President Obama stands on Dr. King’s courage and shoulders
By Roger Caldwell
There is confusion in the goals and aspirations of the African American leadership in 2013. During the week of the 50th anniversary of the March On Washington, there were thousands of dinners, speeches, and marches to commemorate, and honor this great man and his movement. Without the civil rights movement, there would be no President Obama, no thousands of Black elected officials, no Black millionaires, no Black CEOs, University Presidents and professors, and a thriving African American middle class.
“We rightly and best remember Dr. King’s soaring oratory that day, how he gave mighty voice to the quiet hopes of millions; how he offered a salvation path for oppressed and oppressors alike. His words belong to the ages, possessing a power and prophecy unmatched in our time,” says the president during his speech on the 50th anniversary.
In 1963, the goals of the movement were simple, petition the government for legal rights, access to quality education, opportunity to start a business, vote, and be respected as an American citizen with human rights. White America was in control of every system and industry and they denied access to them as a result of our race. African Americans were beaten, fire-hosed, bitten by dogs, and killed for our founding fathers’ promise.
Without question there have been phenomenal victories, and America today is more free and more fair. “And because they kept marching, America changed. Because they marched, a Civil Rights law was passed. Because they marched, a Voting Rights law was signed. Because they marched, doors of opportunity and education swung open so their daughters and sons could finally imagine a life for themselves beyond washing somebody else’s laundry or shining somebody else’s shoes,” says President Obama.
But it is ironic in 2013.There is a new conservative philosophical mindset taking place in the country. Many proponents of this new conservative thinking believe in states’ rights, limiting voting rights, and concentrating political and economic power in the hands of a few. There is a new movement led by the Tea Party and they reject unions and progressive political organizations.
During the same week of the 50th anniversary of the March On Washington, fast food workers are striking in 60 cities around the country, and asking for a living wage of $15 an hour. In many of these fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s the president of the executive board is Black and where does his loyalty belong? It is extremely difficult to align yourself with the workers, when you make executive decisions, even though you understand their plight.
In 2013, many African American leaders are successful and exceeded Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dreams. On one level there is tremendous progress, but on the other side of the coin children/families are hungry, and there are no jobs. In some communities people are afraid to walk down the street, because of violence. Workers in the fast food industry have worked for companies for 11 years and never received a raise.
In 1963, the battle was based on color, but in 2013 the struggle is more complicated, because it is based on class and color. Racism and discrimination is still pervasive, but now there are Hispanics, African Americans, women, Asian, sex, and gender folks fighting for their rights. After all the speeches, marches, lunches, and dinners, who is really ready to make a life choice to give up their life for what they believe?
President Obama is aware that he is where he is because of the sacrifice of Dr. King’s life and many more. There are very few leaders willing to sacrifice their life for a cause in 2013. Most leaders are worrying about paying the bills, going on vacation, and keeping their spouse happy.