By AATTP contributing author E. Henry Schoenberger
In 1963 I was a member of SNCC (the Student Non Violent Co-coordinating Committee) and CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) on the Republican campus of Miami University in Oxford Ohio. And I remember how the murder of Medgar Evers helped to galvanize Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s march on Washington for equality to vote and jobs.
The Civil Rights Movement for the right to vote and jobs for millions of Americans that had been denied full citizenship merely because of their complexion. And today the march to celebrate the March culmination in the Voting Rights Act that followed is more déjà vu than celebration.
A majority of Americans were at the precipice of inclusion and there was a hopeful spirit in the air, because of a growing sense of shared humanity. Many Republicans then were a part of this spirit. But today the TEApublicans are galvanized against this spirit and joined by the Supreme Court are doing their best to disenfranchise the Black vote, and the Hispanic vote solely due to prejudice and fear of the browning of America. And this is motivated by the secrete GOP knowledge that to gain their power back, it is necessary to restrict votes because so many disenfranchised people know the GOP is against their social welfare.
Nothing makes the GOP war against the social welfare of the middle class and the poor more obvious than: 40 votes against the ability of 30M Americans to have health insurance; or the steadfast reluctance of the Tea Party to vote on a path to citizenship for 11M people; or the Ryan budget to gut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid; or food stamps, school lunches and public education. So GOP prejudice is empirically available to observe for the Republican Party that claims it wants to reach out to minorities and is confounded why the Party is not more appealing.
It is self-evident that prejudice never left the shores of America, it just moved into closets – mostly in the homes of Red State religious fanatics lying in wait for a catalyst to release it back into plain view. And when our country elected a bi-racial president in 2008 by a popular vote of 53% to 45% the creationist pre-Dark Age moralizing bible thumping probable KKK members or sympathizers swarmed out of their closets like millions of roaches leaving the walls they had been hiding in just waiting for one light bulb. I know about roaches from where I lived my senior year in college, and know about human roaches from having moved from the covert North to the overt South in 1952 for two years while my father rescued the largest Department Store in Little Rock from nepotism. In my neighborhood I was called an “NL” because my best friend (who had a horse) was bused across town which I did not understand, but know this was and is called racism, which I still do not understand or accept.
So in honor of the Civil Rights March it is important to realize the roots of this historic march, and relate the roots to what is again happening today, as well as consider there are more people than before who are for equality. And more people against the newest attempts to quash an ability to vote, which fortunately includes the AG and the DOJ.
I wrote this to provide personal context to the celebration of the Washington March in the hope that this celebration will help bring back important memories to get beyond our American moment of déjà vu.
And it is not déjà vu that the average wage level is merely 7% higher than 30 years ago – it is fact. So jobs are still on the agenda as they were so many years ago, but financial inequality is exponentially worse, because CEO pay is now 30,000 time higher than the average wage level of 30 years ago, when it was 35 times higher.
Check out Henry’s brilliant book here: