Blacks and Voting
When Will We Ever Learn?
Dr. King?s Forgotten Speech on Peace
by Paul Rockwell
Thirty-five years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a speech that changed my life. I was a student at Union Theological Seminary in New York City in 1967, during the peak of the Vietnam War. Almost by accident a friend invited me across the street to hear Dr. King deliver a comprehensive anti-war address at Riverside Church.
It is not the drama, the excitement of the occasion, nor King?s mellifluous voice passing over the hushed sanctuary as he described the holocaust of Indochina. It is not even the way history later vindicated King?s teachings on war -- everything he predicted came to pass -- that makes his 1967 address so memorable to me. It is the vitality of his teachings for our own lives, the immediate relevance to the arrogance and jingoism of our time, that compels me to recall and reread the Peacemaker?s masterpiece once again.
The economic and moral crisis we are facing today -- the ubiquity of violent crime, the endemic clutch of drugs, the growing poverty of the working poor, the suffocation of millions of decent lives in the ghettos of our cities -- all date back to that fateful turn when American leaders, pressured by big corporations, chose war over peace, empire over civil rights and social progress.
Dr. King saw our crisis coming. ?A few years ago,? he began from his well-lit pulpit, speaking in reference to the anti-poverty programs, when America was moving forward -- ?A few years ago, there was a shining moment in our struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor, both black and white, through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched the programs broken. I was compelled to see the war as the enemy of the poor.?
As Dr. King analyzed the hope-wrecking nature of war, I put down my pen, stopped taking notes, and listened with my heart, as he described, not only the devastation abroad, the injuries and scarred lives of the working class youth returning home, but the spiritual costs of imperialism -- the mendacity of our leaders, the disillusionment of youth. ? A nation,? he said, ? that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.?
King reminded his listeners that U.S. lawlessness abroad breeds violence within the United States as well. ?As I have walked among the desperate, rejected angry men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. But they ask -- and rightly so -- what about Vietnam? Wasn?t our own nation using massive doses of violence to solve its problems? Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly against the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government.? King never used the term ?blowback,? but his message was clear: When America sows the wind, it will reap the whirlwind in due time.
The Vietnam War is past. The cold war is over. But King?s teachings about the moral and social costs of militarism and empire are as relevant today as they were 35 years ago. After all, there is still no Marshall Plan for our cities, no jobs program for our youth yearning for hope and direction.
The recent $396 billion military appropriation is a mockery of economic justice. While our cities are in decay, Americans pay more for defense than all potential adversaries and neutral parties combined. The recent $45 billion increase -- a mere add-on -- is more than three times the defense budgets of Iran, Iraq, Libya, North, Korea, Sudan and Syria combined.
As U.S. corporations continue to globalize weaponry and violence for profit, the U.S. has become the primary font of arms proliferation in the world. Subsidized by American taxpayers, U.S. corporations -- Lockheed-Martin, General Electric, General Dynamics, McDonnell Douglas, Boeing, Hughes Aircraft, to name a few -- sell lethal weapons to more than 40 countries. Assault helicopters, tanks, 50-caliber machine guns, hellfire anti-armor missiles, land-mine dispensing pods, Stinger missiles, fighter jets, rifles, guns -- mechanized violence has become the main currency of American foreign policy. There is hardly a major battlefield where U. S. arms are not involved, and U.S. industries produce arms for both sides in many conflicts: Britain and Argentina in the Falklands, Ethiopia and Somalia in the Horn of Africa. According to USA TODAY, U.S. companies, along with France, helped Iraq build his its arsenal of poison gas and chemical weapons. How easy we forget that President Reagan sold arms to Khomeini, after which President Bush (senior) promoted and backed Saddam Hussein?s 7-year war against Iran.
King once described the sale of weaponry on a world scale as one of the great social crimes of the modern age. His 35-year-old speech still sears my soul, because my own country is still ?the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.? We are all victims, in King?s words, of that ?deadly western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long.?
I left Riverside Church inspired by the intensity of the event. The following day, King?s patriotic address caused an outcry in the Media. TIME magazine called it ?demagogic slander, a script for Radio Hanoi.? Nevertheless I can still hear our teacher reciting the words of James Russell Lowell: ?Though the cause of evil prosper yet ?tis truth alone is strong.?
That was a very interesting article you posted about how blacks weren't disenfranchised in Florida in the 2000 election. Interesting in that it was written by a conservative Republican who was appointed to the USCRC by Bush and whose appointment was fought against tooth and nail by most of the commission.
You also stated there were no credible facts to support the disenfranchisement. Interesting again how you ignore the myriad articles and several books that have been written on the subject, not to mention the very sentence you highlighted in yellow about the USCRC report that "excoriates" (you do know what that word means, right?) the Florida election officials.
Here's an excerpt from just such an article in the October 04 Vanity Fair:
Amid the media frenzy after the election, one story went untold?the one in the footnote that Scalia had asked Ginsburg to delete from her dissent. In fact, thousands of African-Americans in Florida had been stripped of their right to vote.
Adora Obi Nweze, the president of the Florida State Conference of the N.A.A.C.P., went to her polling place and was told she couldn?t vote because she had voted absentee?even though she hadn?t. Cathy Jackson of Broward, who?d been a registered voter since 1996, showed up at the polls and was told she was not on the rolls. After seeing a white woman casting an affidavit ballot, she asked if she could do the same. She was turned down. Donnise DeSouza of Miami was also told that she wasn?t on the rolls. She was moved to the ?problem line?; soon thereafter, the polls closed, and she was sent home. Lavonna Lewis was on the rolls. But after waiting in line for hours, the polls closed. She was told to leave, while a white man was allowed to get in line, she says.
U.S. congresswoman Corrine Brown, who was followed into her polling place by a local television crew, was told her ballot had been sent to Washington, D.C., and so she couldn?t vote in Florida. Only after two and a half hours was she allowed to cast her ballot. Brown had registered thousands of students from 10 Florida colleges in the months prior to the election. ?We put them on buses,? she says, ?took them down to the supervisor?s office. Had them register. When it came time to vote, they were not on the rolls!? Wallace McDonald of Hillsborough County went to the polls and was told he couldn?t vote because he was a felon?even though he wasn?t. The phone lines at the N.A.A.C.P. offices were ringing off the hook with stories like these. ?What happened that day?I can?t even put it in words anymore,? says Donna Brazile, Gore?s campaign manager, whose sister was asked for three forms of identification in Seminole County before she was allowed to vote. ?It was the most painful, dehumanizing, demoralizing thing I?ve ever experienced in my years of organizing.?
For African-Americans it was the latest outrage perpetrated by Jeb Bush?s government. During his unsuccessful bid for governor in ?94, Jeb was asked what he would do for the African-American community. ?Probably nothing,? he answered. In November 1999, he announced his One Florida Initiative, in which, with the stroke of a pen, he ended mandatory affirmative-action quotas by cutting off preferential treatment in the awarding of state contracts, university admissions, and government hiring. Tom Hill, then a state representative, and U.S. congressman Kendrick Meek, then a 33-year-old state senator, staged a 25-hour sit-in outside Jeb?s office. ?[The initiative was done] without any consultation from the legislators, students, teachers, the people who were going to be affected,? says Meek. Jeb wasn?t moved by their presence. ?Kick their asses out,? he told an aide. (He later claimed to be referring to reporters stationed near the sit-in.) Energized, African-Americans marched through Tallahassee and Fort Lauderdale. They also registered to vote. By Election Day 2000, 934,261 blacks were registered, up by nearly 100,000 since 1996.
In retrospect, the claims of disenfranchisement were hardly phony. In January and February 2001, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the highly divided, highly partisan government-appointed group formed in 1957, heard more than 30 hours of damning testimony from more than 100 witnesses. The report, which came out in June of that year, made a strong case that the election violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The commissioners duly passed their report up to newly installed attorney general Ashcroft. Little was done.
Strong as the report from the Commission was, it did not yet have the full story. The disenfranchisement of African-Americans in Florida was embedded in many facets of the election?from the equipment used to the actions of key local election officials, to the politically motivated manipulation of arcane Florida law, to the knowing passivity of Jeb Bush himself.
(edited to delete the stories about Gadsden and Duval counties - the post was just tooooo long. see link below for complete text of article.)
If the Gadsden and Duval stories might be characterized as a kind of disenfranchisement by conscious neglect, a much more sinister story began to emerge in the months following the election. Throughout Florida, people?many of them black men, such as Willie Steen, a decorated Gulf War veteran?went to the polls and were informed that they couldn?t vote, because they were convicted felons?even though they weren?t.
?The poll worker looked at the computer and said that there was something about me being a felon,? says Steen, who showed up at his polling place in Hillsborough County, young son in tow. Florida is one of just seven states that deny former felons the right to vote, but Steen wasn?t a felon.
?I?ve never been arrested before in my life,? Steen told the woman. A neighbor on line behind him heard the whole exchange. Steen tried to hide his embarrassment and quietly pleaded with the poll worker, How could I have ended up on the list? She couldn?t give him an answer. As the line lengthened, she grew impatient. ?She brushed me off and said, ?Hey, get to the side,?? recalls Steen. The alleged felony, Steen later learned, took place between 1991 and 1993?when he was stationed in the Persian Gulf.
Steen wasn?t the only upstanding black citizen named Willie on the list. So was Willie Dixon, a Tampa youth leader and pastor, and Willie Whiting, a pastor in Tallahassee. In Jacksonville, Roosevelt Cobbs learned through the mail that he, too, was a felon, though he wasn?t. The same thing happened to Roosevelt Lawrence. Throughout the state, scores of innocent people found themselves on the purge list.
The story got little attention at the time. Only Greg Palast, a fringe, old-school investigator, complete with fedora, was on its trail. With a background in racketeering investigation for the government, Palast broke part of the story while the recount was still going on, but he did it in England, in The Observer. None of the mainstream media in the U.S. would touch it. ?Stories of black people losing rights is passé, it?s not discussed, no one cares,? says Palast, whose reporting on the subject appears in his 2002 book, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. ?A black person accused of being a felon is always guilty.?
This is a long excerpt from a much longer article which also discusses the Supreme Court's role in appointing Bush and the current state of affairs at the Florida polling places. The entire article can be found here:
Nah, I don't think MLK's vision of life in America for Black people contained what you allude to here. However, when you imply that he believed some of the pull yourself up by your own bootstrap bs that right-wingers peddle, then I think you don't know as much about the man and his vision that you think. Don't you know that right-wingers often butcher the words of men like MLK watchtower style to misrepresent his true thoughts and to advance their own bigoted thinking?
What I implied was a man willing to be self-sacrificing as compared to many (most?) of todays self-proclaimed black leaders (at least the ones seen on tv). I already gave you two example, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. I'll give you a third one, Barack Obama. He's the new poster child for the democrats. He's going to win the U.S. sentate race here in Illinois. He seems like a good enough man, and even has some good ideas. He plays up this "oh I'm helping the poor black folks on the south side...blah blah blah." And "education is the most important issue facing us here in Illinois." Well, guess where HIS kids go to school? The best dam private school in the city of Chicago. That's what I'm talking about. His words say one thing but his actions say something else. His actions say "those public schools are good enough for your kids but not for mine." Yet, he'll get 99% of the black vote. You don't see any thing wrong with that? I'm not saying that this is really any differnt then what a George Bush or John Kerry does but half the white people in the US are telling either canidate to f*ck off. Why doesn't this happen toward black leaders? Recently Jesse Jackson was caught diverting funds (donations) from his RAINDOW / PUSH organization to his girlfriend whom he knocked up. Nothing happened to him. Just a big "oh well, shit happens." Then he turns around, does another rally and racks in millions from the very people he's suppose to be helping. And he's the one who "delivers" the black vote? How wrong is that? I would find that very insulting.
Regarding MLK, for every right-winger who butchers MLK's words, I'll give you a person who believes that based solely on the color of his skin he alone has the right to talk about MLK. I never said I was an expert on the life and teachings of MLK, nor am I an expert on any other historical figure such as JFK or any other American I'm proud of. But that doesn't mean that I can't reference them so give it a rest already because cutting and pasting web site information doesn't make you an expert either.
Come to Chicago and I'll take you to the public housing complexes like the Robert Taylor Homes. Then tell me if you'd want to live there. I believe you wouldn't.
You're trying to put words into my mouth. I'm not at all saying that there isn't a need to level the playing field. What I am saying is after spending billions of dollars on programs for the last 35 years, the result has been a pile of shit. The manner in which this money has been spent takes away a persons dignity and that's why we have the problems we do today.
Ion Sancho, a Democrat, noted that Florida law allows political party operatives inside polling stations to stop voters from obtaining a ballot.
For African-Americans it was the latest outrage perpetrated by Jeb Bush?s government. During his unsuccessful bid for governor in ?94, Jeb was asked what he would do for the African-American community. ?Probably nothing,? he answered
Sad. When will all the hatered ever end?
For African-Americans it was the latest outrage perpetrated by Jeb Bush?s government. During his unsuccessful bid for governor in ?94, Jeb was asked what he would do for the African-American community. ?Probably nothing,? he answeredCould you please provide a source for this information? I'd like to read the article.
""IMO, its no coincidence that Ronald Reagan started his campaign for President in the same small Mississippi community where four civil rights workers were murdered.""
Wow, the historical misinformation here is so amusing.
In Fact, Reagan announced his decision to run for President November 13, 1979, at the New York Hilton. New Hampshire was in fact, his first stop as a Presidential candidate, Reagan decided not to make Iowa the first stop because Bush Sr. was piratically living there, running for Prez, and it did not help him in the polls. It was his Ranch in Santa Barbara, CA where he made up his mind to Run for President. Reagan appointed more "Blacks" to relevant posistions as Govenar and President than anyone before (IN fact, he appointed General Powell to the Jount Chief of Staff?s Board.)
Folks, please educate yourself, because some will do and say anything to get a perception or agenda across...
""That was a very interesting article you posted about how blacks weren't disenfranchised in Florida in the 2000 election. Interesting in that it was written by a conservative Republican who was appointed to the USCRC by Bush and whose appointment was fought against tooth and nail by most of the commission.... ""
Your "poison well" tactic will not work, try to kill the messenger and not the message. You should be ashamed.
First off, the information is correct. I can post many other reports that say the same . This one provides a link to the original report for all to read.
Your attack on the Civil rights Commissioner is not warranted and a poor tactic to use. A Majority of Democrats supported his nomination, he is an honorable man. CAn you name one Government Commission that is not divided? Not one supressed any evidence, and by god, many had the chance to present evidence. But when all was said and done, the facts show it up for what it was, a red herring to use for an agenda.
Your claim also "begs the question" why haven?t the "Main Stream Media" used this investigation to cite a problem in Florida? The reasons can be found in the Commissioner?s article. Only the radical left, has tried to use some "distorted perceptions" to further their goals. "Fear is Strength" is their way of trying to keep control.
As an example, twice as many whites as blacks were on that Felon list. Sort of shot down your "Black only" highlight, does it not? How come all the problems happened in places where Demmocrats control the voting proceedures?
I tend to agree with John R. Lott Jr., a senior research scholar at Yale Law School, that suggested poverty, rather than race, is a more accurate predictor of voting trouble. He noted it was difficult to review the commission's report because its researchers would not provide crucial data used in its conclusions.
There was bureaucratic bungling.But Republicans were not the only ones who stumbled; in all but one of the 25 counties with voter problems, local Democrats supervised the elections. Facts you cannot dispute.
Agian, some will say or do anything to obfascate the facts....
I'm so, soo tired.