Monday, January 16, 2012

Is The Dream Dead? MLK, Sistah Souljah, and Our Future

Martin Luther King, Jr., has always been a heavy influence in my life. This may shock the liberal establishment and liberal bloggers. From a young age, I was exposed to the words of Dr. King and I took them to heart. Despite being from rural SW Ohio, where indeed sometimes there are racial jokes, I was an outsider. I believed in the dream Dr. King articulated so well and so beautifully:

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that 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."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream 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.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

I looked at people for the content of their character. I didn't worry about skin color. One of my first friends in kindergarten was a boy named Chris, who was the only black kid in our class. I didn't care what color he was.

As Dr. King spoke those words, his dream was already in motion. More and more schools were giving up on the segregationist myth and coming together, black and white. People were going to similar businesses. It was slow, but it was happening. The economic status of the African American was getting better. As more African Americans moved to the industrial upper North, things continued to get better. Far from perfect, but it was getting better. A generation had seen African Americans and White Americans play sports together in baseball, basketball, and football. The dream was becoming more and more a reality. The black family was a bedrock of stability and social instruction. Things were progressing.

I always believed in content of character over color. Always. And where is the status of Dr. King's dream today? Sadly, with what I see in our culture today, the Dream is dying on the vine. Color and ethnicity are being trumped over character and shared values. Color and tribe are being used to divide us, especially at a time in our nation when we should and need to be together.

The Sistah Souljah garbage at Cincinnati Public Library is just a small part of the problem. There has been a huge shift in our culture and in the dynamic of the black community. Where once we were about coming together and being color blind, now we seem to be overly color sensitive. And it is spawning a backlash. Don't get me wrong. Martin's dream was not about giving up identity or being proud of one's race or background. Rather, it was about respecting that; but at the same time, looking past the paradigms of color and getting to the essence of each other. We don't seem to do that much anymore. Let me give you some examples, both political and personal.

Steve Cohen was a Jewish liberal Democrat from Tennessee. When I mean liberal, I mean flaming liberal. When he went to Congress, he was the sole primary sponsor of a Congressional apology to black America, pledging the House to rectify the "lingering misdeeds committed against African Americans under slavery and Jim Crow." He promised his mostly black constituents that he would seek membership in the Black Congressional Caucus. What happened to his membership?

Nothing. He got slapped in the face. And, no other white congressman representing minority districts have ever been invited to join. All who dared to apply, like Pete Stark of CA, were rejected. Tell me, how does this get to the essence of judging based on content of character? Leaders said it is "critical" that the Black Caucus remain "exclusively African-American." 6o years ago George Wallace was saying something similar about schools in his state staying exclusively white. And, to really bring something to light, this caucus, with its racial profiling and discrimination, conducts its business on federal offices on government grounds where there is supposed to be no discrimination based on race.

It seems, sadly, that those who cried out 50 years ago for judgment based on character now want to turn back the clock and engage in segregation that THEY control. This flies in the very face of what Dr. King was preaching to us from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Even in the press and media, we have an ethnic Balkanization. Look at the Democratic primary in 2008. Even though Barack Obama is black (though some in the black community said he was not authentic, like Al Sharpton and writers at the LA Times coining the phrase Barack the Magic Negro), how else beside tribal politics do you explain how blacks came out 9:1 for Obama vs. the wife of the man Toni Morrison called our "first black President?" BET announced it would carry Obama's acceptance speech at the convention, but didn't carry the GOP acceptance speech or convention. Isn't that a bit discriminatory? What happened to judging on ideas vs. color? Then we have UNITY.

UNITY: Journalists of Color, is an organization of journalists who say the media needs more people of color. I would say media needs more journalists instead of partisans, regardless of color. In 2004, W was booed soundly at their convention. In 2004, Kerry receieved a standing ovation. In 2008, McCain didn't show and what happened when Obama came to speak, as the featured speaker no less, at the last day of the convention? The roof was blown off. UNITY is composed of four groups--an Asian group, a Hispanic group, a Native American group, and a black group. They aim to get more minorities in top media management. This is a worthy goal...but what about qualifications over color? Not so much. They have a goal called Ten by 2010. This goal is a demand that US news organizations elevate to senior management positions in the newsroom at least one journalist of color and "provide customized training to help prepare them." The chosen journalist may be Asian, African American, Native American, or Histpanic. However, to echo the past, no Irish need apply. Or Polish. Or Italian. Or German. Or Jewish. Or English. What about their qualifications? Nowhere do they talk about the person being qualified to run the newsroom or be in management. Just that they be of color. IS this MLK's dream in action? Where is content of character?

President Obama rewarded his ovation by UNITY with the appointment of a diversity czar Mark Lloyd, who praised the repressive Hugo Chavez regime with what he was doing with his media in Venezuela. He also said that white journalists had to step down to open up positions for people of color:
There is nothing more difficult than this because we have really truly, good white people in important positions, and...there are a limited number of those positions. And unless we are conscious of the need to have more people of color, gays, other people in those positions, we will not change the problem. But we;re in a position where you have to say who is going to step down so someone else can have power."

Half a century ago, Martin Luther King envisioned a day when his children would be judged "not by the color of their skin but the content of their character." And not just in journalism, but in important public sector jobs like police and fire, people are demanding the hiring and promotion of people based on the color of their skin. Jim Crow is back. Only the color of the beneficiaries and the color of the victims have been reversed. Call it James White.

In my own experience, some friends and I decided to try a new eatery in Fairfield, Ohio. Previously it had been a pizzeria and now was under new ownership and had been remodeled with a new name and such. Since it had a convenient location, we decided to drop in. It reminded me of the scene in Animal House where the Delta Tau Chi boys stop in the bar to see Otis Day and the Knights...We were about the only "white folk" at the place. And everyone was, "why are you here, don't you have Olive Garden to go to?" We waited for 15 minutes. No one came to seat us or talked to us, even as the hostess stared from the doorway to the kitchen. Is this any different than a diner having a "whites only" sign?

Remember our liberal friend Congressman Cohen? In 2008, he faced an African American primary challenger in Nikki Tinker. Tinker featured the uber-liberal Cohen in an ad next to a hooded Klansman. Given what we discussed before, this seems strange. What had Cohen done? He refused the removing of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest's gravesite and statue from a Memphis park. Forrest had at one time been a founder of the KKK but later repudiated the Klan:
Forrest dissolved the first incarnation of the Ku Klux Klan in 1869, although many local groups continued their activities for several years.[47]

Forrest testified before the Congressional investigation on Klan activities on June 27, 1871. Forrest denied membership, but his individual role in the KKK was beyond the scope of the investigating committee which wrote:

When it is considered that the origin, designs, mysteries, and ritual of the order are made secrets; that the assumption of its regalia or the revelation of any of its secrets, even by an expelled member, or of its purposes by a member, will be visited by ‘the extreme penalty of the law,’ the difficulty of procuring testimony upon this point may be appreciated, and the denials of the purposes, of membership in, and even the existence of the order, should all be considered in the light of these provisions. This contrast might be pursued further, but our design is not to connect General Forrest with this order, (the reader may form his own conclusion upon this question,) but to trace its development, and from its acts and consequences gather the designs which are locked up under such penalties.”[48]

The committee also noted, "The natural tendency of all such organizations is to violence and crime; hence it was that General Forrest and other men of influence in the state, by the exercise of their moral power, induced them to disband.”[49]

In 1875, Forrest demonstrated that his personal sentiments on the issue of race now differed from that of the Klan, when he was invited to give a speech before an organization of black Southerners advocating racial reconciliation, called the Independent Order of Pole-Bearers Association. At this, his last public appearance, he made what the New York Times described as a "friendly speech"[9] during which, when offered a bouquet of flowers by a black woman, he accepted them as a token of reconciliation between the races and espoused a radically progressive (for the time) agenda of equality and harmony between black and white Americans.[50]

Anyhow, he was attacked and jeered. Anti Semitic fliers came out asking why does Steve Cohen and Jews hate Jesus. Cohen won the primary and won election, but it wasn't over. In 2009, Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton decided to take on Cohen, and it became very dirty. Cohen was besmirched as not thinking much of blacks,a nd playing the "black community. Herenton's campaign manager, one Sidney Chism said, "this seat was set aside for people who look like me (Chism is black)...It wasn't set aside for a Jew or a Christian. It was set aside so that blacks could have representation." They did have representation, from a very liberal democrat. It became so ugly that Obama himself had to step in and endorse Cohen, who then cruised to victory. Then there is the tale of Chris Bell....

Chris Bell's congressional district was remade into a mostly African American district. Bell's democratic colleagues in the Black Caucus contributed to his African American primary opponent.

What many forget is that in the original civil rights movement that Martin Luther Kind championed, whites and blacks, Christians and Jews, stood together. Well, once it became an industry, whites and Jews were shown the door.

However, blacks and Jews had an alliance and fought together at one time. From the book Broken Alliance:
Blacks and Jews were brought together by intersecting agendas. Jews, emerging from the catastrophe of the Second World War, their recent past shaped by their experience of anti-Semitism in the United States and the legacy of Eastern European socialism, latched onto a political agenda which, they believed, would ensure their success in America: Society should not make distinctions based on race or religion. That was good for blacks -- but it was good for Jews, too. Blacks, readying in the 1950's for yet another assault on segregation, emboldened by the Supreme Court's decision in Brown vs. Board of Education abolishing segregated schools, were willing to reach out and work with white allies. They accepted the help of Jews as people who could make a difference. There was genuine love and cooperation in the civil rights movement, but for some blacks and Jews, the main motivation was not an alliance but success. The alliance was a means to an end, not an end in itself. (p. 268) At a time when the cause of black rights was far from popular, Jewish givers gave tens of thousands of dollars to keep the NAACP on its feet. In 1930, the onset of the Depression threatened the NAACP's future. William Rosenwald, son of Julius Rosenwald, the founder of Sears, Roebuck, offered to donate $1,000 annually for three years if four others agreed to match the gift. Four did, three of them Jews -- Herbert Lehman and Felix Warburg, financiers, and Harold Guinzburg, head of the Viking Press -- and one non-Jew, Edsel Ford. (pp. 30-31)

In the summer of 1964, over half the white students heading south to engage in "civil rights" work were Jewish (p. 19). Kaufman adds:

Jews wrote most of the checks that bankrolled the fights of Martin Luther King and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC); of SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; and the Freedom Rides of James Farmer and CORE (the Congress of Racial Equality). Ever since the early years of the NAACP more than fifty years before, with a Jewish president and, a few years later, a black national organizer, leading Jews on the board of directors, and a vocal black membership, blacks and Jews were linked in the fight to end racial discrimination. (p. 19)

An examination of the top leadership of the civil rights organizations in the 1960's shows that where there was a black-white alliance for civil rights, it was often a black-Jewish alliance. In addition to Jack Greenberg, director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, who is profiled in the book, Kaufman points out that:

[Martin Luther] King's top white adviser was Stanley Levison, a Jewish lawyer whom the FBI believed was a communist agent but whom King relied on to handle his finances, edit his books, and give counsel during some of the crucial crises facing the movement The president of the NAACP and one of King's top contributors was Kivie Kaplan, a retired Boston businessman who -- personally and through friends -- gave hundreds of thousands of dollars, often after a hurried phone call from King or one of his lieutenants. Over at CORE, James Farmer's top fund-raiser and a key speech writer was Marvin Rich, later succeeded by another Jewish civil rights advocate, Alan Gartner. Jews made up more than half the white lawyers who went south to defend the civil rights protesters. They made up half to three-quarter of the contributors to civil rights organizations, even to the more radical organizations, like SNCC. (pp. 85-86)

However, no one acknowledges these contributions much today. In fact, the modern NAACP tried to cover it up:
It is a sad state of affairs that Henry Moskowitz, Ph.D., one of the original co-founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), has been excluded from the list of prominent "People" under the History heading of the new NAACP Website. Of all the founders of the NAACP, it is only Dr. Moskowitz (1879-1936) which is missing, leaving a gaping hole in the history of the organization.

Dr. Henry Moskowitz was a Romanian-born Jew that was involved with social work in New York City during the early 20th century. He was active in city politics under the administration of New York City Mayor John Purroy Mitchel; and he was the Associate Leader of the New York Society for Ethical Culture which often looked out for the rights of new immigrants on New York City's Lower East Side. He is credited as being one of the original founders of the NAACP which was created in a tiny New York apartment on February 12, 1909.

While Dr. Moskowitz' name is fleetingly mentioned in small print on a non-primary page of the NAACP Website, it is a sad commentary that the organization has not added him, his background information, his photo, and his name to the list of prominent people in their encyclopedic alphabetical index, which includes past and present NAACP leaders. Of all the NAACP founders, only Dr. Moskowitz, one of the original eight, has been marginalized from the history portion of the official NAACP Website.

Further, and even more interesting to note, is that other early NAACP supporters and founders included: Lillian Wald, Rabbi Emil G. Hirsh, and Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, all of them are missing from the NAACP Website where past leaders and prominent persons are listed. Who is listed? People such as such as Harry Belafonte, Rodney King, Oprah Winfrey and President Obama are included.

Does this sound like the future where blacks and whites could hold hands and sing together, where color doesn't matter but character does? We are turning our children and our institutions into the very thing Dr. King fought against: purveyors and continuators of racial stereotyping and division.

As we have seen liberals eat their own when color is factored in. The late Geraldine Ferraro was practically excommunicated for saying race played a role in Obama beating Hillary. Bill Clinton was maligned even, "the first black President" said that Obama was inconsistent and that winning SC was no big deal since Jesse Jackson had won it twice. Hillary was dubbed racist for her now infamous 3am phone call ad. Yet all these things were relevant, but sloughed off with charges of racism.

However, even so-called conservatives have given prey to racial identity politics. Colin Powell turned his back on his friend and fellow veteran John McCain and endorsed Obama. Powell never even denied that race played a big factor in his decision. I mean, what else was there about this freshman senator with ZERO legislative accomplishments to transform America--other than he would be black?

While in part a testament to Dr. King's dream that would show that one day a black man could indeed be president; Obama is not a really a testament to Dr. King's dream of unity and character over race. Rather it is a repudiation of that dream for a dream of Race as an industry, race as the unifier, rather than character and shared values.

Even though affirmative action and the Great Society were meant to help equalize the situation between races, it has only served to sever ties in the black community. Unwed births are up. Abortions are up. Education achievement is down. The soft bigotry of low expectation (you can't do it alone, let the government lift you up) has replaced the "just give me the opportunity and I will run with it" attitude of Jackie Robinson, Maya Rudolph, the Tuskegee Airmen, and so many others. That generation, which did the most to set the stage for a "post racial America" would probably be shocked at how today, the roles have reversed. The programs with "good intentions" have led to generations of learned helplessness and poverty. Instead of we can do has become "give it to us."

At the turn of the last century, Branch Rickey was a baseball coach for a college. One of his players, a black man, was refused lodging at the team hotel. The young man went to his room (once the team left the hotel and went to another)and Rickey found him clawing at his skin, saying, "if only I were white" and crying. Rickey, of course, helped with the integration of baseball with Jackie Robinson. Today, Larry King is talking about how his kid wishes he were black. White is out, black is in. Why can't we just be who we are and let good character be in? Why does it have to continue to predicate on race when most Americans indeed have a nonracial mindset? Because those who benefit from the race industry don't want it to end...and I think Dr. King would find this sad.

Yes, I know, Martin was for Affirmative action, even if his Dream didn't say so...but would he be pleased at what it and the Great Society have wrought? Would he be pleased with Sistah Souljah? I would like to think not. I would like to think he would have seen what is going on and would say, "this is not right."

Yes, Dr. King wasn't perfect. His words at the Lincoln Memorial did not always match what he said elsewhere. But, like Jefferson's words in the Declaration of Independence, the words indeed of a slaveowner, those words had beneficial consequences of inspiring people the world over to freedom and respect for fellow man. Whether he truly meant those words on the Memorial of hand in handedness, those words have inspired some, and whether he intended it or not, have many of us working for a truly color blind society. That society, that place in the Shining City on the Hill where black and white and yellow and brown sing together, will not be brought to reality with laws seeking to balance the scales for past injustice. The past is the past. Let us move forward in the spirit of those words on the Lincoln Memorial that day. We can do nothing to fix the sins of the past. All we can do is repent and move on. Just as our generation on the white side has no idea about being slaveowners or segregation experienced, in many cases, neither do those in African American circles, unless by choice. Trying to balance the scales of justice due to past wrongs only offsets the present and future into a different kind of injustice. Instead, let us say, never again, embrace each other, and celebrate our unity in equality, rather than continue to seek out new ways to divide and stratify. All should have equity of opportunity, without regard to race, but never equity of outcome. If one man a slave or discriminated, we all are.

So, in conclusion, Is the Dream dead? No, the Dream doesn't die. Yet. Its stewards have been irresponsible, and bad decisions meant to help have yet to be fixed. The soft bigotry of those decisions still is not addressed. The Dream isn't dead, but neither is it as advanced as it should be.