It is a travesty that too many Americans will take advantage of the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday without acknowledging the slain Civil Rights leader’s battle against economic inequality plaguing Americans and the nation’s democracy; but that is the price to pay for a nation still steeped in racial animus. There is an aberration perpetuated by the Republican Party that Dr. King was a staunch Republican, but that is as monumental a lie as Republicans claiming they are not racists or vehemently against ending income disparity plaguing the great majority of Americans; regardless of their racial makeup. In fact, there is absolutely nothing whatsoever that Republicans represent that Dr. King would even tepidly support, and in fact he would be leading the fight against everything conservatives stand for; whether they are social, racial, or economic policies.
In his autobiography, Dr. King wrote that just as they are today, “the Republicans gear their appeal and programs to racism, reaction, and extremism.” And, speaking of the 1964 Republican national convention, King acknowledged that again just like today, “All people of goodwill viewed with alarm and concern the frenzied wedding of Republicans with the radical right (KKK).” And, he duly noted that just like Republicans today, “the best man at this ceremony was a senator whose voting record, philosophy, and program were anathema to all the hard-won achievements of the past decade.” Nothing whatsoever has changed with Republicans, and it is precisely why they, and their racist supporters in the teabagger movement, chant ad nauseum that their only goal in governing is “taking the country back” to the pre-Civil Rights era.
It is true that Dr. King is likely best-known for the famous line in his “I Have a Dream Speech” where he sees a future when “one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” And “that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Obviously nothing has changed in 50 years except that there is a concerted attempt to exacerbate the blatant inequality and racial animus King combatted. However, Americans often forget, if they ever really knew, that the most important aspect of MLK’s legacy is his crusade against economic injustice and poverty; something Republicans are crusading just as ardently to increase as King was concerned with alleviating and something he saw as the real and present danger to America and its now-waning Democracy.
When people refer to, and comment on, Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” during “The March on Washington,” they never reveal that the title of the event was actually, “The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” The title is as apropos today as it was in the 1960s, and King was fighting for precisely the same things Republicans are desperate to prevent at all costs; “to put an end to poverty and provide guaranteed income for every citizen regardless of race.” It is why when Republicans dare claim Martin Luther King was a Republican, it is a wonder they don’t gag and choke on one of the filthiest lies to come out of their racist mouths.
Many Americans, regardless of race, are completely unaware that King was deeply invested in a “Poor People’s Campaign.” He clearly was cognizant that, like every sociologist on Earth, the income disparity, class, and racial divisions plaguing this racist religious oligarchy will never end until all Americans enjoy economic equality; the one thing no Republican supports and all conservatives work tirelessly to oppose. Their allegiance is to the rich and greater income inequality and they are not timid about admitting it and, they are notorious for using race to perpetuate exactly what MLK fought against; a nation devoted to prosperity for the one-percent.
In 1967 there was a New Deal-like “far-reaching and ambitious” social proposal created by economist Leon Keyserling and Bayard Rustin title the “Freedom Budget.” Rustin was the primary organizer for the “March on Washington” and King wrote the foreword for the Freedom Budget because he supported any program with the potential to lift all Americans, regardless of race, out of the depths of poverty as well as strengthen the economy and America’s democracy. The proposal called for massive government investments in public works projects and infrastructure, comprehensive training programs to upgrade American workers’ skills and education, employment opportunity expansion for all Americans, affordable health care services, and raising the minimum wage to an amount that would be equivalent to about $16.oo per hour today.
It is noteworthy that President Obama has called for the exact same investment in America for the past six years. Every step of the way his proposals were, and still are, thwarted by Republicans intent on investing in the rich with more tax cuts funded with domestic program cuts, killing affordable healthcare, raising middle class taxes, and “expanding the tax base” to include the poor already mired in poverty and the elderly barely surviving on their meager Social Security retirement incomes.
Republicans are adamantly opposed to raising the minimum wage at all and in fact favor abolishing it altogether, and the idea of investing in infrastructure or education is an insult to their conservative oligarchical senses. In fact, just last year a noted and once highly-respected conservative economic expert called on President Obama to propose, and Republicans in the House to immediately pass legislation for at least $1.7 trillion in infrastructure improvements to lift more Americans into the middle class, create millions of jobs, spur economic growth, and slash the number of Americans living in poverty. Obviously, not only did Republicans rail at the suggestion of investing even a penny in America, the conservative economist is no longer highly-respected and is a pariah in Republican circles on the same level as President Obama.
During Dr. King’s famed speech at the March on Washington for Freedom and Jobs, he stated, “We refuse to believe there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.” If he were alive he would likely faint at the amount of money and assets being handed over to the richest one-percent they promptly conceal in “their great vaults” located off-shore to avoid paying taxes. According to poll after survey, most Americans today agree with everything Dr. King championed, and none more-so that Barack Obama who with a small contingent of Democrats are fighting valiantly for the exact same thing Martin Luther King fought for; “an end to poverty and provide opportunity for a guaranteed income for every citizen regardless of race.” Sadly, after 50 years of Republican obstruction, it is a notion that is still just a dream that will never reach fruition.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.