The majority of black Detroiters won’t participate in the commemoration of the historic march when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. first delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” speech 50 years ago. Most no longer identify with the cause and have no interest in being part of the symbolism.
This weekend, power-seeking labor and civil rights advocates expect to attract 1-million people to follow the route Dr. King took down Woodward on June 23, 1963.
The theme: “We Shall Not Default On Our Freedom.” The stated purpose is to call attention to the problems that people of color still face. “We still need jobs, justice and peace,” said the Rev. Wendell Anthony, Detroit branch NAACP president.
There’s no dispute that some Detroiters, and black America in general, have faltered in pursuit of the “dream” envisioned by Dr. King. Here, at the epicenter of the original march is a large poorly educated, unemployable, racially divided population that is trying to cope with abandonment, declining services, internecine violence and pending bankruptcy. However, none of the disparities has much, if anything, to do the racial barriers Dr. King lived and died to remove.
In fact, inside – although to a larger extent – outside Detroit is a sizable black middle class that has made substantial gains up the social and economic ladder since the 60s. The glass ceiling to political access has been shattered. Whereas a half century ago it was unthinkable, today a black president occupies the White House.
So for the NAACP to blame the deteriorating black condition on forces and people who have nothing to do with the denial of opportunity brings into question the real motives of the organization, its supporters and followers.
As I see it, the event is less about the commemoration of King’s struggle and aspirations for America, and more about the self-serving NAACP and UAW. Both are trying to regain respectability.
The NAACP, which once preached “unity” has morphed into one the largest proponents of the “us against them syndrome.” Years after the decline of skin color as an impediment to progress the group causes race consciousness to remain at a high level and race relations at their worst
No longer is the organization respected as the premier legal arm of the civil rights movement. Nor is it held in high esteem among young blacks. Why? The NAACP has an identify crisis.
As a matter of record, the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act effectively destroyed the legal foundations of the Jim Crow system. Dr. King acknowledged that in 1965: “There is no more civil rights movement. President Johnson signed it out of existence when he signed the voting rights bill.”
The UAW, also looked at with a jaundice eye, needs to bolster its shrinking ranks to be seen as politically legitimate. Both organizations are not averse to using black victimization to incite, alienate and “keep race alive.”
Dr. King’s dream isn’t deferred by some vast white conspiracy – but by the failure of credible black leadership to be good shepherds for those still un-prepared to walk through the doors of opportunity opened by King.
I suspect that many former supporters of civil rights causes question the wisdom of resurrecting 60s-style tactics to achieve the promise of prosperity in the 21st Century. So those seeking something more meaningful should reflect on another important day in history. One hundred fifty years ago – 1863 — Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in an attempt to unite a divided nation over the institution of slavery. It led to the freeing of slaves from physical bondage.
Nothing is more worthy of celebration and commemoration as one of the great events in the annuals of human freedom. And nothing is more symbolic of the need to be free from the NAACP’s psychological bondage that prevents the disadvantaged from reaching their full potential.