The Meaning of Dr. King & the Movement: Ending White Terrorism



There is a very insightful and provocative post by HamdenRice on Dailykos.com. This is a central argument in there:

But what most people who reference Dr. King seem not to know is how Dr. King actually changed the subjective experience of life in the United States for African Americans. And yeah, I said for African Americans, not for Americans, because his main impact was his effect on the lives of African Americans, not on Americans in general. His main impact was not to make white people nicer or fairer. That’s why some of us who are African Americans get a bit possessive about his legacy. Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy, despite what our civil religion tells us, is not color blind. . . . I would like to remind everyone exactly what Martin Luther King did, and it wasn’t that he “marched” or gave a great speech. My father told me with a sort of cold fury, “Dr. King ended the terror of living in the south.” Please let this sink in and and take my word and the word of my late father on this.

The evidence for this impact of Dr. King and many other African Americans who fought a real system of totalitarianism and terror, especially but not exclusively in the Jim Crow south, can be found in much research literature and popular accounts, for example here. But somehow has not made it into the mostly white-controlled media or educational curricula.

Research on Englanders’ Arrested in Urban Revolts



Peter recently noted some Guardian reporting on the urban revolts in England. Let me add a little to that. The Guardian paper in England has reported on an analysis by Liverpool professor Alex Singleton on some 1,297 people who had their first hearing in magistrate courts on charges associated with the people’s revolts in London, Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool. Most are Londoners.

As any social scientist who has studied such revolts in the U.S. could have told them in advance, most of those who revolted were the young male residents of very impoverished areas. That is exactly what the Singleton/Guardian analysis reports for these urban revolts. Singleton discovered most arrested lived in very poor urban areas, with a high percent in extreme poverty areas:

. . . with 41% of suspects living in one of the top 10% of most deprived places in the country. The data also shows that 66% of neighbourhoods where the accused live got poorer between 2007 and 2010. . . . Only a very small number in our data were aged over 30. More than 90% are male.

Others have noted that people of color engaged in revolts in their areas, and impoverished whites in yet other areas. Most have been charged with theft, having stolen goods, burglary, or violent disorder. Increasing impoverishment and unemployment in an age where people expect a decent standard of living is the stuff out of which such urban revolts is made. The Guardian, to its credit, takes on the centuries-old rationale of the rich and elites in society, who always see “rioters” as criminal or just rioting for “fun and profit,” to quote a conservative U.S. social scientist on the African American revolts of the 1960s and 1970s. They note:

David Cameron [white conservative British prime minister] said this week that the riots “were not about poverty”, but the Guardian’s database of court cases raises the question that there may be, at the very least, a correlation between economic hardship and those accused of taking part in last week’s violence and looting.

Indeed, it does. And it always will be thus for this type of urban revolt. And the white racial framing denying the real reasons for such revolts seems to be age-old, suggesting some problems with theories like that of “racial formation theory” that substantially neglect issues of institutionalized racism and entrenched systemic racism and that tend to accent dramatic changes over time in a Western society’s “racial formations.” At least in whites’ racial framing of events like urban revolts by people of color, changes are much less than such optimistic theories of “race” typically suggest. This is true, too, for many other areas of systemic racism.

Fiftieth Anniversary of Freedom Rides: Making Social Justice



A regular blogger (Meteor Blades) over at dailykos.com has a very interesting and lengthy overview of the famous “freedom rides” that began a half century ago today. It may be hard to believe, especially for the younger generation, that many of their parents and grandparents lived through, and participated in, these critical events of our extraordinarily racist history:

There were only 13 brave hearts when they climbed onto southbound Greyhound and Trailways buses in Washington, D.C., 50 years ago today. But within a couple of months there were hundreds of them, black and white, riding public buses into the jaws of Southern intransigence. They were jeered, threatened, harassed, beaten, jailed and firebombed. Their courage eventually helped crush that unique brand of American apartheid known as Jim Crow. But on that balmy spring day when they embarked for New Orleans, segregation ruled the land through which they were traveling, a forced and illegal separation backed up with billy clubs, tear gas, fire hoses and the fangs of police dogs and policemen.

(Source: Wikipedia)
That is in the totalitarian United States, which is what it certainly was in many areas during the nearly 100 years of Jim Crow segregation, many people–mostly black Americans but also some whites–were brutalized, injured, and killed by violent whites, both private citizens and public officials. It did not matter that the federal courts had declared such discrimination unconstitutional, for many whites in the totalitarian South in 1961 Jim Crow segregation was still very much the law. The blog post concludes thus:

Today, it’s easy enough for anyone to call the Freedom Riders heroes. But they were not viewed that way in their own time, and not only in the land of Jim Crow. The White House was unhappy with them, among other reasons, because of the image of the underside of America they exposed. Local media were predictably terrible in their depiction of these fighters for justice, but the national press presented them as rabble-rousers who were, a mere 100 years after the Civil War began, pushing things too far too fast. That’s always the way oppressed people are viewed, of course, no matter how just their cause, no matter how long they have waited.

And now the collective memory, especially the white mainstream recorded memory, has generally sanitized this era of Jim Crow segregation or suppressed its memory.

Global Social Movements in Dakar to Forge Unity & Political Path



The World Social Forum (WSF) gathered in Dakar, Senegal February 6-11, 2011 as the systemic crisis of global capitalism intensified and popular uprisings were sweeping North Africa and the Arab world. The social forum was a powerful and inspiring convergence of peoples’ struggles and social movements from below, bringing together about 75,000 participants from all corners of Africa and the world to deepen relationships, to vision another world, and to chart a political path forward.

Goree Island, the strategic site of the Door of No Return through which at least 30 million African women, men, and children were forced into the genocidal violence and terror of the transatlantic slave trade, many destined for the United States, is a short ferry ride from the port of Dakar. This vividly contextualized the significance of the WSF focus on Africa and the Diaspora and the centuries of white supremacy and racism inextricably intertwined with systems of colonialism, neocolonialism, and capitalism on a global scale.

Social movement organizations – Grassroots Global Justice, World March of Women, La Via Campesina, International Alliance of Inhabitants, among many others – came together in the Social Movements Assembly to confront the 21st century realities of global capitalism, poverty, racism, patriarchy, war, and climate destruction and to put forth a declaration of unity of action. It lifts up the “new universality” of humanity in all our diversity – as both objects of capitalist exploitation and oppression, and as political agents of our history, our liberation, and our future.

The Declaration of the Social Movements Assembly, crafted to guide our struggles, declares:

“… [W]e are gathered here to affirm the fundamental contribution of Africa and its peoples in the construction of human civilization. Together, the peoples of all the continents are struggling mightily to oppose the domination of capital, hidden behind illusory promises of economic progress and political stability. Complete decolonization for oppressed peoples remains for us, the social movements of the world, a challenge of the greatest importance. …

We affirm our support for and our active solidarity with the people of Tunisia, Egypt and the Arab world who have risen up to demand a true democracy and build the people´s power. …

Capitalism´s destructive force impacts every aspect of life itself, for all the peoples of the world. Yet each day we see new movements rise, struggling to reverse the ravages of colonialism and to achieve well-being and dignity for all. We declare that we, the people, will no longer bear the costs of their crisis and that, within capitalism, there is no escape from this crisis. This only reaffirms the need for us, as social movements, to come together to forge a common strategy to guide our struggles against capitalism. …

We fight against transnational corporations because they support the capitalist system, privatize life, public services and common goods such as water, air, land, seeds and mineral resources. Transnational corporations promote wars through their contracts with private corporations and mercenaries …

We will continue to mobilize to ask for the unconditional abolition of public debt in all the countries in the South. We also denounce, in the countries of the North, the use of public debt to impose unfair policies that degrade the social welfare state.

When the G8 and G20 hold their meetings, let us mobilize across the world to tell them, No! We are not commodities! We will not be traded! …

We defend the food sovereignty and the agreement reached during the Peoples’ Summit against Climate Change, held in Cochabamba, where true alternatives to face the climate crisis were built with the social movements and organizations worldwide. …

We call on everyone to mobilize together, everywhere in the world, against violence against women. We defend sexual diversity, the right to gender self-determination and we oppose all homophobia and sexist violence. …

We fight for peace and against war, colonialism, occupations and the militarization of our lands. …

Inspired by the struggles of the peoples of Tunisia and Egypt, we call for March 20th to be made a day of international solidarity with the uprisings of the Arab and African people, whose every advance supports the struggles of all peoples: the resistance of the Palestinian and Saharian peoples; European, Asian and African mobilizations against debt and structural adjustment plans; and all the processes of change underway in Latin America.

We also call for a Global Day of Action Against Capitalism on October 12th, when we express in myriad ways our rejection of a system that is destroying everything in its path.

Social movements of the world, let us advance towards a global unity to shatter the capitalist system! We shall prevail!”