Politics: I Know Why the Hitched Mule Plows
I remember the years as if they were last week’s—1963 through 1968—a time during which the presumptive champions of America’s Blacks fell to assassins’ bullets—JFK and his brother, Robert, Medgar Evers, and the inimitable Martin. Along with each sacrificial headline came near crippling despair for most Blacks, and they shuddered under irrational prospects of, once again, being shackled to the plough and denied the freedom that they intuitively doubted was fully theirs to have, anyway. But there was something else about that time that I recall that most have forgotten, and what many of the young will never know.
During those times, Blacks took to their porches as the summits on which critical social issues were shared and debated, and they could be seen perched on ladder-back straight chairs dipping snuff, chewing tobacco, and smoking Prince Albert rolled cigarettes. Wood-handled church fans were aflutter as their only means of battling summer’s heat and the armies of gnats that held court south of the Mason-Dixon’s so-called Gnat Line. Word of MLK’s march against southern-born racism was constantly bandied about and pressed for every ounce of insight that was of the gossipers’ own making, as few Blacks of that time were among the literate. Even those capable of reading were effectively illiterate, as they never read…ANYTHING…anything that didn’t arrive from a government distribution center, preferably marked Pay To the Order of…
I can remember hearing of Selma and Montgomery and the Mississippi atrocities in the different tenor of whispers when word of the beatings and deaths blanketed the community. And there were images on the evening news as Cronkite narrated the courageous stance held by Martin’s Non-violent Freedom Fighters in the face of water hoses and police dogs—truly testing the resolve of a movement, but certainly not the resolve of those crying out for a taste of freedom.
What goes unrealized by most is that, not only was Martin’s rarity much to the amazement of the White community, but it was also of those watching and waiting to benefit from the struggles in which by race they were involved but by fear they were far from committed. These were and still are what I call “Black socio-political stowaways.” During that span of time when America stood on the razor’s edge of anarchical racial unrest, Blacks spoke of Martin and his marches in voices rife with a tremor that ultimately came to make sense for me. You see, whatever Martin did for the benefit of the movement, armchair movement Blacks hoped and prayed that it be kept across the Alabama and Mississippi state lines and not come home to roost on their doorstep. Blood was being shed and lives lost, while idle lip service fueled neighborhood wolfing about the White Man’s oppression, yet, few if any of those boasting dared to fuel up their jalopies and ride off toward the civil rights and desegregation battle fronts to do bidding alongside Martin and his operatives. That was held in reserve for men like Martin, who dared to put their lives where Black mouths pretended to be.
Those days now lay wasting amid American History and only reanimated to suit the political intrigues of race mongering and to roil race relations during inflammatory campaign seasons. No longer is Martin’s voice invoked to galvanize unity that is under the assault of separatist agendas, but it is used to silence opposition to ruinous causes and canonize reverse racism, separatism, and Black bigotry as things rightly deserved but by no one currently living.
Today, Blacks remain burrowed into the socio-political scene as America’s stowaways, refusing to engage in political debate with an informed voice. Instead, they continue to harp on stigmatizing accusations for only one purpose—currying reverse bigotry, which is favoritism solely based on skin color. Sadly, reverse bigotry has become the single most dangerous paralipsis exploited by American politics and its Black constituents. While professing that bigotry is an egregiously vile trait, it runs unbridled among the very people who have the loudest voices in its repudiation—American Blacks.
As long as Blacks continue receiving this special privilege, they face no real demand to assume true equality in American society, as true equality provides no artificial protections for the class that seeks it most. Instead, it sunsets that special privilege—such as, Affirmative Action—and disavows hyphenated last names—such as, “African-American”—and frees up all sectors of society to battle unabated on the even field of ideas and critical thinking. However, given what I have seen for nearly six decades, I am not heartened with confidence that Blacks wield the intellectual brinkmanship expected of the truly freed.
Milt Thomas is an executive consultant and author of BLACK, DUMB and BAREFOOT...AND KNOCKED UP BY THE DEMOCRATS. He also blogs at: http://myouthouse.net/