News Release

South Carolina, MLK, Black America’s Invisibility


KEVIN GRAY, kevinagray57 at
Based in South Carolina, Gray is an activist and author of “The Decline of Black Politics: From Malcolm X to Barack Obama.” Gray said today: “There has been an incredible silence about the state of black people in America, just as there had been an incredible silence on economic disparities. Part of this stems from the silence in the black community around the re-election of Obama. Black voices seem irrelevant and invisible at this crucial time.

“As the South Carolina primary comes up, we see some jockeying among some of the Republicans over rhetoric regarding vulture capitalism, but whether it’s vulture capitalism or crony capitalism or the corporate capitalism that the establishments of both the Republicans and Democrats openly embrace, it’s all been a disaster for many poor and working people in and outside the U.S. None of these prominent politicians, with the occasional exception of Ron Paul, touch on these issues in anything approaching a serious way. It’s virtually all geared for the 1%.

“And what politics are being pursued? More wars, threats toward Iran, the National Defense Authorization Act that paves the way for more indefinite detentions and further eroding civil liberties under a Democratic president.

“In terms of the Occupy movement, I certainly support the idea of people challenging the corporatism that is out of control, but you have to face the issues of what people who are delivering that message are doing: How do you help organize people door-to-door, how do you organize around things that are tangible to people?

“Almost everybody — and certainly the current establishment politicians — fall so woefully short of what King was saying. How do we build a community of cooperation? The current political system is not doing that.”

Gray will be speaking at a Martin Luther King scholarship award dinner in Virginia this weekend.

King in his own words: Here are excerpts from King’s sermon “Beyond Vietnam — A Time to Break Silence” at the Riverside Church in New York City on April 4, 1967, a year to the day before he was assassinated:

“There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor — both black and white — through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated, as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. …

“Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores … A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies. This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind.”
Full text and audio.

After King was attacked for his remarks at Riverside, including by media such as the New York Times and Time magazine, he spoke out more passionately, including later that month:

“I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government. … There is something strangely inconsistent about a nation and a press that would praise you when you say, ‘Be nonviolent toward [segregationist Selma, Ala. sheriff] Jim Clark!’ but will curse and damn you when you say, ‘Be nonviolent toward little brown Vietnamese children!’ There is something wrong with that press! …

“I’m convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. … When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, militarism and economic exploitation are incapable of being conquered. A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our present policies. … True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth with righteous indignation.”
– From Martin Luther King Jr.’s sermon “Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam” at the Ebenezer Baptist Church on April 30, 1967; audio and text.
Excerpts of audio on YouTube.

Tavis Smiley in a special program, reported last year that by the end of his life, “King had almost three-quarters … of the American people turned against him, 55 percent of his own people [African Americans] turned against him.” See: “Obama vs. Martin Luther King?

King’s 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” was addressed to clergy who stated they were pro-reform, but were advocating a slower approach than King, calling his actions “unwise and untimely.”