Actually, there wasn't much about it from what I saw. It was as if the 50 year milestone of the March on Washington had turned into almost a non-event. Not even up to the standard of a Veterans' Parade of the handful of survivors of some doGforsaken war or other.
Of course those of us who have had anything to do with any of these things know how hideously the legacy of Dr. King and the rest of the Civil Rights community has been perverted in service to something else altogether, whether it be Rightist politics or Neo-Liberal Economics, or corporatism or imperialism or what have you.
A few words here and there, a few surviving icons, and that's pretty much it.
We live in a very different country than we did fifty years ago, and except for the fact that for some, conditions are wildly better than Dr. King could ever have imagined, while for many, conditions are as bad as or even worse than they were in 1963, we could say that Civil Rights have been achieved. After all, segregation is no longer permissible by law, and that was what it was all about back then.
Well, no. Partly, to an extent, yes, but it would be false to suggest that de jure segregation was the sole or even central motivation for the March on Washington 50 years ago. Legal segregation was collapsing by then, despite the valiant efforts of Southern (and quite a few Northern) Gentlemen and Gentlewomen to preserve their God-Given Way of Life.
Segregation didn't make sense, it was morally corrupt, it institutionalized harm to individuals and communities for no apparent benefit to anyone left immune, and it was deeply antithetical to any notion of human dignity let alone to the ideals enshrined in the founding documents of the United States of God Damn.
Fifty years on, and most of those who defended segregation in the past would agree it was stupid on stilts and ask for forgiveness. Or at least they should.
De jure segregation was a panic response to the liberation of blacks from the original unkindness and indignity of their involuntary servitude. It was based in fear and falsehood, the fear being that Free Blacks would do unto whites what whites had been doing unto Blacks for generations, and the falsehood being the "science" of Negro Inferiority which presumed and "proved" that Negroes were incompetent, little more than Children, barely human, and it was for the Negro's Own Good that he be separated from the whites with whom he had no ability to compete let alone comprehend.
Fifty years ago, Blacks could go almost anywhere in the world and be treated better than they were in the United States. It was as obvious as it was shocking to the consciousness and consciences of men and women of good will -- regardless of race.
Fifty years ago, shame was possible. Not so much any more.
I didn't watch the coverage of the 50th Anniversary March in part because it was a commemoration of times gone by, not a living, breathing march of activists set on correcting the many wrongs we face today.
For example, this comment from a witness/participant in yesterday's march summed it up for me:
The day was symbolized for me on multiple levels by seeing DC Park police seize 200 professionally printed placards from activists that were distributing them for free. The placards read, “Stop Mass Incarceration. Stop the new Jim Crow.” When those having their signs seized complained, they were threatened with fines or arrest. I heard one DC police officer say, “Hey, you can get them back at the end of the day. On second thought, given your attitude you cannot. “Yes, well. There you are. That is the reality today. Mass incarceration is the New Jim Crow, and in its own way it is more devastating to individuals, families and communities than the original was. Saying so, however, will put you on the wrong side of Power, just as complaining about Whites Only accommodations once did.
I recall something very similar happening at an Occupy event -- ostensibly an Occupy event at any rate -- in California that had been arranged on behalf of students. The mere suggestion by a handful of attendees that the State was spending more to put people behind bars than it was to educate them was met with the fierce urgency of immediate suppression (which I witnessed and documented somewhere in the archives).
The same witness/participant in yesterday's march I quoted above made the pithy comment below as well (from which the title of this post is derived):
Based upon the speeches during the main portion of today’s events there can be little doubt that the Dr. King who was murdered in Memphis in 1968 would not have been allowed to speak at this fiftieth-anniversary commemoration of his life. There was no discussion of the “evil triplets.” Instead, we had far too many speakers pay homage to the narrowest possible liberal agenda in broad abstractions with none of the searing material truths that make Dr. King’s speeches so bracing even today.Who can even identify the "evil triplets" today? Has anybody even heard of "Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community?"
Yes, Dr. King said, lo those many years ago:
Now, when I say question the whole society, it means ultimately coming to see that the problem of racism, the problem of economic exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together. These are the triple evils that are interrelated.And many people today believe it was his focus on the synthesis -- rather than the duality of thesis and antithesis -- that ultimately got him killed. Him and so many others...
His was the kind of thinking that was so necessary and is so rarely apparent today. Things must be of a singular nature and they must contend one to another in all ways; there is nothing beyond the contention. There is no Future, in other words. There is not even the fierce urgency of now. Apathy, discouragement, cynicism and toys have taken their place.
There is no longer any concept of critical thinking or of a higher synthesis of ideals and ideas. Instead, we are mired in propaganda and polemics, forced to choose between identical options, beset with deliberately engineered episodes of cognitive dissonance and epistemic closure.
And it's marketed as Freedom and Liberty.
For whom, though? To do what?