A moment of contemplation for yourself or on behalf of others on everything from the life-altering to the mundane.


Prayer: A conversation with The Higher Other who lives within each of us. An invitation to vent, to re-think, to ask, and to rest.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Meditation Moments: We're Still Dreaming, Dr. King


           The release of the movie Selma in the 50th anniversary year of the civil rights marches on Montgomery from Selma, Alabama, will bring several generations up to speed on the way things were.  African-Americans, Asians, Hispanics, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, etc., and Caucasians who were too young to remember or not yet born will get a glimpse of the harsh and often brutal realities of the race struggles in the 1950s and 1960s. It's time for all of us to look, see, remember, and think again on how far we have come, how far we have yet to go, and how things - if we don't watch and act - will turn back.  
          Those of us old enough to remember will know that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was landmark legislation that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and/or national origin.  It was followed by the Voting Rights Act passed on August 6, 1965 which was amended several times over the years to strengthen the ability of all citizens to have unencumbered access for voting.              
          In 2013 and 2014, many states, and the US Supreme Court, took measures to reduce the effectiveness of these laws by enacting legislation creating barriers to the ballot box based on a false pretext of protecting against voter fraud. Such legislation will reduce the ability of minority, elderly, poor, and physically challenged individuals to meet the new criteria for casting a ballot in future elections. In a country forged in democracy, yet where voter apathy is frighteningly rampant, the gerrymandering of credentialing, voting hours, and availability of adequate numbers of voting machines has had and will continue to have an adverse effect on voter turnout. Reading this speech of Dr. King's, of which the following is only an excerpt, I can feel the hands of time creeping backwards.
            Dr. King's oratory was legendary and I can still hear his voice when I read the words below. I hope you will read it - the emphasis is mine - and, I also hope you will click the link at the bottom to read the speech in its entirety. One other thing that Dr. King said often, in various ways, is that "There comes a time when silence is betrayal." We must NOT be silent. We can, should, and must, make a concerted effort to implore and demand of our legislators  that voting credentials be fair and easily obtained for all who meet the basic criteria of citizenship and age. Voting is but one issue in the realm of discrimination, but if one of our brothers and sisters are denied, then we are all denied full and equal access to democracy. We are the people for which government is by, for, and of....
           Let us cross the bridge again, hand in hand.

"How Long, Not Long" is the popular name given to the public speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on the steps of the State Capitol in Montgomery, Alabama, after the successful completion of the Selma to Montgomery March on March 25, 1965. The speech is also sometimes referred to as "Our God Is Marching On!"
How long? Not long, because no lie can live forever.
How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.


"...Our whole campaign in Alabama has been centered around the right to vote. In focusing the attention of the nation and the world today on the flagrant denial of the right to vote, we are exposing the very origin, the root cause, of racial segregation in the Southland. Racial segregation as a way of life did not come about as a natural result of hatred between the races immediately after the Civil War. There were no laws segregating the races then. And as the noted historian, C. Vann Woodward, in his book, The Strange Career of Jim Crow*, clearly points out, the segregation of the races was really a political stratagem employed by the emerging Bourbon interests in the South to keep the southern masses divided and southern labor the cheapest in the land. You see, it was a simple thing to keep the poor white masses working for near-starvation wages in the years that followed the Civil War. Why, if the poor white plantation or mill worker became dissatisfied with his low wages, the plantation or mill owner would merely threaten to fire him and hire former Negro slaves and pay him even less. Thus, the southern wage level was kept almost unbearably low.

Toward the end of the Reconstruction era, something very significant happened. That is what was known as the Populist Movement. The leaders of this movement began awakening the poor white masses and the former Negro slaves to the fact that they were being fleeced by the emerging Bourbon interests. Not only that, but they began uniting the Negro and white masses into a voting bloc that threatened to drive the Bourbon interests from the command posts of political power in the South.


Marchers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge
in Selma, Alabama in March, 1965
To meet this threat, the southern aristocracy began immediately to engineer this development of a segregated society. I want you to follow me through here because this is very important to see the roots of racism and the denial of the right to vote. Through their control of mass media, they revised the doctrine of white supremacy. They saturated the thinking of the poor white masses with it, thus clouding their minds to the real issue involved in the Populist Movement. They then directed the placement on the books of the South of laws that made it a crime for Negroes and whites to come together as equals at any level. And that did it. That crippled and eventually destroyed the Populist Movement of the nineteenth century.

If it may be said of the slavery era that the white man took the world and gave the Negro Jesus, then it may be said of the Reconstruction era that the southern aristocracy took the world and gave the poor white man Jim Crow. He gave him Jim Crow. And when his wrinkled stomach cried out for the food that his empty pockets could not provide, he ate Jim Crow, a psychological bird that told him that no matter how bad off he was, at least he was a white man, better than the black man.  And he ate Jim Crow. And when his undernourished children cried out for the necessities that his low wages could not provide, he showed them the Jim Crow signs on the buses and in the stores, on the streets and in the public buildings.  And his children, too, learned to feed upon Jim Crow, their last outpost of psychological oblivion.

Thus, the threat of the free exercise of the ballot by the Negro and the white masses alike resulted in the establishment of a segregated society. They segregated southern money from the poor whites; they segregated southern mores from the rich whites; they segregated southern churches from Christianity; they segregated southern minds from honest thinking; and they segregated the Negro from everything. That’s what happened when the Negro and white masses of the South threatened to unite and build a great society: a society of justice where none would prey upon the weakness of others; a society of plenty where greed and poverty would be done away; a society of brotherhood where every man would respect the dignity and worth of human personality..."






*"Jim Crow" became a pejorative term for African-Americans in about the late 1830s because of a popular song called Jump Jim Crow that was written and performed in blackface all over the country by a white man, Thomas Rice, beginning in about 1832. This stereotyped mocking image was applied to the laws of racial segregation that became known as Jim Crow Laws.

The full text of this speech is available here: 
http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/kingpapers/article/our_god_is_marching_on/





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