Monday, January 15, 2007

Happy MLK Day

Overall this country still doesn't know how to celebrate Martin Luther King's birthday. Blogging in the New York Times, noted literary critic Stanley Fish decided to reflect on what KANT thought about affirmative action, and the other four-letter name that begins with K didn't get a mention. Seems Kant wouldn't have approved of affirmative action because of its faulty universalism, which Fish doesn't mean as an argument against affirmative action, but he doesn't feel good about it like he used to. Whatever. Pretty much sums up the general mental feebleness on all the social and cultural subjects King felt strongly about, like racial equality. What if we just said racial equality, we're for it. Yes, equality of OUTCOME. If there are gross racial disparities, there is racial discrimination, period. Sigh. I'll guess I'll go stand in line for my school voucher.

Why did I like King so much as a kid, a first-generation white-collar white kid in the western suburbs of L.A.? Well he was against racism, which was great, especially post-Watts 1965 - that was my city too that was going up in smoke, and the city fathers were clueless, the voters kept rejecting a rail system so I was never going to get out of the burbs, and there was a gubunatorial candidate named Reagan who was running for office against the long hair and wild music at UC Berkeley, i.e. the stuff I played every afternoon on my record player that made me feel really alive. The poverty and the racism were obvious, let's do something shall we? There was King, standing up against one catastrophic mistake after another, getting hosed, bit, jailed and insulted, and standing up again. And yet he went to protests in a suit and tie, and talked in church like a preacher and a teacher. He was the only thing I'd ever seen that looked like the kick-ass middle class. Fighting for something - including itself.

The Black civil rights movement was one of the only times in modern American history that a middle-class stuck with the working class. The main time for whites was the 1930s, when most whites knew that being poor didn't make you part of a degenerate underclass. Most of us seem to have forgotten this obvious fact. Black folks still haven't, and they were extremely clear about that during the 1950s and 1960s when King was operating. There were differences in Black ranks, but the poor didn't get pitched over the side by their own people. King's last speech was in Memphis, where he'd come to support a sanitation workers strike.

Racial equality? The economic majority? Sounds better than Kant! Happy Birthday Dr King.

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