Monday, October 4, 2010

Why What Happened in DC Stayed in DC

On Saturday morning I awoke excitedly to the sounds of my blackberry alarm, unmoved by the fact that the sun had not yet rose and that I had not been up that early all year. Charged up, without coffee and ready to conquer the day, my heart was set on a trip to DC, where I would be attending the One Nation Working Together Rally. It was exciting to come together with not just my fellow brothers and sisters by race, but by ALL of my brothers and sisters of ALL races who’s commonality is that they too call themselves American. To here that name One Nation, Working Together, is to embrace a concept that has been lost in this country for some time now. It is a general and consistent truth that only seems to surface during times of great tragedy, yet has even managed to hide itself from us during this country’s recent decline in almost every area possible. It is the concept that says we are much more likely to be victorious by working together than by focusing on our differences and fighting apart. The spirit which exists in that very basic concept, is the reason I could not miss being in DC on Saturday.

Most people still think that Jim Crowism and the fight for Civil Rights in America was just about keeping black people oppressed and maintaining white power. It was Dr. King who realized that this country was benefitting from the ignorance of poor, racist white people just as much as the poor blacks who were being oppressed. By creating a system where the poor whites believe that it is the black man’s fault that he is poor and that the black man is to blame for all of his problems, it keeps the focus off what the problem really is. By perpetuating tension between blacks and whites who are essentially in the same tragic predicament and giving poor whites a sense of entitlement making them feel “better” than their black peers you make them forget that they are in fact in the same tragic predicament.  Dr. King saw that the fight for Civil Rights was just as much about fighting for the plight of all poor people, both black and white. He realized that the war on black people, although they are much less desired, was also a war on the poor white people who plowed the same fields and shared the same dirt roads as the blacks they hated. As long as you keep the people distracted and uninformed you never have to worry about them awakening and finding the truth. Dr. Carter G. Woodson put it best, when he said: "If you can control a man's thinking you do not have to worry about his action. When you determine what a man shall think you do not have to concern yourself about what he will do. If you make a man feel that he is inferior, you do not have to compel him to accept an inferior status, for he will seek it himself. If you make a man think that he is justly an outcast, you do not have to order him to the back door. He will go without being told; and if there is no back door, his very nature will demand one."

Dr. King was quoted as saying to Harry Belafonte “I fear that I am integrating my people into a burning house.” Now I’ll give you a few minutes to let that profound quote marinate….

Dr. King was beginning to realize towards the end of his life that the fight for civil rights was useless if the country has a whole was on it’s way down anyway. There was something prophetic about this quote from Dr. King, because it truly represents the struggle that Americans as a whole are facing to this day. Tea Partiers would have you believe that it is the Mexican’s fault that there aren’t enough jobs for Americans and therefore they should all be arrested and deported. Some Dems believe that if the Republicans take control of the country again that blacks might be forced back to the fields to pick cotton and tobacco. These types of extreme ideologies are part of what is keeping this country from moving forward.

But I Digress….

The organizers of the One Nation Working Together Rally seemed to get it. Finally there seemed to be a movement where there were no exclusions and everyone, regardless of race or social status could feel comfortable showing solidarity.

It took a while to get close enough to one of the super screens where you could actually hear what was being said, but eventually after squeezing through the crowd, avoiding vendor tables and the occasional, unintentional bump against a fellow patriot, I had made it and was eager to be inspired by what I was about to here.

Unfortunately I had made it just as the Rev. Al Sharpton was finishing up his remarks, which he had ended by repeating the phrase, “WE ARE ONE NATION!!!”

The next speaker was a Native American comedian, who I quickly tuned out and used as an opportunity to move to a better position to view the super screen.

The next few speakers were individuals from advocacy groups, social service organizations and progressive groups who were making the case for their particular cause, but never within the context of the bigger picture, which was One Nation, Working Together. Somewhere between the hype and rhetoric surrounding this great event, that message had apparently gotten lost.  There were no action steps mentioned, so specific agenda or clear articulation of what the problem at hand actually was. As I walked back to my free, chartered bus that evening, I felt just as confused and lost as I had the day before.

I had expected to be guided in a particular direction, as it related to helping solve the problem of unemployment, bad politics and lack of unity. I would like to have been given some ideas as to how to engage my local community in a productive way, so that the message of the day would not die in DC. What, I thought, could I leave here and take with me to share and inspire my community. But there never seemed to be an actual message outside of One Nation Working Together. But working together to do what? Did that mean working together as Dems and Repub’s? Blacks and whites, or all of the above?

To me the need to have this rally transcended race, gender, sexual preference and religious affiliation. It was a need birthed directly out of Dr. Kings quote mentioned earlier. King was right. He was integrating us into a sinking ship. Now that we have realized, at least most of us, that racism is pointless and as we work together to try and put out this house fire there seems to be no clear direction has to how that should happen.

I wouldn’t say the rally was a waste though. We ended up with more participants than the Glen Beck rally, which is great for bragging rights. The solidarity shows that as a country we agree in more areas than we disagree, which is a huge plus, but how can we ensure coming together as we did in DC has a lasting affect in our lives and doesn’t die once the crowd has disappeared?
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