These days we are witnessing a possible turning point in American society…..I say ‘possible’ because I have witnessed the people let social issues be dictated by the people that do not want change in any way.
In summer of 1967, African Americans protested, marched, and rioted in cities across the country. The unrest convinced President Lyndon Johnson to set up the Kerner Commission, which spent about six months doing research, visiting slums, and holding hearings. In 1968, they published a provocative report that civil rights leader Jesse Jackson recently called “the last attempt to address honestly and seriously the structural inequalities that plague African Americans.”
“Segregation and poverty have created in the racial ghetto a destructive environment totally unknown to most white Americans,” the Kerner report said. “What white Americans have never fully understood — but what the Negro can never forget — is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.”
There is more similar with 1968 and 2020 than most people realize….
Racial tensions, clashes between police and protesters, a general sense of chaos — 1968 and 2020 seemed to have a lot in common. Observers wrote about how Trump’s use of “law and order” rhetoric echoed Richard Nixon and George Wallace in 1968. The comparison makes broader sense, too: 1968 was a destabilizing year in American politics, marked by Civil Rights protests, uprisings born out of racist oppression, assassinations, violence at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago (classified later as a “police riot”) and protests against the Vietnam War. Racial tensions and inequality were at the center of the instability that year, with the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. sparking uprisings in cities across the country.
But 1968 isn’t the only chapter in American history that’s relevant to the current crisis. America has a long history of racial injustice, which makes it difficult to isolate any one precedent for the current environment. History has a way of building on itself; the injustices of one generation are passed on to the next, even as incremental progress is made. This is why I want to share with you three other episodes that also help contextualize the moment we’re in now. They, like 1968 and the broader Civil Rights movement, highlight the depths of violence and injustice that black Americans have faced, and explain why everyday political processes have failed to bring about lasting systemic change.
I started my protest days in the 1970s and the races were closer together then than now….and that is a shame that our system has consistently screwed the black population.
Now is the time for radical politics….so says Princeton’s Eddie Glaude, Jr (a professor from my neck of the woods)……
A common reaction to these displays of violence and injustice in the past weeks is: This is not who we are. But what if that isn’t true? What if this is exactly who we are? That’s a far more uncomfortable idea to grapple with — and, if accurate, it demands far more radical solutions to America’s current malaise.
There are few people who have wrestled with these questions more deeply than Eddie Glaude Jr., the chair of Princeton University’s department of African American studies and author of books like Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Souland Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own.
“In order to address this cultural practice of racial inequality, we have to narrate America differently,” Glaude Jr. says. “We have to confront the ugliness of who we are — and who we have been — so that we can imagine ourselves otherwise.”
I agree we need truly RADICAL politics if we want the change the direction of this country toward division….and then without it the divisions will continue to widen and the more inequality will become entrenched in society.
I Read, I Write, You Know
“lego ergo scribo”