• We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately. -Benjamin Franklin, Freedom Fighter

  • We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. -Martin Luther King, Jr., Freedom Fighter

  • Let us be cautious in making assertions and critical in examining them, but tolerant in permitting linguistic forms. -Rudolf Carnap, Philosopher

  • A clash of doctrines is not a disaster—it is an opportunity. -Alfred North Whitehead, Philosopher

  • If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility. -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Poet

  • Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. -Rumi, Mystic

  • If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things. – Rene Descartes, Philosopher

  • A house divided against itself cannot stand. -Abraham Lincoln, President

  • Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them. -Albert Einstein, Scientist

  • Be the change you want to see in the world. -Mahatma Gandhi, Freedom Fighter

Martin Luther King Day, 2018

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.’
Martin Luther King, Jr.

On this, the first Martin Luther King Day since Mr. Trump took the oath of office, swearing to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, the best one might say of Mr. Trump is that he’s racially tone deaf. The latest brouhaha over his alleged shithole comment stands alongside a host of other things he’s said, including his extremely egregious statement after Charlottesville that there are “some very fine people on both sides.”

But it’s not just Trump and his apologists at Fox News who are racially tone deaf. Consider, for example, Democratic Senator Richard Durbin’s criticism of Trump for his language. Durbin said I cannot believe that in the history of the White House in that Oval Office, any president has ever spoken the words that I personally heard our president speak yesterday.

Really, Senator? Might I invite you to start with the Nixon tapes. And read any of the Johnson biographies that describe how he spoke; his regular use of the n-word. Wilson – well-known for his racist views – segregated the Federal government. And, of course, there are the 8 Presidents who owned slaves while President.

In reducing Trump’s comments to something unique to him, by failing to see Trump’s comments as reflecting a long-standing American racist theme, we lose the historical perspective we need if we are to make King’s dream a reality.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
George Santayana

If we are to outgrow our racist past, if we are to realize King’s dream, we must remember our past. This is the only way, Santayana is saying, to get past America’s racism. We must bring America’s racist past into consciousness, look it square in the eye, and acknowledge it as abhorrently in opposition to America’s founding creed that we are all created equal.

Too many of us – particularly whites – myself included – have only a shallow understanding of the Black experience. We don’t – in some ways we can’t – understand the Black experience from the Black perspective. We whites cannot know what it was like to suffer through 400 years of slavery, lynchings, Jim Crow, segregation, and all the other atrocities whites have perpetrated on Blacks since the first slave was brought to America’s shores in 1619.

With this in mind—and remembering that Martin Luther King Jr was murdered by a white supremacist just like those who marched in Charlottesville — here’s one of what are thousands of stories seared into the Black experience. I invite you to read this, imagining that it’s your brother being lynched, your daughter being raped.

Paris, Texas, July 6, 1920. A mob of 3,000 gathered to watch as two Black men, Irving and Herman Arthur, brothers, were tied to a flagpole at the fairgrounds, tortured, and burned to death. During the lynching, the Arthur’s sisters were jailed under the pretense of protection but then beaten and gang-raped by more than twenty white men while in custody. After the lynching, the brothers’ corpses were chained to a car and driven through Paris’s black community for hours. A local sheriff involved in the case later declared the brothers had been guilty of no crime.

A detailed study of public records led the Equal Justice Institute to conclude: “After slavery was formally abolished, lynching emerged as a vicious tool of racial control to reestablish white supremacy and suppress black civil rights. More than 4,000 African Americans were lynched across 20 states between 1877 and 1950. … These lynchings were public acts of racial terrorism, intended to instill fear in entire black communities. Government officials frequently turned a blind eye or condoned mob violence.”

Justice too long delayed is justice denied.
Martin Luther King Jr.

It has been 54 years since Martin Luther King’s 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.’

It has been 153 years since the 13th Amendment abolished slavery; 150 years since the 14th Amendment affirmed that Blacks too were created equal.

It has been 242 years since our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

It’s time. It’s past time. It’s way past time.

As we prepare for the 2018 and 2020 elections, we must remember Irving and Herman Arthur, and their sisters, and the nearly 4,000 other victims of lynching. And the thousands more who were brought to this country in chains, terrorized and enslaved, and their children, and their children’s children. And the indigenous peoples who’s lands our ancestors stole. And the poor whites who were – and still are – pawns of the rich and powerful.

In preparing for the 2018 and 2020 elections, we must reflect King’s post-identity politics: “we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be…This is the inter-related structure of reality.” King’s dream is not just for Blacks, but for whites and all the other colors of the human rainbow.

I am an optimist that America will choose the path of inclusion in the elections of 2018 and 2020 elections, that the events of the present are awakening in us the need to heal our deep racial wounds. My optimism reflects what Martin Luther King said in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize:

I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.

I believe that even amid today’s mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow.

I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.

I still believe that We Shall Overcome!

Let Freedom Ring.

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2018. Stan Stahl, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved. Permission is granted to republish this essay provided the essay is reproduced unedited and in its entirety, its source is identified as The Agnostic Patriot at www.agnosticpatriot.org, and this copyright NOTICE is included.

 

 

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