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Martin Luther King And The End of Segregation Didn't Happen In One Day

By January 21, 2014 No Comments

 People talk about the end of segregation in passing as though it was a minor blip in US history. Politicians continually co-opt the name and work of Martin Luther King, and refer to one paragraph of his most famous speech where he said ” 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.”

They quote it out of context and away from the history of Black people in the US that precipitated that speech. It’s sickening to hear people like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin use that quote to justify their phony outrage when words like “racism, discrimination, bias, and exclusion” are mentioned.

In their world, that statement means issues of race don’t exist and talking about race in any other way than theirs is  to “play the race card,” (whatever that means.)

Martin Luther King didn’t write his speech to criticize people who talk about race, racism, differences and inclusion. He was talking about ending the terrorism that Black people in the US faced, and ending segregation and people being excluded from the job market because of the color of their skin. He never said “we should never talk about race,” “he never said we should just pretend everyone is the same.” He was talking about not judging people because of their skin color.

When is the last time you heard one of them mention the reason for this speech? When is the last time they mentioned history.

Slavery went on for generations. It wasn’t that people were brought over as slaves for a couple of years and then were freed. It was part of the culture, of the economic base in many parts of the country, and where it wasn’t part of the base, there were ways in which people in states that did not allow slavery still benefitted.

Segregation didn’t just happen one day and then people marched and it was over.
It went on for generations, along with lynchings, false imprisonment, forced labor and burning crosses. 

I’m glad we have a day to honor and talk about  Martin Luther King, but I would like to see him, what he did, and that part of history as part of learning and conversation other days of the year.

People say that was the past, and we have to move forward. We do have to continue to move forward but if we don’t know history how do we really know what we’re moving away from.