MLK Jr. On Getting ‘Woke’ in 1965

On June 14, 1965, Martin Luther King Jr gave the commencement address at Oberlin College. It had been two years after his iconic 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington, and this oratory was meant to keep young Americans engaged and encouraged in a civil rights battle that was beginning to drag.

Entitled “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution,” King’s speech lays out the three rules for winning the civil rights movement.  He says, in short, 1) the globalized world has become a neighborhood; we must make it a brotherhood; 2) we must eradicate racial discrimination, a note to which I added economic, gendered and sexual, all three of which I am sure King would support; and, 3), we must approach rivals with non-violence. Dr. King of course was far more elegant, eloquent and masterful, so, without further ado, a truncated text version of MLK Jr.’s speech that day, as well as audio from a 1968 delivery in DC.

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About That Socialist Commune (It Was Racist)

A few weeks ago, at the website Timeline, the writer Meagan Day wrote an article about the Kaweah Colony, a short-lived, circa 1886-1892 socialist commune in what is now Sequoia National Forest, and which was crushed railroad conglomerates and other capitalist forces.

It was exciting to see some coverage of this little-known outpost and its dissolution. I myself only learned about Kaweah because the cabins they build showed up during research for my book, and was fascinated enough to drum up an 8,100+ word draft about the colony, its founding and its ultimate end, an end finalized by capitalist interests but brought about in part by colony infighting and paranoia. The piece went nowhere. I submitted it to one or two sites, but who wants to read 8,100 words, especially on something so esoteric?

In any event, while I appreciated the Timeline piece, I found it incomplete. In addition to overlooking the group’s internal conflicts, including a spin-off colony, the piece also didn’t mention the inglorious fact that Kaweah’s founders were xenophobic racists and misogynists. It’s an unfortunate truth that sullies the romantic image, and I admit I struggled with how to address it when I first pursued what seemed to be a fairly straight-forward and timeless tale, but Kaweah’s ugly underbelly is essential to remember nonetheless. It also makes one wonder, as I did in my scuttled piece, whether we’re better off Kaweah was crushed and scattered to the four corners. Does the world need another enclave of white supremacists, even on under the guise of cooperative living? That’s a hard no.*

All that said, here is an unedited excerpt from my unpublished piece. It picks up right after the colony’s Bay Area-based founders, Burnette G. Haskell, James J. Martin and John Redstone, decide to break away from San Francisco and start their own society in the woods.

(*It’s worth noting that California which so many of us envision as a sunshine-y liberal haven, is also a hotbed of white supremacists.)

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When the President Fought White Supremacists

No, this isn’t a story about the current president. It’s about Teddy Roosevelt, the late president who on this date in 1903 shuttered the post office in Indianola, Mississippi, a punishment for locals’ racist intimidation of Minnie M. Cox, a black woman who was also the town’s postmaster.

Though Mrs. Cox had already held the role for well over a decade— President Benjamin Harrison appointed her in 1891, making Cox the nation’s first black female postmaster, and McKinley invited her back in 1897 — the combination of blackness, womanhood and power apparently become too much for self-conscious white chauvinists at the turn of the century. Egged on my white supremacist newspaper editor James K. Vardaman, local haters started protesting Cox at the end of 1902.

Finally, after weeks of awful invective and constant threats, including  the mayor and sheriff telling her they wouldn’t protect her from lynching, Cox involuntarily resigned her position.

Roosevelt was having none of it.

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U.S. Soldiers Fear White Supremacist Unrest

In a startling and revealing poll of 1,131 active duty soldiers, The Military Times found that 30% of respondents rank white supremacism as a greater national security threat than Syria (27%), Pakistan (25%) and ISIS-riddled Iraq (17%).

More than that, about 25% of those polled said they’d experienced or seen white supremacist attitudes while enlisted, which comes as no surprise considering all the military support for Donald Trump: 44% of troops approve of the he former reality show star who was catapulted to the White House in large part by racists and hate-mongers. And while most branches of the military are just as split as the country on Trump, the Marines are overwhelmingly in his camp: 58.9% of them gave Trump a thumbs up.

Despite all that frightening data, the most unsettling bit comes from this, via The Military Times:

Singling out white supremacist groups irritated some of the troops surveyed.

“White nationalism is not a terrorist organization,” wrote one Navy commander, who declined to give his name.

Also, it’s worth mentioning that others griped that “Black Lives Matter,” a peaceful movement hoping to end race-based violence, is a potential national security threat.