When Will I See “We Shall Overcome” In America?

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Are African Americans part of the “Lost Tribes” mentioned in the Bible? Discover the true 10,000 year history of Black people — and why others tried to erase it! What happened to the doctors, writers, scientists, builders, educators and spiritual leaders from Africa’s Golden Age? And who did they really capture and sell into slavery? Are all African Americans suffering from mental illness because of this conspiracy to hide the truth? Read Psychic Trauma, and take the test on page 22 of this book and find out!

I speak today for the dignity of man and the destiny of Democracy. I urge every member of both parties, Americans of all religions and of all colors, from every section of this country, to join me in this cause.

At times, history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man’s unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was on the night of February 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida, United States. There, long suffering men and women peacefully protested the denial of their rights as Americans. Many of them were verbally assaulted. Many blacks have fallen in this part of the country without reprisals.

There is no cause for pride in what has happened in Sanford, Florida. There is no cause for self-satisfaction in the long denial of equal rights of millions of Americans. But there is cause for hope and for faith in our Democracy in what is happening here and now. For the cries of pain and the hymns and protests of oppressed people have summoned into convocation all the majesty of this great government–the government of the greatest nation on earth. Our mission is at once the oldest and the most basic of this country–to right wrong, to do justice, to serve man. In our time we have come to live with the moments of great crises. Our lives have been marked with debate about great issues, issues of war and peace, issues of prosperity and depression.

But rarely in any time does an issue lay bare the secret heart of America itself. Rarely are we met with a challenge, not to our growth or abundance, or our welfare or our security, but rather to the values and the purposes and the meaning of our beloved nation. The issue of equal rights for African Americans is such an issue. And should we defeat every enemy, and should we double our wealth and conquer the stars, and still be unequal to this issue, then we will have failed as a people and as a nation. For, with a country as with a person, “what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

There is no Black problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Northern problem. There is only an American problem.

And we are met here today as Americans–not as Democrats or Republicans; we’re met here as Americans to solve that problem. This was the first nation in the history of the world to be founded with a purpose.

The great phrases of that purpose still sound in every American heart, North and South: “All men are created equal.” “Government by consent of the governed.” “Give me liberty or give me death.” And those are not just clever words, and those are not just empty theories. In their name Americans have fought and died for two centuries and tonight around the world they stand there as guardians of our liberty risking their lives. Those words are promised to every citizen that he shall share in the dignity of man. This dignity cannot be found in a man’s possessions. It cannot be found in his power or in his position. It really rests on his right to be treated as a man equal in opportunity to all others. It says that he shall share in freedom. He shall choose his leaders, educate his children, provide for his family according to his ability and his merits as a human being.

To apply any other test, to deny a man his hopes because of his color or race or his religion or the place of his birth is not only to do injustice, it is to deny Americans and to dishonor the dead who gave their lives for American freedom. Our fathers believed that if this noble view of the rights of man was to flourish it must be rooted in democracy. This most basic right of all was the right to choose your own leaders. The history of this country in large measure is the history of expansion of the right to all of our people.

Many of the issues of civil rights are very complex and most difficult. But about this there can and should be no argument: every American citizen must have an equal right to vote, the equal right to life and liberty and prosperity. There is no reason which can excuse the denial of those rights. There is no duty which weighs more heavily on us than the duty we have to insure those rights. Yet the harsh fact is that in many places in this country men and women are kept from voting and simply walking the streets and working simply because they are Black.

Every device of which human ingenuity is capable, has been used to deny these rights. The Black citizen may go to register only to be told that the day is wrong, or the hour is late, or the official in charge is absent. And if he persists and, if he manages to present himself to the registrar, he may be disqualified because he did not spell out his middle name, or because he abbreviated a word on the application. And if he manages to fill out an application, he is given a test. The registrar is the sole judge of whether he passes this test. He may be asked to recite the entire Constitution, or explain the most complex provisions of state law. He may even be asked for Identification and the most ingenious new question, “Are you a felon”? All of which have been devised to oppress a tribe of people that only want equality.

And even a college degree cannot be used to prove that he can read and write. For the fact is that the only way to pass these barriers is to show a white skin. Experience has clearly shown that the existing process of law cannot overcome systematic and ingenious discrimination. The “Stand Your Ground Laws” Disenfranchisement laws for equality to work for felons and let us not forget the NRA’s secretive believes such as “WWB’ and BWWH.(walking while black or Black wearing hoody) laws that allows all blacks to be open season for those who care to get a stab at the American dream of book deal after the senseless murder of black humans. No law that we now have on the books, can insure the right to vote, work or live or co-exist with a white supremacy agenda when local officials are determined to deny it. In such a case, our duty must be clear to all of us. The Constitution says that no person shall be kept from voting or equality because of his race or his color.

And we shall overcome.

A century has passed–more than 100 years–since equality was promised, and yet the Black is not equal. A century has passed since the day of promise, and the promise is unkept. The time of justice has now come, and I tell you that I believe sincerely that no force can hold it back. It is right in the eyes of man and God that it should come, and when it does, I think that day will brighten the lives of every American. For Blacks are not the only victims. How many white children have gone uneducated? How many white families have lived in stark poverty? How many white lives have been scarred by fear, because we wasted energy and our substance to maintain the barriers of hatred and terror?

And so I say to all of you here and to all in the nation tonight that those who appeal to you to hold on to the past do so at the cost of denying you your future. This great rich, restless country can offer opportunity and education and hope to all–all, black and white, North and South, sharecropper and city dweller. These are the enemies: poverty, ignorance, disease. They are our enemies, not our fellow man, not our neighbor.

And these enemies too–poverty, disease and ignorance–we shall overcome.

Now let none of us in any section look with prideful righteousness on the troubles in another section or the problems of our neighbors. There is really no part of America where the promise of equality has been fully kept. In Chicago as well as in Los Angeles, in Sanford Florida as well as Washington, D.C., Americans are struggling for the fruits of freedom.

This is one nation. What happens in Sanford and Chicago is a matter of legitimate concern to every American. But let each of us look within our own hearts and our own communities and let each of us put our shoulder to the wheel to root out injustice wherever it exists.

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“Right-wing conservatives and left-wing radicals here in the U.S. must be willing and able to sit down at the same table, look across the table at each other and see not an enemy, a target or a statistic, but a brother, a sister, a fellow American, another child of God. We must expand our hearts and enlarge our identity beyond ‘my people’ to include and embrace all of Creation.”

You don’t have to teach people how to be human. You have to teach them how to stop being inhuman.
Eldridge Cleaver

I feel that I am a citizen of the American dream and that the revolutionary struggle of which I am a part is a struggle against the American nightmare.
Eldridge Cleaver

What America demands in her black champions is a brilliant, powerful body and a dull, bestial mind.
Eldridge Cleaver

The “paper tiger” hero, James Bond, offering the whites a triumphant image of themselves, is saying what many whites want desperately to hear reaffirmed: I am still the White Man, lord of the land, licensed to kill, and the world is still an empire at my feet.
Eldridge Cleaver

I have always said that the basic problem in America is confusion. I know I am an American; I am an Afro-American, which means that I’m Afro and I’m American. I know the American people, and I know the ideals that are instilled in one. I know how they are imbedded in the heart, you see. You have to look at the process of the formation of the American character structure, look at the children in American grammar schools, the high schools and look at the ideals that are implanted in them there. The children of America are the ones I consider to be the citizens of the American dream. First this foundation, all these ideals–the Bill of Rights, the Constitution and the Rights of Man, the Lord’s Prayer, all of these things that no one can really attack, these things that have inspired people everywhere–are implanted in the hearts and minds of the children of America. (Conversations With Eldridge Cleaver, 1970)

Eldridge Cleaver, convict and black activist, wrote Soul on Ice, his memoir to illustrate his view of America’s black population prior to and during the 1960s. America, the staunch supporter of liberty, yet the vehement condoner of slavery, had its paradox hurled at its face. The nation awoke to grim reality—America’s innards, the basis of 200 years of political action, were being ripped to shreds. Realizing that the nation was on the highroad to political equality, Cleaver plunged into a reverie of self-discovery. At first, he loathed the white man, showing his hatred by raping white women because he felt compelled to avenge his black sisters raped by white slaveholders. Then, he joined the Black Muslims, who followed Elijah Muhammad and his racist gospels. However, the revolutionary zeal of the white youth snared at him, and he was soon arm in arm with Malcolm X and his acceptance of white civil rights supporters. Revealing America’s racist innards inside its façade of equality and fraternity, Cleaver’s Soul on Ice communicates the militant and disgusted mindset of black power supporters.

Cleaver first grew aware of his status as a Black American at San Quentin prison. He instantly hated the white oppressors and America’s elevated slavery. Resenting “how the white man…used the black woman” in the days of slavery, Cleaver rapes a white girl, spitting on the white man’s laws, and reaping pleasure from “defiling his women.”1 He repudiates the notion that black men find white women attractive; rather, the white supremacy drills its idea of beauty into the black man simply by its omnipresence. From their youth, blacks were forced “to see the white woman as more beautiful and desirable than his own black woman.”2 Thus, the rape was a rebellion—a way to get back at the overlords. Cleaver’s fellow black convicts feel the same way about white women and would do the same thing. This vehement anger and resentment turns slowly to Cleaver’s loneliness. With passionate rhetoric, Cleaver longs for a woman’s company to feel warm and radiant once more, and Beverly Axelrod, his lawyer, fills that need. They fall in love, and correspond. Cleaver believes this is unusual: the convict does not “hold on [to] the ideals and sentiments of civilization,” because all society “shows the convict its ass” and expects him to “kiss it.”3 Although it was strange for a convict to fall in love with such a mindset, the fact that he feels this love towards his lawyer makes the situation astonishing. No matter how bizarre the relationship, Cleaver claims that she was the beacon that pulled him out of dark, slow death.

Cleaver dives into a passionate recalling of “the Christ”, the man who taught him to be tolerant of other races. “The Christ,” whose actual name was Lovdjieff, refused to grade Eldridge Cleaver’s paper because it was racist, and forced him to entertain the thought of unity with the white race. The next few pages follow Eldridge Cleaver through his day at Folsom prison, where the librarian refuses to give him books about sex or controversial issues. Eldridge Cleaver comments on the Watts revolution, and expresses the pride of several of the black prisoners: “Watts was a place of shame,” but blacks soon exclaimed, “I’m from Watts, Baby!”4 The uprising at Watts had made the blacks proud because they saw a usurpation of the American social order.

The black people were an ignorant bunch. Cleaver claims that in the 1960s, most of them were afraid of General Motor, and in the dark as to how to get their share of money. Most blacks “have no bank accounts, only bills to pay.”5 The poverty of the black people limit them from rising to any kind of economic power level that might influence politics. The police also subdue blacks as well. As the armed “guardians of the social order,” they are the only serious threat to the black population’s march for freedom. Cleaver states that there is a great sense of property amongst Americans as seen through the soldier in Vietnam is only following orders like a mindless toy, like he belongs to someone else. It’s this property mindset that keeps the black people in constant humiliation—they have nothing.

Cleaver sums up the rest of his memoir with passionate letters to Miss Beverly Axelrod, his lawyer, and an analysis of sexuality in society’s classes. The “Omnipotent Administrators” prefer mind over body: “he is markedly effeminate and delicate by reason of his explicit repudiation …of his body.”6 These men are of the elite, and their women, the “Ultrafeminine,” abdicate their domestic functions to become, in contrast to weak elite men, more delicate. Ultrafemininity bathes in the envy of the women of the lower classes. The Ultrafeminine reject the domestic apparatus of the female hemisphere, and thrust it onto the women of the lower classes: the Amazons. The Amazons envy the Ultrafeminines. They are attracted to the power embodied in the elite man because he is the mind, while the “Supermasculine” Menial, men of the lower classes, are the body. Power, the primeval envy of the Amazon, attracts her to elite men, but “she is also attracted to the body of the Supermasculine Menial,” for physical strength.7 Thus she is lost between two worlds. Cleaver explains that men and women of the elite and lower classes are opposing sides of a Primeval sphere, which for the reasons of strength and power—physical and mental—pull one toward the other.

In harsh, unforgiving tones, using key events of the Sixties as examples, Cleaver hurls accusations at the white race and reveals the mindset of many Black Power activists of the Sixties. Muhammad Ali vs. Floyd Patterson, the confrontation between the rebels and the “Uncle Toms,” rocked America’s foundations. Ali “was the first ‘free’ black champion ever to confront” the “Uncle Toms,” black suppressors of the Negroes. Consisting of movie and sports celebrities, Uncle Toms cooled the revolutionary masses down in the name of the white overlords, promising extensive reforms and quoting any minute civil rights bill. The Uncle Toms were the white man’s slave: Floyd Patterson “reflected a desire to force the Negro …back in his ‘place.’”8 When Muhammad Ali knocked Patterson out, the older generation received a concussion to its head. America was a land of paradoxes with no common ground in between. The differences therefore had to be kept separate and the ugly sides to the land of freedom had to be buried. This odd paradox existed because of the notion of white superiority. In order to justify slavery and segregation, the white man “elaborated a complex and pervasive myth which at one time classified the black man as subhuman beasts of burden.”9 With the guiding star of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, both forged by white men, he believed justice was bestowed upon all; the white received the privileges since they possessed the intellect clearly seen on the plantations, and the black received what the pea-brained, good-for-nothing slave justly deserved in white eyes. On the plantation, it was easy to differentiate the black and the white; the white did the thinking and gave the orders, the black did the work. This practice created the myth of white man’s superior intelligence.
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Attorney General Eric Holder blasted “stand-your-ground laws” in the wake of the acquittal of George Zimmerman for fatally shooting Trayvon Martin—saying such laws cause more violence than they prevent.

Mr. Holder, speaking to the NAACP Annual Convention in Orlando, Fla., not far from where Mr. Zimmerman was acquitted last week, took direct aim at stand-your-ground laws, which say a person can use force in self-defense without first attempting to retreat from the situation.

“Separate and apart from the case that has drawn the nation’s attention, it’s time to question laws that senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods,” Mr. Holder said, according to his prepared remarks.

In speaking out publicly against such laws for the first time, Mr. Holder is taking aim at the gun-rights groups that promote such laws and linking them to the death of Trayvon Martin.

Twenty-five states, including Florida, have adopted some version of stand-your-ground laws. While the law was a factor in the initial investigation of the Martin shooting, lawyers for Mr. Zimmerman didn’t base their defense on the law, arguing instead that their client had no option of retreat, and therefore the stand-your-ground principle didn’t apply.

The speech marked the second day in a row that Mr. Holder spoke publicly about the Martin killing. Mr. Zimmerman over the weekend was found not guilty of all charges in the case, a decision that sparked protests across the country, and some rioting in Los Angeles Monday night.

Mr. Martin, a black teenager, was walking to his father’s house in Sanford, Fla., from a nearby convenience store in the early evening when he was spotted by Mr. Zimmerman, a neighborhood-watch volunteer who thought Mr. Martin was suspicious. Mr. Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, called 911 and began following Mr. Martin, leading to a confrontation in which the 29-year-old Mr. Zimmerman shot the teenager.

Mr. Holder’s Justice Department is investigating Mr. Zimmerman to see if he should be charged with federal hate crimes or civil-rights violations, but legal experts say the chances of such charges being filed—or won in court—are small.

Mr. Holder’s remarks echo comments made by gun-control advocates following the Zimmerman verdict, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has said “stand your ground” promotes a “shoot first” approach to public confrontations.

“These laws try to fix something that was never broken,” Mr. Holder argued, saying pre-existing self-defense law allowed the use of deadly force if no safe retreat is possible. If a person is attacked in their own home, there is no duty to retreat.

“By allowing—and perhaps encouraging—violent situations to escalate in public, such laws undermine public safety,” Mr. Holder said. “We must stand our ground to ensure that our laws reduce violence, and take a hard look at laws that contribute to more violence than they prevent.”

In his turn of the century treatise, The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois wrote,

“Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: unasked by some through feelings of delicacy; by others through the difficulty of rightly framing it. All, nevertheless, flutter round it. How does it feel to be a problem?”

Everyone has problems. It is the human condition. No amount of wealth. No racial privilege. No righteousness of purpose and action leads to a life without problems. Everyone has them.

But Du Bois was pointing to something different. Not just having problems, but being a problem. How does it feel to be a problem? To have your very body and the bodies of your children to be assume to be criminal, violent, malignant.

How does it feel to be trapped on the roof of your home as the flood waters rise and be called a refugee?

How does it feel to wear the symbol of your faith and be assumed to be a terrorist threat to your own nation?

How does it feel to have the president who looks like you demanded to produce proof of his citizenship?

How does it feel to know that when you speak the language of your parents, you will be assumed to be illegal?

How does it feel to know that if you marry the person you love, some will say you are destroying the very fabric of the nation?

How does it feel to fear sending your son to the 7-Eleven for a bag of Skittles on a rainy night?

Du Bois wrote of black men,

“He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face. This, then, is the end of his striving: to be a co-worker in the kingdom of culture, to escape both death and isolation, to husband and use his best powers and his latent genius.”

This is the dream that will guide us as we continue the struggle.

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