Silencing A King, Twice

“America was legally an apartheid state in living memory.”

——The New York Times, April 2, 2018

by now everyone who wants to has had something to say on this 50th anniversary of the murder of a man of the people, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Not only have we heard what a civil rights champion he was, but some have tried to make it clear he was more than that. He stood strongly against the Vietnam War. He stood strongly for those whose lives were pigmented with poverty, that most awful of colors found on the palette of laissez-faire economics. In fact, he was in Memphis fifty Image result for sanitation workers’ strikeyears ago to support striking sanitation workers, unionism being a good way to escape poverty. Those city workers were low-paid, had no health insurance, weren’t paid overtime, and weren’t entitled to workers’ compensation. Dr. King was on their side.

King was silenced by a convicted felon who had escaped from the Missouri penitentiary the previous year. The felon hated King and admired Hitler, and one of his lawyers, who was eventually convicted in 1980 for the bombing of a black church in 1958, was a white supremacist and life-long member of the Ku Klux Klan. The felon’s family said he wanted to kill Dr. King. He did. That murder was the first silencing. The second was to come.

The New York Times editorialized a few days ago about King’s “moral clarity” in calling America to “Be true to what you said on paper.” The editorial continued:

As Dr. King knew well, the history of voting in the United States was, and is, in large part the history of white people in power devising endless ways to keep black people from casting a ballot.

It’s been true all along, from the complete disenfranchisement of slavery to the effective silencing of the Jim Crow era up to now, when a welter of clever and at times subtle laws operates to make it harder for minorities to get to the polls, and to have an equal voice — or any voice at all — in the choice of our representatives and policies.

Most white folks think that the voting rights issue has been settled by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which did have a huge positive effect on black registration and voting. However, as the Times points out, the Act “still requires frequent care and tending by the federal courts, especially the Supreme Court.” And we know the reactionaries on the Court are a problem:

Unfortunately, the court’s conservative majority has severely weakened the protections the law was intended to provide. The biggest blow came in a 2013 decision, Shelby County v. Holder. In that case, the five conservative justices, led by Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., gutted the heart of the act, which identified several states with long histories of voting discrimination, most in the South, and required them to get federal permission before changing their voting laws. While that remedy may have been a necessary response to 1960s-era racism, the chief justice wrote, “things have changed dramatically.”

Clearly things haven’t changed dramatically. We now have Tr-mp and what the Times says is “the resurgence of overt racism and white nationalism that has followed, with no meaningful pushback from the president [sic].” And we have a concerted effort by Republicans all over parts of the country under their control to make it harder for people of color to vote:

Poll taxes and literacy tests have given way to voter-ID laws, cutbacks to early voting and same-day registration, polling place closings, voter-roll purges, racially discriminatory redistricting and felon disenfranchisement laws — most of which, though justified on race-neutral grounds, harm minority voters more.

This represents the second silencing of Dr. King. He believed that black votes could “transform the entire country.” Apparently, Republicans do too.

Those of us who believe in an inclusive democracy have to speak for a silenced Dr. King. And, oddly, the most noise we could possibly make is by voting every single Republican—every last one of them—out of office.

1 Comment

  1. Bbob

     /  April 4, 2018

    I refuse to vote for a single Republican. Thy are all tainted by Trump.


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