|courtesy Library of Congress|
Today is August 28, the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Remember, it was called the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” Civil rights cannot be separated from social and economic justice.
Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his best-known speech, “I Have A Dream,” a half century ago. The dream and the pursuit continues. King remains one of the greatest Americans who lived in the 20th century. Great because he tried to find a true north to liberate all Americans from the long shadow of the country’s founding—the shadow of slavery, genocide, and yes, capitalism. He understood that the suffering of African Americans was tied to the suffering of poor people everywhere and was directly linked to the workings of our economic engine. This is why he opposed the Vietnam War and was marching with sanitation workers in Memphis when he was killed.
Martin Luther King, Jr., tried hard to harbor no ill will toward the rich or even towards loudmouth racists like George Wallace and Lester Maddox. He turned to his deep faith to find the strength to keep marching. I am still moved by his profound courage and leadership. He was a nonviolent radical who looked for love.
King believed that the government can work to redistribute the wealth so that all people can have education, healthcare, and shelter, but he was no communist. I mention that because if we are concerned about the recent revelations about governmental intrusion into our privacy, we need look no further than what the U.S. government tried to do to King. J. Edgar Hoover tried to destroy him using extensive surveillance. But he failed. Hoover ended up in the dustbin of history because he did not stand for freedom, but only for power. What a strange twist of fate that an angry, closeted gay man like Hoover couldn’t bring King down, but an out, clever gay man like Bayard Rustin could figure out how to organize King’s incredible march in two months. King stood for all humanity. He is still marching us towards liberation.