‘Meet the Press’ and the pervasive racism of 1963

So, “Meet the Press” rebroadcast the interview with Martin Luther King Jr. and Roy Wilkins that aired three days before the March on Washington in 1963. Take a look:

Here’s what I got out of it.

The questions for the most part were the fear mongering you’d expect from Fox News. References to “militant Negroes” (with an emphasis on the Southern pronounciation of “nig”), allegations of being communist dupes, a tie in to Puerto Rican terrorism and constant badgering that essentially came down to “how you gonna keep those crazy black people from actin’ up an goin’ wild.”

The questioners are contemptible. The racism in the questioning is off the charts. And the outright dismissal of any effort toward racial equality is an abomination.

People who participated in the March on Washington were gathering to exercise their rights to equality under the Constitution. But these vermin of the establishment press were doing all they could to scare white America and justify the continued oppression of an entire race.

How King and Wilkins managed to get through this interview without saying, “What the hell is your malfunction, dude?”, is beyond me. They exhibit an amazing show of restraint. But then you look at how much the freedom movement went through (people were arrested, assaulted and murdered by state sanctioned bigotry), and it’s obvious the only thing they could do was practice restraint in the face of uncontrolled violence.

And these questioners (all white, all male) never emphasized that the true danger of that time came from those who were against civil rights.

It really is a wonder why NBC ran this at all.


The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom: Aug. 28, 1963

Today is the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the historic gathering that marked the peak of the civil rights movement.

Here’s a first-hand account of what that day was like (from AZ Central)


By Bob S. Martin

The thing about making history is that you rarely know you are a part of it.

In 1963, a couple of friends and I began planning a trip to the nation’s capital to participate in the “March on Washington.” I was 21.

I wanted to go, in part, because it was going to be the largest group of Black people I would ever see or meet in my life (a good time, young ladies and new friends). In the 1950s and ’60s, believe it or not, Black people may have been as disconnected from one another as they were to White people. For many, the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom” was also a unity march.

I also wanted to make the trip because of the high regard my family (especially my grandfather, a retired railroad porter) had for A. Philip Randolph, who at the time was the most visible civil-rights leader I knew. Randolph, a leader in the civil-rights and labor movements, was a key organizer of the march.

I lived in the Bronx at the time of the march and worked for Lord & Taylor’s Department Store in Manhattan. My bosses and co-workers were worried about my trip to Washington and talked endlessly about concerns for my safety. Some even asked that I consider not going, which I found bewildering. Why? I was going to be with “my people.”

Getting connected

When the time came for the trip, my two buddies and I loaded up my new VW bug for the longest drive I had ever taken with the hope of having a good time — and maybe more.

On Aug. 28, 1963, I could hear the speeches but could not see who was talking, and so, I made my way through and around the crowds until I was situated below the podium just as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. started to speak. I couldn’t see him, and I had no idea who he was. I loved the sound of his voice, his certainty and cadence.

“The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community,” King said, “must not lead us to distrust of all White people, for many of our White brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.”

It was an inclusive message that reminded me of a seesaw that takes two to make work.

I heard what King said, but I didn’t know what it would mean, nor did I realize that the whole country was listening. I had no idea what significance it would have to the future of our nation. I got my first clues when I returned home and discovered I had attained celebrity status just by being one of the 200,000-plus people who was there.

The March on Washington, the first time I had been so far from the Bronx, changed my worldview. I grew up in a predominantly West Indian/Caribbean community, part of what is called “Fort Apache.” I knew of the terrible injustices in the South, but I didn’t relate what was happening there to my experience. I did not see myself as a freedom fighter. It was always about my taking care of my own business vs. worrying about others.

After the march, I began to understand that what was happening in the South was also happening to me, albeit covertly, and that our communities and cultures were not shielded. What I began to explore and understand was that “no one wins, unless we all win.” People like Gandhi, Buddha and James Baldwin made their way into my consciousness. The South stopped just being some other place.

Moving forward

It has been 50 years since the march. There has been change, but in many ways, it only looks as if things have changed. There are still many communities that are hostile toward Blacks; many more communities have a posture of tolerance that is used to mask fear of others.

Today, people quote the “I Have a Dream” speech like an anthem that we are obliged to remember even if we don’t understand its meaning. Its poetic ending tends to overshadow its universal message. If we read the speech carefully, it addresses not only the injustices experienced by “Negroes,” but by all people across the planet. That there is no middle ground on the way to equality. There is no equality light.

I think “we the people” should use King’s speech as a lens to view the current events of the day and to “take it on.” There is still a long way to go with some hurdles in between.

I’ve learned — and truly believe — that what separates us from one another as human beings is a manufactured fear of dreaming big. The March on Washington was a big dream that helped make other dreams possible. Today, there is an African-American president — that was thought to be an impossibility 50 years ago — and although this realized dream is seasoned with bitterness and fear, there is a new belief that “change has come.”

Race, religion, gender and ethnicity still cloud vision in this country and throughout the world. To move forward, it will take a new generation of young people with even bigger dreams who are not triggered or trapped by an intimate knowledge of past injustices, who are committed to not looking backward, while acknowledging and being thankful for the distinct gifts that we are for each other.

Here’s to another 50 years.

Bob S. Martin of Scottsdale is an artist who moved to Arizona in 2001.

So, what exactly did he see?


The president talks about Trayvon Martin

It’s been a week since a jury of six women said it was fine with them that George Zimmerman shot to death an unarmed teenager carrying a can of iced tea and a bag of Skittles. One of the more odious jurors, B37, hit the television circuit, blaming Travyon Martin for walking while black trying to arrange a book deal to make some money off the case. Zimmerman is trying to make money by suing NBC News for its bonehead editing job. Don’t be surprised when he hits Fox News, his propaganda outlet, as a regular guest.

There are huge divisions in the country. I don’t recommend listening to television reports or reading newspapers to get a feel for what the issues are. But I highly recommend going to the Web to the stories about the case and the result and immediately going down to the comments section. TV and newspaper Web sites don’t do much in terms of overseeing the comments section, so you really get to see the ignorant and vile statements by the American masses. And no, both sides don’t do it.

So President Obama goes to the podium on Thursday and talks about Trayvon. Never says the name George Zimmerman. Never says the verdict was correct. And totally pisses off the Fox News glitterati and their zombie followers.

The speech wasn’t an address to America. It was a speech to whites.


Because he never said a word in the speech that black people didn’t know. I was trying to think of equivalent speech content, and the closest thing I could come up with was: The sun rises in the east and sets in the west, even when it’s raining and you can’t see it.

So, we have another “conversation on race.” And while we have these conversations, the right passes new laws to limit minority involvement in election, passes new laws that let you shoot people who make you nervous, passes new laws to restrict brown people from crossing the border. At the same time, the right expresses indignation when black people say they’re upset that George Zimmerman walked.

Now, because of the speech above, Fox News is calling President Obama the “Race-Baiter in Chief.”

Here’s a reality check. Before the Zimmerman verdict, there was a lot of chatter about the possibility of riots if the killer walked. The killer walked and there were no riots. There were peaceful protests and demonstrations. When there was any hint of violence, the dozen or so people responsible were quickly arrested. But there were no riots.

For those of us old enough to remember when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, we also remember this happened:

For those of us who remember when the cops who beat Rodney King on videotape walked in their assault trial in 1992, we also remember this happened:

The Zimmerman trial was just as charged as the King trial. Police were prepared for destruction. When the Zimmerman verdict was read, people were upset, people were angry and people wanted vengeance. But there were no riots.

Some have asked, why not. Some say because community leaders called for calm.

Don’t be dense. There were no riots because Barack Obama is president. If George Bush (the dumber), or Bill Clinton, or George Bush (the smarter), or Ronald Reagan, or Jimmy Carter or Lyndon Johnson were president today, there would have been riots.

African-Americans aren’t going to do anything to make the job more difficult for an African-American president. That’s the only reason there was calm in the face of injustice.

The scumbags at Fox News should acknowledge that.

Stupid is as stupid does: a gun nut tribute to MLK

Sometimes, people tell me about something they heard on the news that sounds like they’ve been taken in by a parody. So I kind of listen, nod and completely erase it from memory the minute they leave. And then I find out it’s real.

Like a few days ago, when a friend said that some gun nut went on TV and said if Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today, he would support the gun-rights crowd when they had their Gun Appreciation Day.

There’s no way anyone in his right mind could have said that. Because there’s one pretty obvious reason Martin Luther King Jr. isn’t alive today:

The bullet exploded in his face.

You heard it, too, right?

So anyone who knows anything about King would know that guns were anathema to him. No one would have the audacity to say that the preacher of non-violence would find nothing wrong with everyone in America getting a gun and shooting it out.

Then I saw this:

He really said it. And he really said that if blacks had guns at the country’s founding, there wouldn’t have been slavery.

Wrong! If blacks had guns at the country’s founding, there would be no black people in America today, because they would have been slaughtered.

(Ask a native American how resistance to whites played out historically.)

And what the hell is wrong with the CNN moderator here? Isn’t that kind of idiocy something that would lead someone like … let’s say … Walter Cronkite to cut the mic and apologize to viewers for insulting their intelligence?

I watched this and thought about how you should treat someone like this. And I can only make this comparison.

Let’s say you’re a kid and have been sent away to summer camp by your parents. And you have to share a cabin with seven other kids. One of those kids is a pain in the ass, but you and your six other cabin mates, who get along fine, try to be civil to the jerk.

Then, one night, the kid craps the bed.

The immediate group response is to gang up on the kid and yell, “What the hell is your problem!?” (We’re kids. We can’t think beyond hating this obnoxious little prick, and the smell in the cabin, and the idea that somehow the camp counselors are going to make us clean up the mess.) And you as a group tell the people in charge that you don’t want this kid in your cabin anymore.

That’s how the guy who crapped himself on TV should have been treated. The CNN commentator should have yelled at him. CNN should ban him from ever appearing on TV again. There’s enough stupidity on TV. His statement didn’t cross the line. It nuked it.

Fred Shuttlesworth, civil-rights pioneer, dies at 89

When Martin Luther King Jr. said how much he admired this person for his bravery in the Deep South during the civil rights struggle, it’s obvious this was one of the influential figures of that time:

Fred Shuttlesworth (center) with Martin Luther King and Ralph Abernathy in Birmingham, Ala., May 1963

The Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth, who was bombed, beaten and repeatedly arrested in the fight for civil rights and hailed by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. for his courage and tenacity, has died. He was 89.

Relatives and hospital officials said Shuttlesworth died Wednesday at Princeton Baptist Medical Center in Birmingham. A former truck driver who studied religion at night, Shuttlesworth became pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1953 and soon emerged as an outspoken leader in the struggle for racial equality. …

… In his 1963 book “Why We Can’t Wait,” King called Shuttlesworth “one of the nation’s most courageous freedom fighters … a wiry, energetic and indomitable man.”