days before the presidential election, John F Kennedy had his brother put pressure on a DeKalb County judge which secured Martin Luther King Jr.’s release from jail. That action, followed by King’s praises for and endorsement of Kennedy, contributed to Kennedy obtaining 68% of the black vote in the presidential race and bolstered Democrats -- the pro-slavery party -- broadly.
King had been charged with trespassing after leading a sit-in demonstration against segregation in Atlanta. Kennedy’s intervention and subsequent election marked a clear alliance between civil rights activist and Kennedy. King would refer to Kennedy’s pre-election civil rights commitment as a “huge promissory note” to pass civil rights legislation.
However, Kennedy only reluctantly made token gestures toward civil rights advancement and the Democratic controlled House of Representatives let the early legislation die. Kennedy also undermined the efforts of King and consented to police violence against activists. That abruptly changed in June of 1963, when under intense political pressure following the brutal Birmingham police riot of 03 May 1963, he announced a plan for comprehensive civil rights legislation.
Kennedy, like many in the Democratic Party leadership, wanted blacks to have equity in voting -- based upon the likelihood of those votes being cast for him. When it came to social and economic equity however Kennedy sided with his Republican predecessor Abraham Lincoln.
Over 30 years ago when I was becoming politically active I explored groups that had a civil rights foundation at least partially based upon race. Whenever I broached the subject of ending racial discrimination I was given a cold shoulder. Except among one group. Ironically, it was white nationalists who embraced and lobbied for an end to sanctioned racial discrimination.
Some 30 years later it no longer seems ironic. During those years I have come to fully understand how pretending to support an oppressed group is socially, politically, and financially profitable. The leaders promises to walk hand-in-hand with the oppressed but need their support [votes / $$$] so the leaders can fight for change. Meanwhile, the individuals should stay in their place and accept their lot in life, continue to be exploited, and let the leaders they support make that change.
For over 150 years now Democrats have been providing lip service for racial equity but have only reluctantly accepted what has been thrust upon them by the mass of individuals who refuse to wait for change. The progress in obtaining racial equity in the United States has been a cultural push slowly advancing against the resistance of the Democrat Party which like the former presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln is “ in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”
Martin Luther King Jr had a dream and Democrats appeared to be the political party to fulfill it. But like many dreams it was partially illusion. Racial equity will be realized by individuals. Individuals who refuse to acknowledge or disclose race on any official documents. Individuals who refuse to participate in sanctioned racial inequity. Individuals who "out" those who do play the race game -- particularly the politicians like Kennedy who pretended to be advocates..
1] The Lincoln-Douglas Debates 4th Debate Part I, Charleston, Illinois, September 18, 1858; Opening remark of Abraham Lincoln
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