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Monday, October 24, 2016

“So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., August 28, 1963

This is “tomorrow.”

Meaning that unknowable future whose unknowable difficulties Martin Luther King invoked half a century ago when he told America about his dream. If you could somehow magically bring him here, that tomorrow would likely seem miraculous to him, faced as he was with a time when segregation, police brutality, employment discrimination and voter suppression were widely and openly practiced.

Here in tomorrow, after all, the president is black. The business mogul is black. The movie star is black. The sports icon is black. The reporter, the scholar, the lawyer, the teacher, the doctor… all of them are black. And King might think for a moment that he was wrong about tomorrow and its troubles.

It would not take long for him to see the grimy truth beneath the shiny surface, to learn that the perpetual suspect is also black. As are the indigent woman, the dropout, the fatherless child, the suppressed voter and the boy lying dead in the grass with candy and iced tea in his pocket.

King would see that for all the progress we have made, we live in a time of proud ignorance and moral cowardice wherein some white people — not all — smugly but incorrectly pronounce all racial problems solved. More galling, it is an era of such cognitive incoherence that conservatives — acolytes of the ideology against which King struggled all his life — now routinely claim ownership of his movement and kinship with his cause.

When he was under fire for questioning the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, for instance, Senator Rand Paul wanted it known that he’d have marched with King had he been of age. And he probably believes that.

But what people like Paul fail to grasp is that the issues against which African-Americans railed in 1963 were just as invisible to some of us back then as the issues of 2013 are to some of us right now. They did not see the evil of police brutality in ’63 any more than some of us can see the evil of mass incarceration now. They did not see how poll taxes rigged democracy against black people then any more than some of us can see how Voter ID laws do the same thing now.

  • idamag

    When Obama was elected, it brought the racists out of the closet. When the supreme court starts dismantling the Civil Rights Act, they will be further emboldened. When a jury acquits a murderer of a teen with candy and ice tea, they cheer the victories and cannot wait to start lynching all over again. Civil Rights set the tone. Racists never went away, they just became quiet about it. Scalia showed us the battle is not over.

    • wjca

      The main difference is that now they feel compelled to insist that they only object to his policies. Ignoring the fact that they reflexively object to any and all policies that he embraces — including the ones that they demanded until he was seen to be in favor. The ACA being only the most blatant one.

      It is entirely possible that the racists are also lying to themselves about the roots of their objection. But the level of their hysteria makes the reality impossible to miss.

      • idamag

        I think they do. “To thine own self be true, and it follows, thou canst be false to any man.” – Shakespeare. If they would examine their own feelings they would find that they are racist even though it goes against their intellectual thinking.

  • tdm3624

    I think today racism is more difficult to see. Riots and bombings make the evening news. A Supreme Court decision taking away part of an act that most Americans aren’t familiar with does not. Two separate drinking fountains is a visual that cannot be turned off or ignored, whereas a crazy racist rant can be. The drama of peaceful protesters having dogs set on them and sprayed with fire hoses is a different visual than a 100 prisoners sitting quietly in their cells.

    It is a difference similar to who our enemies were and are today. In the 1960s there was one enemy, the USSR. Now we have many shadowy terrorist organizations. Who our enemies are isn’t quite as clear. In the 1960s it was easy to see who the enemy was and where the injustice was coming from. The Lester Maddoxes and George Wallaces do not speak as openly today as they did yesterday.

  • Sand_Cat

    Rand Paul probably would have marched “with” King as one of those walking alongside throwing racist epithets, obscenities, and sometimes solid objects.