[Poor white men] “ate Jim Crow, a psychological bird that told him that no matter how bad off he was, at least he was a white man, better than the black man. And he ate Jim Crow.” ~Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr. King wanted the crowd to understand that bigots defined blackness as a lesser existence and inferior to ‘real’ Americans. The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. delivered those words following the triumphant third march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in March of 1965. Dr. King recognized how racists appealed to poor whites and maintained Jim Crow. Its advocates needed to minimize Black life to the point of diminution. Of course, that was fifty-six years ago, and any talk of that now would give white people discomfort.
Enter Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Two days after the country recognized the birth of Dr. King (with a holiday) and following a failed vote to restore equal voting rights, Senator McConnell comforted Republicans and taunted black people. “[T]he concept is misplaced because if you look at the statistics, Black American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans,” said McConnell. Mitch McConnell’s defenders quickly coalesced around McConnell and amended his statement by inserting the words other or similar Americans. It is popular to say Mr. McConnell said the quiet part out loud. I choose to believe he said the quiet part with a loud purpose.
Dr. King was well ahead of his time. He spoke about the unfairness of the filibuster on July 5, 1963, two years before his speech in Montgomery. “I think the tragedy is that we have a Congress with a Senate that has a minority of misguided senators who will use the filibuster to keep the majority of people from even voting,” said Dr. King. One must ask if the current structure of the filibuster existed in 1964, would the Civil Rights and Voter Rights Act(s) exist?
McConnell’s remarks were manna for the pitchfork and Tiki torch carriers who invaded Charlottesville, Virginia. Encouragement for the insurrectionists who believe that black voters and other voters of color cheated them of their birthright. Whites who fear their replacement are imminent, and violence, lies, and cheating answer their self-imposed woes. For a man renowned for his precise planning and use of the language, are we now to believe that Senator McConnell’s words were a mistake, or was it more likely a revelation of his truth.
Americans of color have fought the battle of “you people” for years. The Japanese, the Chinese, Latinos, and others all have stories. Donald Trump told the citizens of the Virgin Islands, [I] “met with the president of the Virgin Islands” to discuss the recent hurricanes that have devastated Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the island; seemingly not understanding that the occupants of the Virgin Islands are U.S. citizens. Black survivors of Hurricane Katrina were labeled “refugees.” To his credit and attempt at political rehabilitation, former President George W. Bush recognized the dangerous innuendo of stripping Black Americans of citizenship, “The people we’re talking about are not refugees,” he said. “They are Americans, and they need the help and love and compassion of our fellow citizens,” said Bush. The onus for change and reconciliation is often pushed into the laps of the oppressed for answers. The real problem and solution nestle in the bosom of the oppressors; history is a difficult but necessary pill to swallow.
Continue to Vote for Change.