Miami observes Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a parade.

20 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Hundreds march in Boston on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

BOSTON — Hundreds of people filled the streets of Boston for a march against racism and inequality as they honored slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Demonstrators walked about four miles on city streets Monday on the holiday commemorating King and repeated outrage over the killings of unarmed black men by white police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island in New York City. Topper Carew, an architect and civil rights advocate, delivered the keynote address, recalling his childhood in Roxbury and his summer as a Freedom Rider in Mississippi in 1964. While there, he was the subject of criticism by eight white clergymen, who called his protests and demonstrations “unwise and untimely.” In response, King wrote his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” noting, “I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, ‘Wait.’ ” That letter stands today as one of the great writings in American history. The mostly peaceful rally was one of several across the country staged as part of the Black Lives Matter movement, which was created in 2012 after the Trayvon Martin killing in Florida.

Here, from the letter, is a single, pain-filled, 300-plus-word sentence, explaining why waiting was “unwise and untimely”: But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick, brutalize and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity; when you see the vast majority of your 20 million Negro brothers smothering in an air-tight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your 6-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her little mental sky, and see her begin to distort her little personality by unconsciously developing a bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a 5-year-old son asking in agonizing pathos, “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”; then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. Here, for example, are his comments, apparently made here in Chicago: King was the energizing force behind the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The 45th annual breakfast, which drew several hundred people to the Boston Convention Center, kicked off a series of local events held to honor King, who was assassinated in April 1968 at the age of 39. I suspect he would be both ashamed and unsurprised to see his home region so resistant to the basic expansion of health insurance coverage to Americans with incomes below the poverty line.

To some extent, the extent of southern resistance is obscured by maps such as this one, that display which states have rejected the Medicaid expansion around the country: Many of the shaded states such as Wyoming and Montana are huge but sparsely populated. We drew each of these states as if they had shut out 2,000 state residents instead of zero.) These states have chosen to shut their poorest residents out of Medicaid. Among the many emails in my inbox Monday, one subject line read “18 MLK Day sales you can’t miss!” But in a country where we’re still fighting for economic equality, retail therapy is no way to celebrate King’s legacy.

And because it’s so pervasive and so subtle, it is is hard to pinpoint what the issues are…we are here to attack the system.” At this morning’s breakfast, Governor Charlie Baker remembered King as a man of “peace, faith, and strength.” Quoting King’s famous words, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” Baker urged the audience to honor his legacy. This year, 50 years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, the landmark civil rights legislation, King’s memory “resonates more than ever,” said Martin J. In a recorded video message, US Senator Elizabeth Warren pledged to continue the “fight for full equality.” While the country has made progress, “we can’t ignore reality,” she said.

Meanwhile, the biggest southern states with large, poor, non-white populations have conspicuously demurred — despite ample evidence that the Obama administration is willing to make significant compromises with conservative governors and Republican legislatures across the nation to make this work. In a rousing speech that received a standing ovation, US Senator Ed Markey said the American Dream remains out of reach for too many people, and that deep racial disparities persist. Political party, the region’s historic legacy of racial inequality, the limited political influence of poor people –not least the word Obama in Obamacare — all surely play a role.

We can’t simply call out injustice when it happens to people who look like us; we must stand up to inequality and wrongdoings on behalf of humanity. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has recently announced that poverty reduction would be a major theme of his potential 2016 presidential run. If Romney is looking for his own “Sista Souljah moment” to confront his party’s excessively conservative base, he might start by urging Republican colleagues across the south to address this disgraceful situation.

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