As we enter a new year we are faced with the same inequities and misrepresentations of the past. The White backlash displayed at the nation’s Capitol, which was another attempt to supress the vote of Black Americans, has flasely been characterized as the same as the protests throughout the Summer against police brutality. I contend that the Summer protests shouldn’t be considered in the same as the seige of the Nation’s Capitol. The first was and still is a plea for freedom and equality under the law and the other was an attempt to overthrow our democracy.
Now the other thing that we’ve got to come to see now that many of us didn’t see too well during the last 10 years. And that is that racism is still alive in American society and much more widespread than then we realize. And we must see racism for what it is. It is a myth of the superior and the inferior race. It is the false and tragic notion that one particular group, one particular race is responsible for all of the progress all of the insight and the total flow of history. And the theory of that another group or another race is totally depraved, innately impure, and innately inferior. In the final analysis, racism is evil because this its ultimate logic is genocide. Hitler was a sick and tragic man who carried racism to its logical conclusion. And he ended up leading a nation to the point of killing about 6 million Jews. And this is the tragedy of racism because its ultimate logic is genocide. If one says that I’m not good enough to live next door to him, if one says that I am not good enough to eat at a lunch counter, or to have a good decent job or to go to school within merely because of my race, he is saying consciously or unconsciously, that I do not deserve to exist. To use a philosophical analogy here. Racism is not based on some empirical generalization It is based rather on an ontological affirmation. It is not the assertion that certain people are behind culturally or otherwise, because of environmental conditions. It is the affirmation that the very being of a people is inferior. And this is the great tragedy of it. I say that, however unpleasant it is, we must honestly see and admit that racism is still deeply rooted all over America, still deeply rooted in the north. And it’s still deeply rooted in the south. And this leads me to say something about another discussion that we hit a great deal. And that is the so called White backlash. I would like to honestly say to you that the white backlash is merely a new name for an old phenomenon. It’s not something that just came into being because shouts of shouts have black power, or because negros engaged in riots in Watts, for instance. The fact is that the state of California voted a fair housing bill out of existence before anybody shouted black power. Before anybody rioted in Watts may well be the shouts of black power and riots in Watts and the Harlem’s in the other areas are the consequences of a white backlash, rather than the cause of what it is necessary to see is that there has never been a single, solid monistic determined commitment on the part of the vast majority of white Americans. The whole question of civil rights and on the whole question of racial equality. This is something that truth impels all men of goodwill to admit it is said on the Statue of Liberty that America is a home of exile. It doesn’t take us long to realize that America has been the home of its white exiles from Europe. It has not given us the same kind of maternal care and concern for its black exiles from Africa.
It is no wonder that in one of his sorrow songs, a negro could sing out some times I feel like a motherless child. What great estrangement. What great sense of rejection caused people to emerge with such a metaphor as they looked over their lives. What I’m trying to get across is that our nation has constantly taken a positive step forward on the question of racial justice and racial equality. But over and over again at the same time, it made certain backward steps. And this has been the persistence of the so called White backlash. In 1863, the Negro was freed from the bondage of physical slavery. But at the same time, the nation refused to give him land to make that freedom meaningful. And at that same period, America was giving millions of acres of land in the West and the Midwest, which meant that America was willing to undergird its white peasants from Europe with an economic floor that would make it possible to grow and develop and refuse to give that economic floor to its black peasants, so to speak. This is why Frederick Douglass could say that emancipation for the Negro was freedom to hunger, freedom to the winds and rains of heaven, freedom without roofs to cover their head. He went on to say that it was freedom without bread to eat, freedom without land to cultivate. It was freedom and famine at the same time, but it does not stop there. In 1875, the nation passed the civil rights bill and refuse to enforce it. In 1964, the nation passed a weaker civil rights bill. And even to this day, that bill has not been totally enforced in all of its dimensions. The Nation heralded a new day of concern for the poor, the poverty stricken for the disadvantaged, and brought into being a poverty bill. But at the same time, it puts such little money into the program that it was hobbling still remains hardly a good skirmish against poverty. White politicians and sobered suburbs, talk eloquently against open housing, and in the same breath, contend that they are not racist. Now, all of this and all of these things tell us that America has been back lashing on the whole question of basic constitutional and God given rights for negros and other disadvantaged groups for more than 300 years.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai