MLK Jr. On Getting ‘Woke’: AUDIO

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 the Fisk graduate the nation’s first black female postmaster, and McKinley invited her back in 1897 — the combination of blackness, womanhood and power proved too strong for self-conscious white chauvinists at the turn of the century, and local haters started pressuring her to resign late in 1902, encouraged in large part by James K. Vardaman, a newspaper editor and noted white supremacist who used op-eds to attack Cox as a “negro wench” and other awful invective. Finally, after weeks of torment, including a moment when the mayor and sheriff told her they would not protect her from lynching, Cox involuntarily resigned her position.

But Roosevelt and his allies were having none of it. Upon receiving the coerced resignation, Roosevelt shot back, “The resignation…is not accepted” because it was tendered under duress, “forced by a brutal and lawless element purely upon the ground of her color…”

Roosevelt went on, “[Mrs. Cox’] character and standing in the community are endorsed by the best and most reputable people in town… Her moral standing in the community is of the highest.” He then declared the post office closed until Mrs. Cox was welcomed back. That’s right: a president closed an entire post office to fight for a black woman. If locals weren’t mature enough to accept her, they weren’t mature enough to receive mail. It was a radical move, especially in 1903.

And while Roosevelt’s office noted that this hatred was hurting business, Roosevelt made sure to remind Americans of their national morality: “Business interests, which are being injured solely by the action of the law element…is wholly secondary to the preservation of law and order and the assertion of the fundamental principle that this government will not connive at or tolerate wrong and outrage of such flagrant character.”

The racists eventually ceded to American values and pulled back their anti-black attacks on Mrs. Cox, but the damage was done: she realized she could never be at home in Indianola and she and her family left town soon after;  her vacancy at the post office was soon filled by a white male replacement. Though the racists won by default in this case, the fact that the President of the United States stepped up and stared them down is an historical moment worth remembering…  Wistfully, perhaps.

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.