What is the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior?

For decades to come, the writings and speeches of Dr. King will continue to be taught in our schools.  His writings will be the subject of graduate school theses and books written and published by academia.  Once a year, the portal of the television will recall his most stirring speeches.  Every child will know excerpts from his, “I Have a Dream,” speech or the chillingly prescient, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” given just one day before his assassination.


But what is his legacy in your life?  What is it in our common life as a nation?  As a world?  The truth is that if we don’t take a closer look from time to time or take a few minutes to listen to a recording of one of his speeches; if we never read a book written by Dr. King or a biography based on personal accounts of people that knew him, the legacy is not a living one.   We need to examine the struggle for human and civil rights for not only African-Americans but for all of the oppressed peoples of the world and indeed all of the various groups of peoples that suffer from discrimination and lack of opportunity.  It behooves us a nation to recall the words of this man that some have considered a prophet sent to enlighten us all.  His most sublime thoughts at times echo in our minds like poetry.  His message of love and acceptance can be an excellent lesson and teaching tool for our youngest children.  But Dr. King was not an author of children’s books.  He was involved in a life and death fight that he understood would one day cut his own life tragically short.


Those of us who are older and know of the life of this leader understand that the struggle which motivated his actions and tireless devotion was in reality that of a succession of countless personal trials endured by millions of African-Americans over a period of centuries.  These are ugly stories of persecution, intolerance and violence.  And unifying these truths at the very center of our history is the picture of slavery.  We must never forget or allow ourselves distance from this.  That’s why I have chosen to excerpt a speech that Dr. King gave in New York City, September 12, 1962 on the one hundredth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.  Let us delve boldly into the universal truths that he spoke of so long ago.


Dr. King was a son of the South and held an abiding love for the people of his land.  But in this speech he takes aim at the South in a way that by today’s standards might seem to cruelly single out the South as the source of racial segregation.  Of course, Dr. King was always keenly aware of racial attitudes of complacent republicans and others in North and across the nation just as much as he was involved with the racial politics of the Southern democrats.  Allow me to preface this article with a quote from my dear, departed friend, Sheria Reid, of South Carolina that very eloquently gives us Yankees, New Englanders, Westerners and Heartlanders a clearer understanding of race relations in the South.  This is a picture that goes back to the beginnings of our shared history.  There is a certain intimacy between the races in the South that we don’t see in the rest of the nation.  From her blog post, “Race, Gingrich and South Carolina,” published in, “The Examined Life,” January 22, 2012.  Interestingly, nearly three years after her untimely death, her blog continues to receive visitors from around the world. 


http://theexaminedlife-sheria.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2012-03-11T01:45:00-05:00&max-results=10&start=40&by-date=false  (Scroll down to third post to read.)


I love living in the south--the mild winters, the summer heat, magnolia trees with those impossibly large white blooms nestled among glossy green leaves. I like iced tea, collard greens, and watermelon. I can make a sweet potato pie that will make you forget that there is such a thing as a pumpkin. I'm southern to the core and while I love my southern heritage, I also know that it includes a dark side, a little problem that has to do with race.

Please don't misunderstand.  I know that race is not an issue only in the South. I've seen enough manifestations of racial prejudice in my lifetime to be certain that it is not limited by geography. The South just has a peculiar love/hate affair with its perceptions about race. The white guy with a confederate flag on his bumper and who would disown any child of his that dated outside of his race will stop to help a lone black woman standing by the road next to her broken down car.


Now let us take a closer look at Dr. King’s speech.


Mankind through the ages has been engaged in a ceaseless struggle to give dignity and meaning to human life.  If, in its effort to achieve this goal, our nation had done nothing more in its whole history than to create just two documents, its contribution to civilization would be imperishable. The first of these documents is the Declaration of Independence and the other is that which we honor on its one-hundredth anniversary, the Emancipation Proclamation.  All tyrants, past, present and future, are powerless to bury the truths in these declarations, no matter how extensive their legions, how vast their power, and how malignant their evil.


The Declaration of Independence proclaimed to a world organized politically and spiritually around the concept of the inequality of man that liberty was inherent in man as a living being; that he could not create a lasting society if it alienated freedom from man.  The Emancipation Proclamation was the offspring of the Declaration of Independence.  It used the force of law to uproot a social order which sought to separate liberty from a segment of humanity.


Our pride and our progress could be unqualified if the story ended here.  But history reveals that these documents were each to live lives of stormy contradictions to be both observed and violated through social upheavals and spiritual disasters.


If we look at our history with honesty and clarity, we will be forced to admit that our Federal form of government has been, from the day of its birth, weakened in its integrity, confused and confounded in its direction, by the unresolved race question.  It is as if a political drug taken during pregnancy caused the birth of a crippled nation.  We seldom accord adequate significance to the fact that Thomas Jefferson's text of the Declaration of Independence was revised by the Continental Congress to eliminate an attack on the slave trade.


It was expunged lest it offend the Southern Representatives, just as even now racial legislation is emasculated or discarded lest it, too, give offense to the South.  Jefferson knew that such compromises with principle struck at the heart of the nation's security and integrity.  In 182O, six years before his death, he wrote these melancholy words:


"But this momentous question [slavery], like a the bell in the night awakened and filled me with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of the Union.  I regret that I am now to die in the belief that the useless sacrifice of themselves by the generation of 1776 to acquire self-government and happiness to their country is to be thrown away, and my only consolation is to be that I live not to weep over it."


One region of our nation has waged a ceaseless rebellion against the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the Supreme Court.  In the Revolutionary War powerful slave interests in the South fought with the British.  The development of the nation to the West was complicated and hindered by the slave power.  The rebellion against equality continued into the second half of the Nineteenth Century and on into the Twentieth Century, diminishing and corroding the authority of the Federal government.  It has contaminated every institution in our society in every year of our existence.  Even today a single region of our country holds a veto power over the majority of the nation, nullifying basic constitutional rights, and, in the exercise of its illegal conduct, retards our growth.  The South, in walling itself off from the application of laws and judicial decrees behind an iron curtain of defiance, has tried to be a law unto itself.  It is an autonomous region whose attitude toward the central government is in some aspects as defiant as a hostile nation.  This is the source of the scorn expressed by African and Asian states when we lecture them on government while our own suffers from a glaring defect of sovereignty.


Dr. King states his thesis with brutal clarity.  The thoughts of Jefferson in his final years may have been mingled with ideas from his close personal friend, John Adams.  MLK uses the quote to illustrate a fatal flaw that was built into the U.S. Constitution.  That flaw has been remedied.  Would we have the same strength today to come together as a nation if such a need arose? 


Today the scourge of racism is not centered in the South as it once might have been described when George Wallace was the Governor of Alabama.  The Civil Rights movement was born in the South.  The marches took place in Alabama.  The churches were bombed or burned in the South.  It was in Birmingham Alabama in 1961 that the Commissioner of Public Safety, Bull Connor, allowed the KKK to attack the Freedom Riders free from any police protection or interference until the Klansmen had mostly left and gone home.  In 1963 he infamously ordered the protestors shot with water cannons from the high-pressure fire hydrants while he simultaneously trained police dogs on the crowd.


Today the fires of racism are fanned by inflammatory hate speech largely propagated across the internets.  The dual-edged sword of ignorance and denial, coupled with calls to violence and political action, dulls the minds of its consumers.  Let us continue with the words of Dr. King.


The unresolved race question is a pathological infection in our social and political anatomy, which has sickened us throughout our history. How has our social health been injured by this condition?  The legacy is the impairment of the lives of nearly 20,000,000 of our citizens.  Based solely on their color, Negroes have been condemned to a sub-existence, never sharing the fruits of progress equally.  The average income of Negroes is approximately $3,900 per family annually compared to $5,800 for white citizens.  This differential, tragic though it is, tells only part of the story.  The more terrible aspect is found in the inner structure and quality of the Negro community.  It is a community artificially but effectively separated from the dominant culture of our society.  It has a pathetically small and grotesquely distorted middle class.  The overwhelming majority of Negroes are domestics, laborers, and always the largest segment of the unemployed.  If employment entails heavy work, if the wages are miserable, if the filth is revolting, the job belongs to the Negro.


Every Negro knows these truths, and his personality is corroded by a sense of inferiority, generated by this degraded status.  Negroes, North and South, still live in segregation, housed in unendurable slums, eat in segregation, pray in segregation, and die in segregation.  The life experience of the Negro in integration remains a rare exception even in the North.


This is the essential texture of freedom and equality for the Negro one hundred years after the Emancipation Proclamation, and one hundred and eighty-six years after the Declaration of Independence.  This somber picture may introduce the sober thought that there is nothing to commemorate on the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation.  However, tragic disappointments and undeserved defeats do not put an end to life, nor do they wipe out the positive aspects, however submerged beneath floods of negative experience.


The Emancipation Proclamation yielded four enduring results.  First, it gave force to the executive power to change conditions in the national interest on a broad and far-reaching scale.  Second, it dealt a devastating blow to a system of slave-holding and an economy based upon it which had been muscular enough to engage in warfare on the Federal government.  It forced a change which limited the area of maneuver in which enemies of the Constitution might deploy.  Third, it enabled the Negro to play a significant role in his own liberation through his new ability to organize and to struggle, with less of the bestial retaliation his slave status had permitted to his masters.  Fourth, it resurrected and restated the principle of equality upon which the founding of the nation rested.


Our truly great Presidents were tortured deep in their hearts by the race question. Jefferson saw with keen perception that the immorality of slavery degraded the white master as well as the Negro.  He expressed fears for the future of white children who are taught a false supremacy.  His concern can be summed up in one quotation, "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just."


We can take some comfort in these words.  Those of us who were living in the 1960s and possessed at the minimum a child’s perception of the social divides and conditions of the era can readily contrast lives of African-Americans in the mid-century with what we see today.  We can also bring to mind many success stories of black professionals, artisans, professors and teachers, soldiers, civil servants and sworn officers of the law that attest to the progress that we have made as a nation.  Families live in peace and safety free from the chains that once fettered their livelihood and well-being.  Real estate covenants have been broken. 


When Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation it was not the act of an opportunistic politician issuing a hollow pronouncement to placate a pressure group.  Lincoln's torments are well known; his vacillations were facts.  In the seething cauldron of 1862 and 1863, Lincoln was called the "Baboon President" in the North, and coward, assassin, savage, murderer of women and babies, and "Lincoln the Fiend" in the South, yet he searched his way to the conclusions embodied in the words, "in giving freedom to the slave we assure freedom to the free, honorable alike in what we give and what we preserve."  On this moral foundation he prepared the first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation, and to emphasize the decisiveness of his course he called his cabinet together and declared he was not seeking their advice as to its wisdom but only suggestions on subject matter.


Lincoln achieved immortality because he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. His hesitation had not stayed his hand when historic necessity charted but one course.  No President can be great, or measure up to his responsibilities, if he attempts to accommodate to injustice to maintain his political balance.


The Emancipation Proclamation shattered the slave system, undermining the foundations of the economy of the rebellious South, and guaranteed that no slave holding class could prepare a new and deadlier war after resuscitation.  The Proclamation opened the door to self-liberation for the Negro; he immediately acted by deserting the plantations in the South and joining the Union armies in the North.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, seeing a regiment of Negroes march through Beacon Street in Boston, wrote in his diary, "An imposing sight, with something wild and strange about it, like a dream. At last the North consents to let the Negro fight for freedom."


The world significance of the Emancipation Proclamation was colorfully described by another great American, Frederick Douglass, in these words:  "It recognizes and declares the real nature of the contest and places the North on the side of justice and civilization ...  Unquestionably the first of January, 1963, is to be the most memorable day in American annals.  The Fourth of July was great, but the First of January, when we consider it in all its relations and bearings, is incomparably greater.  The one had respect to the mere political birth of a nation; the last concerns the national life and character and is to determine whether that life and character shall be radiantly glorious with all high and noble virtues, or infamously blackened forevermore."


This article, a written account of the speech, appeared in print in the magazine, “The Progressive,” the December 1962 edition.  I gather that it was transcribed by MLK himself.  He had type-written the original manuscript which is archived with penned notes and corrections to this day.  I enjoy his writing as an historian.


There is but one way to commemorate the Emancipation Proclamation. That is to make its declaration of freedom real; to reach back to the origins of our nation when our message of equality electrified an unfree world, and reaffirm democracy by deeds as bold and daring as the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation.


We do not have as much time as the cautious try to give us. We are not only living in a time of cataclysmic change--we live in an era in which human rights is the central world issue.  A totally new political phenomenom has arisen from the rubble and destruction of World War II.  A neutralist sector has established itself between the two contending camps of the world.  More than a billion people are in the neutralist arena.  One basic reason for the neutrality of these nations is that they do not trust the integrity of either East or West on the issue of equality and human rights.  Our declarations that we are making progress in race relations ring in their ears with pathetic emptiness.  In India, Indonesia, Ghana, and Brazil, to mention a few nations which together contain almost a billion humans, the right to vote has been exercised even by illiterate peasants in primitive villages still ringed by jungle.  In some of our cities in the South, college professors cannot vote, cannot eat, and cannot use a library or a park in equality.  In Africa, Negroes have formed states, govern themselves, and function in world tribunals with dignity and effectiveness.


From where I stand, the republican party of the U.S.A. today is again seeking to suppress if not specifically the negro vote, certainly as many black and brown votes as possible.  Fortunately this community has safeguards which protect their own from these discriminatory practices.  They have been largely ineffective in the latest election.


The simple fact is that the relative progress in undeveloped sectors of the world in human rights races at jet speed, while we strain in a horse and buggy for advancement.  We are not moving in the world tempo of change.  Worse still, as the earth is shrunk by the revolution in communication, and the shams of Little Rock, Albany, and Oxford flash around the globe, the world is becoming more aware of our deficiencies.  Floods of consumer goods, superhighways, supermarkets, and tel-stars do not obscure the existence of scabrous prejudice; and this fact more than any other explains why more emerging nations move away from us than toward us.  The touchstone is not the sophistication of our industrial devices, but our commitment to freedom and equality.  Without faith that we are wedded to these truths, our power and strength become a menace to other peoples, and they will maintain their distance until we have justified their confidence.


If you, dear reader, had any doubts as to whether Dr. King’s words still held relevance in our society today, the previous excerpt should allay any fears.


The centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation is a particular reminder that the forceful, extensive use of executive power is deeply rooted in our tradition.  Lincoln used his executive authority to forge the main link of a social revolution.  Never before and never since has a President so changed the economy, so renewed the fundamental rights of humans, or expropriated such billions in private property with an executive order.  Lincoln's immense exercise of power should have made it easier for the Presidents who followed him to do the lesser deeds which are needed to realize complete emancipation.  Yet it is a tragic fact that in the succeeding hundred years no President has possessed the daring or the will to make his office a truly effective instrument for change.


Unfortunately Dr. King did not anticipate a president who built his legacy upon the undoing of that of  his predecessor.


There is an effective, simple approach.  It rejects high-wire acrobatics.  The first President to use it will be the first President since Lincoln to use executive authority for civil rights as power, not as a probe.  When a contemporary President declares that segregation and inequality are morally and legally indefensible and that enough time has expired for all who will to adjust, and that all the massive resources of the Federal government will enforce every constitutional right of Negroes, he will split the reluctant and resisting South in two.  More than half will accept the new conditions almost willingly when they confront a resolute and determined government.  The others will split further into those who will accept and comply, though unhappily.  A small minority, isolated in criminality, will seek to resist.  Their opposition will crumble before an implacable government, and desegregation across the South could be achieved in less than a year.


A reel-to-reel tape of the audio of this historic tape was found a couple of years ago.  Go here for the  transcription in the December 1962 edition of, “Progressive,” magazine which I used for this article.




Go here for a video of Dr. Martin Luther King’s original type-written copy of this speech skillfully synchronized with the audio recording.




And to all of you who have read this far, let me extend to you my personal thanks.  You read the entire transcription of this historic speech, or at least as much as appeared in the magazine in 1962.  May the Goddess bless each and every one of you contributors here at the Writer Beat.  Please find it in your hearts to honor Dr. King today.  Even if some of you disagree with me on smaller points of our shared and contemporary history, I commend you all.  Your hearts are in the right places.  Normally I like to tell my fellow blogonauts that we are all Americans.  So on the venerable Writer Beat I remind each and every one of you that we are all citizens of the world.  Let us put aside our differences and seek in earnest that which unites us and put aside that which pushes us apart.


Happy Martin Luther King Day everyone!  As EXPAT reminded me, we are a global community.


Author’s postscript:


Yes, thank the Goddess, as a nation we have made a world of difference in race relations in this country.  This blessing is in no small part directly attributable to the life and sacrifice lived by Dr. King.  I think that this progress has been reflected in the greater part of the civilized world as well.  Most likely the U.S. is probably one of the last bastions of institutionalized and personalized racism in the world today.  In my view it is counter-productive to say that equality has been achieved and that discrimination and racism no longer exist.  Y’all ain’t really paying attention, are you?  I do have the opportunity to read some of the true racist commentary that still exists out there on the web.  Actually, my bloggy opponents are probably the least of the offenders.  They still care enough to engage.  But you, the color-blind of the WB…


I hold great hope for you in my heart.


If you read Sheria’s post from 2012, you noticed that she mentioned South Carolina sweet potato pie.  In friendship and fun, I challenged her to match my recipe for pumpkin pie from Tulsa Oklahoma.  She provided me with her recipe for South Carolina style sweet potato pie.  I made two pies.  I took one pie to share with the nurses at the fabulous White Sands of La Jolla.  I didn’t use Eagle brand condensed milk, just Carnation.  Two nurses absolutely loved it.  The young, skinny nurse came up with a lower calorie version.  The fat charge nurse suggested adding red hots to the mixture.


Recommended Reading:


Martin Luther King, Jr., A Profile, edited by C. Eric Lincoln.


Wonderful first-hand accounts of the movement.


A Testament of Hope:  The Essential Writings and Speeches by Martin Luther King Jr.,

James Washington Editor.


Flying Junior Added Jan 15, 2018 - 3:16am
I would enjoy hearing from William and Ryck.  I consider both of you as friends.  Happy MLK Jr. Day and may the Goddess bless all of you!
Peace, Love and Understanding!  What's so funny about that?
Flying Junior Added Jan 15, 2018 - 3:54am
Leroy Added Jan 15, 2018 - 10:11am
Nice article, FJ.  It's too bad his words fall on deaf ears today.  His legacy has turned into a squabble over power and control.
Society doesn't change on a dime.  It takes time.  I grew up in a poor area of the South.  They were people that would be called white trash today.  They had to feel that they were better than someone.  Yes, maybe there was some racism there.   Today, they proudly display their mix kids on Facebook.  When the schools became integrated, the rich formed a private school.  Yes, maybe there was some racism there.  In the third grade, there was one black student with us, a girl named Ruthie.  Some white boys got together one day.  They made a pact that they would never let anyone mess with her.  No one ever did.  Then, there was Clarence, a plumber's helper.  When his boss was around, it was always, "Yas, sir!"   But when he was out of hearing range, he would curse him unmercifully.  His boss wasn't a bad guy.  He was just gruff.  Most of his communication was by grunts.  All he knew was work.  He died an old man under someone's house.  He looked after Clarence.  It was pretty common to see employers look after their black employees.  It sounds racists or paternal, but that was the way it was.  I can't count the times my father had to go bail out an employee from jail.  Almost always it was from getting too drunk over the weekend and doing something stupid.  They helped with marital problems and loaned money.  They were concerned about their families.  And, then there was Wyatt, the only man I ever knew for being arrested for DUI on a bicycle.   Sometimes my dad would have to go to his house and literally drag him out of bed.  People said he was insane, but, after working around him, I found him to be a very wise man, a philosopher. There was an illiterate black man named Arther.  He signed his bill will an "X".  He had the reputation of being an honest man.  He kept his accounting in his head.  One day, he accused me of shorting him of $10.  My father agreed to check the register and if it was over, he would return him $10.  My father counted the money and told me to give him $10.  I protested.  My father later told the register was correct.  I didn't understand.  The man had such a reputation for honesty, it would be bad for business if it got around that he was shorted money.  That is how much he was respected.  Several days later, he returned the $10 admitting his mistake, an honest man.  My family had a black maid while growing up.  If she were sick, a relative would fill in.  They were all like family.  I had black people threaten me when I was growing up because I was white.  I had black people protect me because I was white.  The issue of race in the South is much more complicated than people outside the South will ever understand.
Bill Kamps Added Jan 15, 2018 - 12:27pm
Racism is a complicated thing, because humans are complicated.
I grew up in the north and moved to Texas when I was about 25. I was surprised that racism and segregation were much open and public in the north than they were in Texas.  I cant speak for the south like Mississippi, or Alabama.   In the north we knew the streets that divided the black and white neighborhoods, in the north I remember black families being literally thrown from their houses when they moved into a white neighborhood.  In Texas neighborhoods were far more integrated, which doesnt mean that racism didnt exist, just that it was less public, and less openly talked about. 
My Dad was a complicated guy when it came to racism.  He was a policeman in a white suburb of Chicago.  In private he often said the N-word, and some very racist things.  At the same time, he went out of his way to help the black park workers of the town, often helped them when they needed help from the town, or even when they needed personal help.  He would loan them tools, and helped them do work on their homes.   For several years, he was the only white guy on his bowling team, and yet at home he said they had him on the team because they needed someone to keep score.
Dealing with black people in person he never seemed to be racist.  He never said anything negative about the blacks he knew personally.  However, when speaking in private about blacks in general, he said many racist things.  Maybe he felt this was "expected" and didnt want to seem too friendly with blacks.  Difficult to know.
I point this out because as humans we are not all good, or all bad.  Racism can have shades of grey, and isnt simply a yes or no matter.
King has his detractors.  By  many accounts he was not a particularly good husband but he pushed an agenda that needed to be advanced.  Too long blacks were "free" in words only, but  really what was going on was government sanctioned apartheid in the south.  His efforts shed light on this, and helped to bring it to an end.  This didnt end racism, because we are still humans, and we are still deeply flawed, but to paraphrase Lincoln it moved us a step closer to that more perfect Union.
Flying Junior Added Jan 15, 2018 - 2:55pm
Thank you for the first-hand accounts, Leroy.  It was a window to a history I don't know.
Flying Junior Added Jan 15, 2018 - 3:03pm
Thank you, Bill.  My Dad left Houston in 1949 only returning in the summers to work on the dangerous oil pipelines.  Whatever social forces molded my father he didn't have any evidence whatsoever of any kind of prejudice racial or otherwise.  Growing up in San Diego, I witnessed first-hand overt prejudice against blacks and Jews in the 1960s.
Fascinating picture of the character of your father.
And I appreciate the post-script.
George N Romey Added Jan 15, 2018 - 4:20pm
Bill is very correct racism is a difficult subject to interpret. The fact that large parts of the African American community call themselves by the N word is an insult to everything MLK preached.
Dave Volek Added Jan 15, 2018 - 8:58pm
Nice reminder of history. We have indeed come a long way since 1960. I used to believe that racism and misogyny had been mostly resolved, only some mopping up of a few squareheads here and there. But I now see there is still a lot of work to be done.
Bill H. Added Jan 15, 2018 - 10:11pm
And as expected, Trump decided to spend MLK day golfing at Mar-a-Lago.
Such a great Uniter!!
Flying Junior Added Jan 15, 2018 - 10:37pm
Thanks for the observance, brothers.  Dr. King studied the methods of Ghandi and led a powerful non-violent movement.  He helped to change his world.
Leroy Added Jan 15, 2018 - 10:45pm
Bill H., he gave the best MLK presidential speech I have ever heard.  It was very moving.  I supposed you are too set in your ways to ever admit it.
Sam Nowaczynski Added Jan 16, 2018 - 4:09am
“as a nation we have made a world of difference in race relations in this country.  This blessing is in no small part directly attributable to the life and sacrifice lived by Dr. King.  I think that this progress has been reflected in the greater part of the civilized world as well.  Most likely the U.S. is probably one of the last bastions of institutionalized and personalized racism in the world today.”
That doesn’t make any sense.  If we were the last bastion of institutionalized and personalized (whatever that is) of racism in the world, the rest of the world learned nothing from us.  It probably means we learned from them. 
Leroy Added Jan 16, 2018 - 7:49am
Racism isn't a one-way street.  And, the knockout game isn't anything new either.  I grew up in an area that was 70% black.  We all got along pretty well, except for the few troublemakers.  In Junior High, the knockout game was a favorite sport of some.  You will be in the bathroom.  People would start looking at each other, and you knew something was up.  Some might start pounding their fist into the palm of the other hand.  They would pick their favorite whitey.  Then the lights would go out.  You learned to duck.  Punches would be thrown.  To be honest, it was just a few troublemakers who were attempting to intimidate whites.  Some played the game but never hit anyone.
Once, I was in danger of bodily harm.  I looked behind me to see who was standing with me.  All my friends cleared out.  No one was there.  I was about to be clobbered.  Then, a dozen or so black students, mainly football players, came to my rescue.  One said something to the effect, "You can pick on us all you want, but ain't gonna mess with our white boy."  They were given ten minutes to get out of town.  They were gone in two.
It was interesting times.  The previous generation has some issues with race.  My friend's father didn't like blacks, but he liked the Jeffersons comedy.  He would adjust the color of the TV to make them appear green.  Society changes slowly.  We shouldn't expect it to change overnight.  I remember my niece with pictures of her classmates.  She came to one of a black girl and pointed to her and said, "She's my best friend."  Her mother didn't flinch.  It is as good as it is going to get.  There will always be people that hate on all sides based on skin color or other attributes.  Get over it.  Let's judge by the content of one's character.
My parents were small business owners.  They gave me the "We can't afford to be racist" speech many times, usually before saying something racist.  My parents weren't racist, but they did fear what other people might think.  That fear is the biggest reason why social norms are so slow to change.
Even A Broken Clock Added Jan 16, 2018 - 10:47am
FJ, excellent post. What is so disappointing today is that so many folks believe fervently that all of the ills of discrimination past including slavery have disappeared in today's world, and that there is no excuse for someone not being able to achieve instant equality without any assistance.
I grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska. I went to the "integrated" high school - we had all of about 50 blacks out of 2000 students. That's how little diversity we had in that city in the '60's. It has changed now, and especially with Asian immigrants, who were totally missing when I grew up.
I took a job out of college and moved to Memphis. Seeing for myself the remnants of past discrimination, seeing sharecroppers houses still being used by families, seeing the slums of the north side of Memphis, it was all eye-opening to me. The chemical plant I worked at was one of the places where blacks could earn a good wage, but I saw the remnants of poor education. We had a cyanide waste treatment area where the worker was totally isolated and was supposed to used simple chemical analysis to know how much liquid chlorine to use to treat the incoming cyanide waste, borne downstream in an open trench. One of the workers who manned this operation was an older black man who I always suspected had only minimal reading and writing skills. This was just part of the heritage.
I remember that my parents were in favor of Dr. King during the heyday of the civil rights era - until he came out against the Vietnam war and against economic equality. They were very open minded for the time, but that was the line too far for them. Again, thanks for writing this and bringing this back to mind.
Flying Junior Added Jan 16, 2018 - 3:03pm
Thank you for pointing out that weak paragraph.  What I was hoping to communicate is the great progress that has been accomplished in race relations.  We can all celebrate that.  Leroy, Bill and the Clock have shared some of their early life experiences.  I am wondering what it would be like to be a young person today going to schools, sporting events, concerts and social gatherings where race truly is unimportant and just about everyone sees their peers through eyes without fear and disdain.  I think we see equal opportunities in employment, housing, education and other walks of life happening all around us.  If there is an imbalance.  Sooner or later we end up talking about it.
The bastions I speak of are the openly blatant keepers of rabid racism and hate speech.  Maybe you don't see it.  Take for example the Yahoo news site.  One is far more likely to see thousands of comments by people who hate liberals or California than overtly racial slurs.  But if you know where to look, the level of invective directed at African-Americans and similarly Jewish people is shocking and horrifying.  I never would have even believed it possible ten years ago.  These people celebrate their hatred and disgust for other races.  They feed on each other's insults and racial slights.  They find a comfortable home where they can express their cruelest inner hatred.
There are also thousands of hate groups in the U.S.  I know conservatives really hate the Southern Poverty Law Center, but it is important that all of us are aware of these groups.  This is not a list founded upon idle rumor.  There is very real persecution going on both on-line and where people live.  There is severe racist indoctrination and training.
As far as the rest of the world.  I can't really say I know enough to make the call.  But I see two types of racism.  There is the relationship between two groups or more that have lived in the same society for a long time.  Blacks and whites in Africa.  Muslims and Christians in East Europe.  Sunnis and Shiites.  There are tensions both racial and religious.
But the new racist paradigm in the world today, particularly in Germany, Sweden, England and the U.S.A. is a fear of immigration.
Flying Junior Added Jan 16, 2018 - 5:10pm
Martin Luther King Jr.'s thoughts on the Viet Nam war are as relevant today as they were 51 years ago. I highly recommend watching the video "Martin Luther King Jr., a Man of Peace in a Time of War." When others wrestled with their consciences about their support for the Viet Nam war, his voice came as loud and clear as thunder.

In our collective lives, our sin rises to even greater heights.  See how we treat each other.  Races trample over races; nations trample over nations.  We go to war and destroy the values and the lives that God has given us.  We leave the battlefields of the world painted with blood, and we end up with wars that burden us with national debts higher than mountains of gold, filling our nations with orphans and widows, sending thousands of men home psychologically deranged and physically handicapped...  This is the tragic plight of man...  So long as he lives on the lower level he will be frustrated, disillusioned and bewildered...  Western civilization, like the prodigal son, has strayed away to the far country of segregation and discrimination. You have trampled over sixteen million of your brothers...  In the midst of all your material wealth, you are spiritually and morally poverty-stricken, unable to speak to the conscience of this world.
George N Romey Added Jan 16, 2018 - 7:20pm
Something went very wrong. We have more African Americans today or some form of social assistance than in the past. Young African American women continue to have multiple children out of wedlock ensuring generational poverty.
Me thinks they’ve been used as a political football as poor people tend to be. Moreover with social mobility stalled you have to think the future problematic.
Dino Manalis Added Jan 16, 2018 - 7:20pm
We've made tremendous progress since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but much more work remains, particularly education; welfare; and criminal justice reforms to improve people's lives with more opportunities.
Flying Junior Added Jan 16, 2018 - 9:19pm
Thank you for the reminder.  Social ills run deeper than merely whether or not people are treated with respect or even afforded equal opportunities.  Poverty can be an intractable trap.  As the racial divide widens we don't even really have a chance to interact with those who are hit the hardest.  I don't often think about it in my daily life.  One reason these ladies are having so many children has to do with the simple fact that Medicaid only covers abortions in fifteen states.
Good thoughts.  Always glad to see you weigh in.
Ben McCargo Added Jan 16, 2018 - 11:04pm
I think we all have stories, about our childhoods growing up together.  And FJ, I get that love/hate relationship; my parents were from South Carolina and Virginia.   And both of them said they liked it better down south because, you knew where you stood down there.  My dad told me a story, kind of sad, about he and a friend of his, a young white boy around the same age, 12 or so. I forget his name now.  But my dad said they were good friends, everybody was poor, so they played together as much as things would allow.  Until one day, the young kid showed up in long pants and proceeded to tell my dad that since he was wearing long pants, he was a man and my dad would then have to call him sir.  My dad said he was hurt and tried to remind him of how much they had been friends but that no matter, he wouldn't be calling him sir.  Long story short, a fight broke out and they never spoke again.  I remember it because it shows how things can start out so well-childhood-and then, the world gets in the way-adulthood.  Somehow we have to harness that spirit in children that allow them to interact; learn to turn off those adult buttons in our minds.  Maybe then we can get along.
Flying Junior Added Jan 17, 2018 - 2:47am
Thank you Ben.  Yes, as Jesus taught us.  We must enter the kingdom of heaven as a child.
My story comes from childhood as well.  It was fall or winter of 1966.  My father had brought the family to La Jolla in 1962 after receiving a tenured professorship at the newly born University of California, San Diego.  At that time there was still an unwritten code among realtors in La Jolla that no sales would be made to any Jewish families.  The coming of the newest flagship campus, UCSD, quickly shattered this taboo.  Roger Revelle and Harold Urey were looking out for the hottest young talents in every scientific discipline.  Many of the men recruited happened to be Jewish.  I know.  I went to school with their children.  These Jewish families had the means to buy property in La Jolla.  The unwritten covenants disappeared overnight.  They bought homes and settled in to live their lives.  Blacks in La Jolla lived with the Mexican-Americans in a neighborhood that actually was very close to downtown La Jolla.
I don't know for sure, but I am going to guess that my new neighbors must have been affiliated with UCSD.  Two black children showed up at Torrey Pines Elementary School perhaps just after the new year.  Their house was just up one block and down a cul-de-sac to my house.  The older sister might have been seven, eight or nine years old.  She had a little brother.  The kids at school taught me a new word that sad winter day.
Mom didn't like it and told me in no uncertain terms she did not wish to hear me say it again.  Ever.
The family moved away from our neighborhood.  Doubtless it would have been at great expense.  The fact that they were even able to buy a home in North La Jolla is somewhat amazing.  But the parents were forced to decide to move to protect their children.  I never saw them again.  They were gone in less than one month.
Just two years later, for those of you who read my post about London, I made a beautiful friend by the name of Michael Boyce.
In the previous post I didn't mention that Michael was a black boy.  It had been my mother's prayer that I would find a black child to befriend.  I visited Michael in his home.  We were eight years old.  We had a funny kind of love for little kids.  Our third friend, Adam came up with a sort of promise that we would all meet at La Guardia Airport upon the birthday of the last one of us to attain the age of eighteen.
Or something like that! 
Neil Lock Added Jan 17, 2018 - 7:28am
Flying Junior: Thank you for a most moving article. And thank you also to those who have added fine comments on this thread.
Things may have improved with regard to racial prejudice in the USA. But there are still issues with prejudice in other places and in other forms. In the UK, for example, there has been quite a lot of racial prejudice, particularly in the 1970s. That's somewhat better now, although black people are still far more likely to be stopped by the police than white people. But the hot issue in the UK now is prejudice against Muslims; so it is Asian people who are more in the firing line.
As to my own view, I can only repeat and expand on what I've said in this forum several times previously: It isn't who you are that should matter. Not the colour of your skin, not where you happened to be born, not what religion you happened to be brought up in. All that should matter is how you behave.
Bill Kamps Added Jan 17, 2018 - 9:27am
Having lived in both the north and the south the racism is very different.  In the north things were very segregated, so you rarely saw black people, and as I mentioned earlier you knew the streets where the black neighborhoods began and there often was violence when blacks moved across these lines.  So racism took the form of separation and violence.
In the south, blacks and whites traditionally were in close contact for obvious historical reasons.  Even after the end of slavery blacks often worked in the homes of the whites, or in other jobs where they lived not far from whites.  Yes they werent allowed in certain hotels, restaurants, schools, etc, but they still interacted with each other pretty often.  
In the north  you could grow up through high school and never really talk to a black person, just see them passing on the street sometimes.  In small rural towns in the north many people never saw a black person, that didnt happen in the south.
wsucram15 Added Jan 17, 2018 - 9:33am
I have wanted to comment this thread for a couple of days. I have been fascinated with MLKjr since shortly after his death in 1968.  I didn't know why then I was 7 going on 8 at the time.  My father was a police officer and all officers were called into the city for the riots.
My mother had to pick him up and we went with her.  She would put us(my little brother and I) in the back seat on the floor covered in coats.  On an occasion, I could hear the banging on the car and it was shaking. My father was yelling, My mother was hysterical and I looked out of the coat on the floor, it was all these people like Mrs. Bando.

(Mrs Bando was the dean of Morgan Sate College and a life long friend of my mothers. However, she was black)  My father was VERY prejudiced.  I didn't see black people very often during that stage of my life and they were very angry at what seemed like my parents.

No one explained it to me that I can remember.  My parents separated about a year later and we moved to my Grandparents far away.  My Grandfather had encyclopedias and a small library and I asked him about it.  He told me to research MLKjr. 
I spent years of my life trying to understand what was happening that day.  I think its the single reason I did not grow up with any prejudice at all and have such respect for a man I never knew.
***A Story from Harry Belafonte shortly before Martin Luther King Jrs death;
“I’ve come upon something that disturbs me deeply,” he said. “We have fought hard and long for integration, as I believe we should have, and I know that we will win. But I’ve come to believe we’re integrating into a burning house.”
'That statement took me aback. It was the last thing I would have expected to hear, considering the nature of our struggle, and I asked him what he meant.'  “I’m afraid that America may be losing what moral vision she may have had,” he answered. “And I’m afraid that even as we integrate, we are walking into a place that does not understand that this nation needs to be deeply concerned with the plight of the poor and disenfranchised. Until we commit ourselves to ensuring that the underclass is given justice and opportunity, we will continue to perpetuate the anger and violence that tears at the soul of this nation.”
“I fear, I am integrating my people into a burning house.”
~ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

Thank you for the moving article Flying Junior.. but he was right.
George N Romey Added Jan 17, 2018 - 7:33pm
Jeanne as a kid I remember the riots. My mother worked as an evening nurse in a hospital near Cherry Hill Baltimore. She and the other nurses were escorted into work by the National Guard. With the death of MLK the civil rights movement when downhill from there.
Flying Junior Added Jan 17, 2018 - 9:23pm
wsu and George,
Thank you for the very personal accounts.  It must have been frightening to be so close to the demonstrations.  The story by Belafonte sends a chill.
wsucram15 Added Jan 18, 2018 - 9:19am
That has stuck with me all of my life both the riot and that story. I really do believe that if I had to go to one thing that made me feel the way i do to this day about cultural bias and hatred it would be that incident as a kid.  MLKjr was right..its a burning house and hate lit the torch.
One day I will write about that incident and the impact of others like Thurgood Marshall, etc.. and why I feel the way I do.  Like George, you have to have had it impact you in some way to understand.
I remember the riots in LA over Rodney King AND the riot in Baltimore not long ago..I understood them.  I didnt agree with violence, but I understood.   
rycK the JFK Democrat Added Jan 18, 2018 - 12:30pm
"“I fear, I am integrating my people into a burning house.”~ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr"
 This is a problem that transcends racism and other social interactions that lead to anger, frustration, crime and other maladies including wars and riots. 
Nobody could question MKL's leadership and ideals but the problem of reverse racism still lingers on with white males being blamed for nearly everything on the list of bad things for the US. The Race Card is played everyday in Congress and the media. 
Capitalists are always the bad guy in leftist terms with punitive taxation the only seemingly solution to redistribution of wealth. This view persists although socialism and its myriad variants almost always fail. The  left cannot either explain nor acknowledge the systematic errors in this pathetic method of governance.
This is not the first time problems like forced diametric polarization and civil wars and riots. The burning will continue as equality, the Rule of Law and  mutual respect are not exactly homogeneously distributed among the races or regions.
As the economy surges the left will blame the right for all problems and particularly the loss of tax monies. The media will stand further to the left. Nothing will change.
Flying Junior Added Jan 18, 2018 - 1:52pm
Good to hear from you ryck,
Two things.  I assume you oppose redistribution of wealth.  If we don't have just that with the tax bill, then I guess it can be considered a correction?
Why do you predict a loss of tax monies?  Isn't the surging economy going to lift us all higher, particularly working people?
I see a coming loss of tax monies too.  I just hope that the working class and seniors don't get hit too hard.  It seems unavoidable now.
I also don't get why the republicans had to sabotage the ACA.  After all of the adjustments that had been made to make it work, derailing it is the worst possible scenario.  People are going to be hit with big premium increases.  Most retired people pay a bigger portion of their incomes in insurance premiums than working people see.
Flying Junior Added Jan 18, 2018 - 2:50pm
The riots in Los Angeles after the Simi Valley verdicts affected me profoundly as well.  I had just been baptized as an adult.  I was taking my Christianity very seriously.  It was prayer time after choir practice.  So I requested that we pray for peace for the rioters.  It took my republican friends somewhat by surprise, but we did pray that evening.
The beating of Reginald Denny was a bitter lesson in misplaced vengeance.
wsucram15 Added Jan 19, 2018 - 1:22am
FJ..I agree. 
Stone-Eater Added Jan 19, 2018 - 9:46am
Can anybody tell me WHY color and race creates such problems leaving apart the subjects of economy, religion and genetics ?
Please reply accordingly:
a) No idea
b) Huh ?
c) Too much for one choice
d) all of the above
rycK the JFK Democrat Added Jan 19, 2018 - 10:49am
Flying Junior
I see a coming loss of tax monies too.  I just hope that the working class and seniors don't get hit too hard.  It seems unavoidable now
 Tax revenues are calculated by the left based on current spending and never includes growth. That is how they demand no tax cuts as they profess we w ill grow more debt as Obama did by adding $10T to the debt from deficit spending on crap. 
 The average  middle class person should see an increase in pay and a decrease in taxes and as the work force grows the marginal increase in tax revenues should increase for the US. The opposite may be true for Blue states where they only tax and spend and push the debt  to the outer limits and are prepared to beg for alms. 
rycK the JFK Democrat Added Jan 19, 2018 - 10:51am
"Can anybody tell me WHY color and race creates such problems leaving apart the subjects of economy, religion and genetics ?"
These are fundamental building blocks for identity politics where the objective is to separate people into opposing groups and buy votes based on using tax revenues. 
Democrats are losers. 
Flying Junior Added Jan 19, 2018 - 2:47pm
It's a big problem.  I may take some heat.  But a few examples.
Dr. King explained it eloquently in this speech I posted.  In the U.S. it has its roots in slavery.  For several centuries the American negro was looked down upon as an inferior. In the twentieth century we had lynchings.  Remember the song, "Strange Fruit?"  Why it persists so much to this day is more difficult to explain.  It's pure hatred basically.  It feeds upon itself.  I hope you never have to read any of it.  It is extremely discouraging.
I mentioned how I wondered how it must feel today to be young.  Of course when I was younger, I had black and Mexican-American friends.  The big difference today is an explosion of mixed race children as the races in California and elsewhere have been allowed to intermarry freely in the last fifty years.  We see wonderful freedom and love between all of us.
The British considered themselves to be a superior people with a manifest destiny from God to civilize the heathen lands and tribes.  Visit Westminster Abbey and read some of the inscriptions on the tombs.  So naturally when the Brits gave them the wonderful gift of civilization, the conquered peoples became their servants.  Britain has done a much better job of relegating this type of social ranking to the dustbin of the past.  I don't believe they ever really felt the hatred that characterizes groups like the KKK.
People in the U.S. have a long history of disdaining other races.  The Chinese who were brought in for cheap labor to build the railroads.  Just about any group that came from a foreign country has been looked down upon by a certain portion of our citizens.  Whether it has been Iranians, Indians, Italians or Iraqis.  No Irish need apply.  Almost anybody.  Basically any group that is not lily white European has been discriminated against at some point.  Idiots in Arizona are prejudiced against Mexicans even though Arizona was land taken from Mexico.
As far as the evidence of xenophobia and hatred and mistrust of immigrants.  Just read the WB every day.  You will soon understand.
opher goodwin Added Jan 20, 2018 - 6:49am
FJ - while there is still poverty, racism and violence, while the planet is being raped and animals are subjected to cruelty, until women are treated equally and there is an end to war - there is something to fight and something worth fighting for.
Wherever little children are hungry and cry
Wherever people ain't free
Wherever men are fightin' for their rights
That's where I'm a-gonna be, Ma
That's where I'm a-gonna be"
Tom Joad - Woody Guthrie
Stone-Eater Added Jan 20, 2018 - 7:06am
I have been on WB for four years and I read it almost every day :-)
But I agree on everything you say. After 20 years in Africa and by having an African wife and a mixed daughter in Switzerland I guess nobody can teach me what racism and "looking down upon" means.
Funny thing is that in Africa Whites are not seen as superior, but rather as a financial resource LOL. But when you live there they understand that not every white guy is a billionaire. And when you're really accepted as one of them, as a fellow human being (given you don't try to boost your ego and pretend you're a white superior), you get an African name. Which means you really found a home.
Such stuff is impossible in Europe.
Stone-Eater Added Jan 20, 2018 - 7:09am
Wherever little children are hungry and cry
Wherever people ain't free
Wherever men are fightin' for their rights
That's where I'm a-gonna be, Ma
That's where I'm a-gonna be"
That's.....what I think too. Gotta listen to his stuff. I only knew Alice's Restaurant by his son Arlo so far.
opher goodwin Added Jan 20, 2018 - 8:21am
Woody had a big effect on me Stone!
rycK the JFK Democrat Added Jan 20, 2018 - 9:22am
"As far as the evidence of xenophobia and hatred and mistrust of immigrants. "
Very true, but try to see the absence of this xenophobia in Japan, Mexico, France, Germany and most countries in the world. It is not  unique to the US. 
opher goodwin Added Jan 20, 2018 - 1:02pm
rycK - not unique but certainly exaggerated.
rycK the JFK Democrat Added Jan 21, 2018 - 1:41pm
"rycK - not unique but certainly exaggerated."
Opher"- not unique but certainly exaggerated.
Japan, Mexico, France, Germany and most countries in the world are xenophobic to some degree. Fact. Einfach.

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