The commemoration of the March on Washington has been ruined. President Obama, the global assassin, protector of Wall Street, and reigning Great Mass Incarcerator, will star in the production on the National Mall. “Dr. Martin Luther King serves as a mere prop in the ceremony.” In their embrace of Power, the organizers have desecrated the Black American legacy of struggle.
For those who seek an independent Black politics that is faithful to the historical Black consensus for peace and social justice, the inclusion of President Barack Obama in the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington is a desecration. The ancestral sanctum is to be utterly defiled by the presence of the very personification of imperial savagery and a ballooning domestic police state.
Of course, the organizers of this monumental self-debasement – this obscene groveling at the feet of Power – see Obama’s participation as the ultimate testimony to Black progress. Proximity to Power has always been their Dream. Dr. Martin Luther King serves as a mere prop in the ceremony, which seeks to draw a straight line from the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, through the 1963 mass march, to the First Black President’s embrace of the 2013 commemoration – a kind of holy trinity.
For the Black Misleadership Class, the great social movement in which Dr. King played such a pivotal role was brought forth, not to confront Power, but to integrate it. President Obama is the perfect blending – the literal embodiment of Black Power, in the warped worldview of the 2013 organizers. Dr. King has no place in this abomination, except to mark the tolling of the bell on his dream to overcome the three evils inherent in imperial capitalism: racism, militarism and materialism.
It is a funereal occasion.
Not that the actors were so different in 1963. But, back then, the grasping Black classes had not yet been launched on the trajectory that would give them a stake in the imperial order. Their status was still aspirational. Years of tumult would unfold – and Dr. King’s assassination – before the system would deign to offer serious silver to the Judases in his entourage and the larger movement. For those that spent much of the next 50 years jockeying for greater opportunities to join structures of power – the “burning house” that Dr. King feared he was leading his people into – there is no shame in hosting the nominal head of Empire at a great public ceremony. Rather, such an event is the pinnacle of success – especially for folks that imagine they have a special, complexional relationship with His Highness.
It has been so long since the dissolution of the Black Freedom Movement, the pretenders to Black leadership have forgotten how to speak the language of struggle. Non-violent “direct action,” Dr. King’s preferred tactic to “create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue,” has degenerated to mean simplymarching down a street on a sunny day.
The 1963 march was not an example of direct action – quite the opposite. The purpose was to gather as many people as possible for an orderly and “dignified” demonstration of the movement’s mass following and broad support – and then get them out of town by sundown, as promised to the powers-that-be. The last thing the organizers wanted was that a quarter million marchers create a “crisis” in the heart of Washington – a scenario that Dr. King hoped to organize in the summer of 1968, but was interrupted by an assassin.
The 1963 march was so accommodating to the Kennedy’s demand for orderliness, Malcolm X dubbed it the “Farce on Washington.”
“It ceased to be a black march; it ceased to be militant; it ceased to be angry; it ceased to be impatient,” said Malcolm. “In fact, it ceased to be a march. It became a picnic, an outing with a festive, circus-like atmosphere….”
It was also the biggest show of massed humanity in the history of the Nation’s Capitol – which certainly made the intended impression. But, accommodation with Power is not what created the movement that brought the throngs to Washington for the one-day “outing,” nor did strolling in the park carry that movement forward in the ensuing years of confrontation with power.
The 1963 March on Washington was sanitized by the organizers, themselves, whose goal was to impress the nation – including other Black people – with the size and the breadth of the forces the leaders could call on at that point in time. It did not seek confrontation on that day, although its immensity served as implicit warning that masses of people were deeply committed to social transformation, and might not always be so orderly.
In that sense, the event on the Mall was quite unrepresentative of the movement. It was, as Malcolm described from the sidelines, “a festive, circus-like atmosphere” – but it also occurred smack in the middle of years of mortal combat with the “system.” When the march is taken out of the context of what happened before and after, all that remains is the “picnic” and the self-censored, deliberately non-confrontational speeches – most notably Dr. King’s vague “dreaming.” Which perfectly suits the needs of today’s Black Misleadership Class, who have no intention of confronting Power – ever! On the contrary, they cling to the garments of Power, in the person of the First Black President, and wrap themselves in the flag of Empire.
Dr. King rejected U.S. empire, and broke with President Lyndon Johnson over the “inter-related” issues of foreign war and and domestic poverty. There is not a shadow of a doubt that King would denounce Obama in the strongest terms, were he alive, today. Yet, those who pose as his political and moral descendants hug the presidential scorpion to their bosoms.
Malcolm’s critique of the 1963 March does not seem so dated if one substitutes the words “Obama” or “Democrats” for “white liberals”:
“The white liberals [Democrats/Obama] control the Negro and the Negro vote by controlling the Negro civil rights leaders. As long as they [Democrats/Obama] control the Negro civil rights leaders, they can also control and contain the Negro’s struggle, and they can control the Negro’s so-called revolt.”
This August 28th will be a day of control and containment – amid a love-fest with Power.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].