It was these three demands that catapulted JFK over Richard Nixon in the 1960 election, lifted by Black voters to victory by a mere 1%. But eight years later, JFK (’63), Medger Evers (’63), Malcolm X (’65), Dr. King (’68) and Bobby Kennedy (’68) would all be dead. These leaders joined a chorus of other courageous voices opposing segregationist policies and practices that protected white supremacy, whose lives were also cut short by a viciously violent backlash from White America that celebrated the election of Nixon by a landslide in 1968.
To add insult to injury, Governor George Wallace, traveled to Detroit in the fall of 1968 and stood in the same venue where King denounced segregation a handful of years prior and shouted, “segregation today, tomorrow and forever!” More than 11,000 White attendees roared their approval with a thundering applause.
Today, the pastor who leads King’s church in Atlanta is now a sitting Senator, due to the efforts of Black voters. But his voice, much like King’s, falls on deaf ears across a majority of White America. Still, none of the members of Congress on either side of the aisle give voice to the solid consistent message of the Negro Revolution.
No one in Congress, the White House, or any state legislature reminds America today of the three demands made by the non-violent warrior King, who sacrificed his life battling segregationist policies and practices that protect white supremacy. On MLK Day, the nation will remember King’s “dream” while ignoring his reality. King didn’t start his iconic speech with his dream. He began by describing the “shameful” chronic condition of Black America.
Amid all the protests in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd in the spring of 2020, and the shocking violent insurrection attempt on January 6, 2021, Americans have apparently forgotten what triggered the rise of the Negro Revolution. We seem to have forgotten that police brutality, assaults on voting rights, and the viciousness of white supremacy (both in the streets and the halls of political power) were ever-present throughout King’s life. Today’s generation is not experiencing anything new. But to many who don’t know their history, it may feel like a new crisis, or at least the ratcheting up of racial discord due to the anxieties of some White Americans who fear the change they see on the horizon. But, of course, America has been here before. The scenes we are witnessing aren’t unique to our generation. Today’s generation have simply forgotten the message of the Negro Revolution and the legacy of the woke warrior, King.
Unfortunately, if generations of White American children continue to be denied truthful accurate knowledge and a contextual understanding of the ugly history that was passed down from their parents and grandparents, they will also grow to be adults who lack knowledge and understanding of the society they inherited. And since none of us can teach what we don’t know, future generations will inherit the ignorance of generations living today.
Without the truth, today’s generations of White Americans will remain virtually powerless to change the nation’s chronic conditions rooted in segregation and white supremacy, regardless of the explosions of protests across the country from those who are adversely impacted by the “racist” conditions of a society governed by biased laws, systems, policies and practices.
Unless disrupted by truth, each generation of White Americans will pass to future generations a broad ignorance of the society they inherited with little capacity to discern, much less change, the current societal conditions from which they benefit, but did not create.