So anyway, I was having this argument with my father about Martin Luther King and how his message was too conservative compared to Malcolm X’s message. My father got really angry at me. It wasn’t that he disliked Malcolm X, but his point was that Malcolm X hadn’t accomplished anything as Dr. King had.
I was kind of sarcastic and asked something like, so what did Martin Luther King accomplish other than giving his “I have a dream speech.”
Before I tell you what my father told me, I want to digress. Because at this point in our amnesiac national existence, my question pretty much reflects the national civic religion view of what Dr. King accomplished. He gave this great speech. Or some people say, “he marched.” I was so angry at Mrs. Clinton during the primaries when she said that Dr. King marched, but it was LBJ who delivered the Civil Rights Act.
At this point, 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. If you are a white person who has always lived in the U.S. and never under a brutal dictatorship, you probably don’t know what my father was talking about.
But this is what the great Dr. Martin Luther King accomplished. Not that he marched, nor that he gave speeches.
He ended the terror of living as a black person, especially in the south.
I’m guessing that most of you, especially those having come fresh from seeing The Help, may not understand what this was all about. But living in the south (and in parts of the midwest and in many ghettos of the north) was living under terrorism.
It wasn’t that black people had to use a separate drinking fountain or couldn’t sit at lunch counters, or had to sit in the back of the bus.
You really must disabuse yourself of this idea. Lunch counters and buses were crucial symbolic planes of struggle that the civil rights movement used to dramatize the issue, but the main suffering in the south did not come from our inability to drink from the same fountain, ride in the front of the bus or eat lunch at Woolworth’s.
It was that white people, mostly white men, occasionally went berserk, and grabbed random black people, usually men, and lynched them. You all know about lynching. But you may forget or not know that white people also randomly beat black people, and the black people could not fight back, for fear of even worse punishment.
This constant low level dread of atavistic violence is what kept the system running. It made life miserable, stressful and terrifying for black people.
White people also occasionally tried black people, especially black men, for crimes for which they could not conceivably be guilty. With the willing participation of white women, they often accused black men of “assault,” which could be anything from rape to not taking off one’s hat, to “reckless eyeballing.”
This is going to sound awful and perhaps a stain on my late father’s memory, but when I was little, before the civil rights movement, my father taught me many, many humiliating practices in order to prevent the random, terroristic, berserk behavior of white people. The one I remember most is that when walking down the street in New York City side by side, hand in hand with my hero-father, if a white woman approached on the same sidewalk, I was to take off my hat and walk behind my father, because he had been taught in the south that black males for some reason were supposed to walk single file in the presence of any white lady.
This was just one of many humiliating practices we were taught to prevent white people from going berserk.
I remember a huge family reunion one August with my aunts and uncles and cousins gathered around my grandparents’ vast breakfast table laden with food from the farm, and the state troopers drove up to the house with a car full of rifles and shotguns, and everyone went kind of weirdly blank. They put on the masks that black people used back then to not provoke white berserkness. My strong, valiant, self-educated, articulate uncles, whom I adored, became shuffling, Step-N-Fetchits to avoid provoking the white men. Fortunately the troopers were only looking for an escaped convict. Afterward, the women, my aunts, were furious at the humiliating performance of the men, and said so, something that even a child could understand.
This is the climate of fear that Dr. King ended.
If you didn’t get taught such things, let alone experience them, I caution you against invoking the memory of Dr. King as though he belongs exclusively to you and not primarily to African Americans.
The question is, how did Dr. King do this—and of course, he didn’t do it alone.
(Of all the other civil rights leaders who helped Dr. King end this reign of terror, I think the most under appreciated is James Farmer, who founded the Congress of Racial Equality and was a leader of nonviolent resistance, and taught the practices of nonviolent resistance.)
So what did they do?
They told us: Whatever you are most afraid of doing vis-a-vis white people, go do it. Go ahead down to city hall and try to register to vote, even if they say no, even if they take your name down.
Go ahead sit at that lunch counter. Sue the local school board. All things that most black people would have said back then, without exaggeration, were stark raving insane and would get you killed.
If we do it all together, we’ll be okay.
They made black people experience the worst of the worst, collectively, that white people could dish out, and discover that it wasn’t that bad. They taught black people how to take a beating—from the southern cops, from police dogs, from fire department hoses. They actually coached young people how to crouch, cover their heads with their arms and take the beating. They taught people how to go to jail, which terrified most decent people.
And you know what? The worst of the worst, wasn’t that bad.
Once people had been beaten, had dogs sicced on them, had fire hoses sprayed on them, and been thrown in jail, you know what happened?
These magnificent young black people began singing freedom songs in jail.
That, my friends, is what ended the terrorism of the south. Confronting your worst fears, living through it, and breaking out in a deep throated freedom song. The jailers knew they had lost when they beat the crap out of these young Negroes and the jailed, beaten young people began to sing joyously, first in one town then in another. This is what the writer, James Baldwin, captured like no other writer of the era.
Please let this sink in. It wasn’t marches or speeches. It was taking a severe beating, surviving and realizing that our fears were mostly illusory and that we were free.
If you know of individuals who have been in a correctional/prison facility in Nevada who were/are transgender and subjected to any sort of problematic treatment (particularly being segregated from the rest of the inmates in a solitary-confinement situation) please contact me as soon as possible. The ACLU is doing some important research and documentation on this issue, and we need to get in touch with folks quickly for potential interviews or written reports. Please spread the word far and wide, and contact me directly with any leads at the information below:
ACLU of Nevada
THE NEVADA ACLU IS STARTING A CASE THAT WILL END TRANSGENDER CIVIL RIGHT VIOLATIONS IN PRISONS. IT IS BEGINNING HERE IN NEVADA BUT THIS HAS THE POTENTIAL TO INCITE MAJOR CHANGE
I CARE NOT WHERE YOU LIVE< WHAT CITY< WHAT STATE< WHAT COUNTRY PLEASE REBLOG
this will help trans women be housed where we should be housed, this has the potential to help persons like CeCe McDonald
PLEASE PLEASE REBLOG
THIS WORD NEEDS TO GET OUT THROUGH EVERY MEDIUM WE CAN
Today in History - April 20
Billie Holiday records Strange Fruit, 1939.
Noted as the first major rallying cry for the Civil Rights movement, Strange Fruit was a poem originally written by Abel Meeropol, and first performed by his wife and singer Laura Duncan, at protest venues in New York City. However, it wasn’t until Billie Holiday recorded the song for Commodore Records that it became a major hit.Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.
Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.
If you care about human beings and their right to walk freely down the street without facing harm… if you care about human beings regardless of color, sex, pgp, or creed and their murderers running free…. if you think its wrong to hold someone else’s life as less than simply because he is black than sign the petition for Trayvon Martin. sign it because you are aware this world isn’t fair. you are aware that being a person of color in this world means that you may be shot and killed and your white murderer runs free. sign this because no parent should have to bury their child especially because of racism. Justice for Trayvon Martin.
Sign the petition, share the petition and call and email these people and tell them to release the 911 tapes and arrest Trayvon’s MURDERER
Bill Lee (Sanford chief of police) 407.688.5070 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeff Triplett (Mayor of Sanford) 407.688.5001 Email: email@example.com
City Attorney for Sanford FL 407.322.2171 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
A. Bryant Applegate (County Attorney) 407.665.7257
I’m reblogging this even though I’m sure it will help because it might make some folks feel better to do something.
Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976)
An American renaissance man who was one of Rutgers University’s; most famous graduates, a star athlete, singer, actor, lawyer, and political activist and whose stance against black disenfranchisement was a precursor to the modern civil-rights movement; years in “exile,” 1950-1958, when he was forbidden to leave the U.S. when his passport was revoked because of his sympathetic statements about the Soviet Union and his outspoken speeches abroad about the treatment of blacks in America; soon after his passport was returned, he lived in the U.K. until 1963.
MLK Jr. didn’t ask for rights, he wasn’t pandering or sweet to the forces that oppressed him. He was a threat to whiteness through and through.
MLK Jr. wasn’t violent not because he wanted to gain some brownie points from whitedom but because he KNEW, FIRSTHAND, what violence does to a people, both those who are abusing and those who are being abused.
MLK Jr. didn’t dress in his Sunday best and speak clearly with diction so as to pander or kiss up to white folk. He did it for himself and for his people, to show what form his black identity took. That we in this society read speaking fearlessly and intelligently with passion and power in the face of oppression as “white” is beyond me, because that’s a black attribute through and through.
MLK Jr. didn’t have a problem with individual white people, but with their racism and ignorance on a whole, with their white supremacist society, and with their complacency and willingness to see it perpetuated at the detriment of him and his people. He knew that those who were quiet, who made excuses, who willfully stayed staunch in their ignorance and hatred were just as much a part of the problem as those who were more blatant and aggressive in their hatred. Any compassion coming from him was borne from himself, NOT from anything white people did, not something they at all merited or deserved.
The general way his legacy is portrayed, this whole “Peace & Non-violence” shit is all a ruse to make it about white people. “He was so nice to us, he was polite and peaceful, that is why we chose to give black people rights!”
My fuckin’ ass.
If MLK jr. was so accommodating and nice to whiteness, then why was he was arrested so much and assassinated, huh?
What’s more, white people didn’t give shit. Black people fought for those rights and ripped them from their aggressors’ hands.
That’s how it’s always been. The oppressor is never going to willingly give up power or own up to wrongs and abuse. To destroy oppressive systems you have to be a threat to the way they run, to the privileges and the benefits the people who run it and who get privileged by it gain. Things will get uncomfortable and shitty and you’ll be falsely accused of being violent/aggressive/bitter/stuck in the past/oppressive/over-emotional/uppity, and sometimes, you risk everything for it, but that’s just them trying to silence you, to kill your collective voice by making an example of some of you, to separate you from your justified and righteous rage, the only thing that gives you power and that lends you the voice necessary to hold them accountable.
More importantly than what he was to white people and white supremacy is what he was to black people and people of color. We waste so much fuckin’ time analyzing shit from a white perspective we don’t even talk about how important what he did was for African Americans and other people of color.
That’s the shittiest thing to do to him, to ourselves. Let’s take some time to rethink how we talk about these things.
We have to improve life, not just for those who have the most skills and those who know how to manipulate the system. But also for and with those who often have so much to give but never get the opportunity. - Dorothy L. Height
These women paved the way for girls like me. My eternal thanks for them.
and it’s no accident that this segment is conveniently left out of our education
The white-washing of MLK jr. and the civil rights movement on a whole to make history look kindly upon white folk and convince POC of the disempowering lie that is “Be polite, nice, & don’t challenge us & you’ll get your rights” is one that disgusts me to no end.
omg my babies making comments that were reblogged from someone outside of circlejerk showin up on my dash v proud ;;
Remember this man as well.
Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth, civil rights warrior, 1922-2011.
Photo by Dave Martin (AP)
Respect. This man deserves your respect oh my GOD.
When legendary civil rights activist Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth died today, many Americans had no idea who he was or what he’d accomplished in his 89 years on earth. It’s an unfortunate reality that people often think Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X were the beginning and end of black activism in the Civil Rights era. In fact, nothing could be more wrong. From the 1950s onward, Shuttlesworth was a major factor in ending Jim Crow laws in the South, and many other oppressive forces throughout the United States. Here are the top five things you should know about him.
1. From the start of his career, Shuttlesworth, who was raised poor in Alabama, was fiery and obstinate. After Alabama officially banned the NAACP from operating within the state in 1956, Shuttlesworth, then a pastor, founded the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. The ACMHR’s first major order of business was a Birmingham bus sit-in, during which Shuttlesworth and others boarded city buses and sat in the “whites only” sections. The ACMHR would eventually become charter member organization in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
2. He lived nearly nine decades, but many people tried to kill Shuttlesworth much earlier for his outspokenness. He was the target of two bomb attacks, one on his home and one on his church. And when Shuttlesworth tried to enroll his daughters in an all-white Birmingham school in 1957, an armed mob attacked him, beating him unconscious and stabbing his wife. The couple survived, and when a doctor remarked that Shuttlesworth was lucky to have avoided a concussion,Shuttlesworth said, “Doctor, the Lord knew I lived in a hard town, so he gave me a hard head.”
3. Though he worked closely with King, Shuttlesworth’s style was decidedly different. “Among the youthful ‘elders’ of the movement,” historian Diane McWhorter told The New York Times, “he was Martin Luther King’s most effective and insistent foil: blunt where King was soothing, driven where King was leisurely, and most important, confrontational where King was conciliatory—meaning, critically, that he was more upsetting than King in the eyes of the white public.” Despite their differences, King once called Shuttlesworth ”the most courageous civil rights fighter in the South.”
4. Shuttlesworth’s fiercest enemy in Birmingham was infamous public safety commissioner Bull Connor. Connor’s violent responses—attack dogs, fire hoses, billy clubs—to Shuttlesworth’s peaceful demonstrations were integral in changing America’s attitude about Jim Crow. “The televised images of Connor directing handlers of police dogs to attack unarmed demonstrators and firefighters’ using hoses to knock down children had a profound effect on American citizens’ view of the civil rights struggle,” says the Shuttlesworth Foundation’s website.
5. After his actions helped spawn the passage of the federal Civil Rights Act in 1964, Shuttlesworth continued fighting for justice in realms both racial and economic. In 1988 he founded the Shuttlesworth Housing Foundation to help low-income families own their own homes, and in 2004 he became president of the SCLC. A firebrand to the end, he resigned from the SCLC within months, saying “deceit, mistrust and a lack of spiritual discipline and truth have eaten at the core of this once-hallowed organization.” Three years ago, the city of Birmingham named its airport after Shuttlesworth. There are still no monuments named after Bull Connor.