God Bless the Child
Scattered among the crowd in the segregated southern city could be seen, like the first autumn leaves on Mr. Charley's lawn, colored folks weeping for joy. The throng made a happy exception for their presence on this historic day of celebration.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was being inaugurated.
With national unemployment over twenty percent, the Great Depression had sent the "standpatters" packing. FDR was a man who was "going to do something." "Change" was in the air. "Hope" guided the eyes of the well-wishers straining to get a look at the great man. That unemployment was more than twice as high in colored communities charged this hope with a greater urgency. The promise of emancipation delivered by the First Liberation might now actually be fulfilled. They prayed, "Oh Lord, let this be the time."
Twelve years later there were even more tears as FDR rolled by in a box. A nation mourned the death of a great leader. Some in the crowd were the same ones who had been there in '33. They cried different tears. These were not tears of joy.
It would take twenty more years until white supremacy was defeated in the United States. Two southerners led the banging in of the nails on Jim Crow's coffin. One, a preacher man, was a Republican named Martin Luther King. The other, from the hardscrabble Texas hill country, was a Democrat we called LBJ. The second liberation had succeeded.
If you are seeking God given rights, don't vote. In a civil society, our rights are derived from the law, not heaven. Civil rights are our rights in law.
These rights were established in America by our founders. These Patriots defeated the age-old conservative idea that Kings had a right to place their boots upon the throats of anyone they pleased. These radicals' recourse to force revolutionized the world--the product of that historic struggle is called the Constitution. It is a legal document. It is the law.
The entire thrust of civil rights began and continues to this day, as an attempt to establish our rights in law. Every one of these struggles is a Civil Rights battle. The struggle to be free from a foreign king, the battle begun in Seneca to honor our women, the right to organize, the right to dissent, the right to pray, are all Civil Rights. This is why it is a mistake to limit our understanding of the "Civil Rights Movement" to the struggle of slaves and ex-slaves for freedom and equality. This is only one part of the great progressive sweep of American history
That black liberation has monopolized our consciousness when we think of Civil Rights is a mental handicap. This doesn't do anybody any good except the diehard reactionaries who rooted for the loyalists; wanted to keep women in the kitchen and blacks in the fields.
When we talk about Civil Rights as if they were only about blacks, we close the doors of our minds on other noble social enterprise. We conflate the narrow positions of racial leaders with every other assertion of rights. Thus, when black leaders say and do things that are mistaken, or at the very least, indifferent to the interests of other groups; they provide an excuse for a blanket condemnation of the entire progressive agenda. Bigots of every stripe are encouraged by a one-sided and unprincipled advancement of a singular racial agenda. Preferential treatment explained as "Civil Rights" does harm to the idea that preference based on color was wrong in the first place. To vote for someone because of the color of his or her skin is the same sick idea as "voting"- against someone for the self-same reason. To prove that you are just as bad as your oppressor does nothing to advance the idea of a commonly shared humanity. No idea provides more succor to the enemies of blacks than that which asserts that Civil Rights are only for them.
Within the black community this selfish idea has been no less corrosive. In its singular devotion, it has promoted insensitivity to every other group, and every other cause.
Nothing could be more understandable.
From that time when the shackle is first placed on an ankle, when the yoke is dropped around your neck, there can only be one cry. Freedom! There is no other cause, only freedom. One idea: freedom. It is not a liberal idea. It is not an extension, it does not build on other ideas, it does not move forward. It is the foundation, the only idea, the beginning and the end. When you are walking barefoot, does it matter why Paul only has one shoe?
How about the environment? Freedom! Do you support women's rights? I want to be free! Would you agree that we should ban the bomb? Do you think a tax cut would be a good idea? How about manifest destiny? Should we stick to the gold standard? To these, and to every question which has concerned society at large, the answer has always been the same. Get these chains off of me! Ask me again when I'm free.