Fierce Urgency of Now
Wednesday, January 15, 2020
Historical consciousness most often associates white supremacy and intolerance with the hooded robes, pointed hats and burning crosses of the Ku Klux Klan, just as it links social justice and racial harmony with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement. In many respects this allows the majority group white population to firmly place themselves well outside the yoke and blatant oppression of white supremacy.
However, the white supremacy of today, with the exception of Charlottesville and other manifestations of overt hatred acted out in Pittsburgh and El Paso, speaks to a different form of oppression. It focuses on the constructed fabric of American society that continues to reinforce economic wealth, cultural and political power overwhelmingly in the hands of a largely white, privileged 1 percent minority. It references the system that holds in place communities of color as well as poor white communities in America that face drastic inequities in income, housing education and health care, while being overrepresented in every part of the criminal justice system.
Dr. King with his later marches on poverty, jobs and equitable salaries for all fully understood that the systems of white supremacy infiltrate every part of American society. Despite the earlier successes of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, he would have been the first to admit that they did not solve the challenges and barriers that needed to be overcome in order to establish economic, social and environmental equity. In one of his more apoplectic moments he once stated. “What good is having the right to sit at a lunch counter,” he asked, “if you can’t afford the hamburger?”
Although we celebrate MLK Jr’s legacy some 52 years later, his enduring legacy still speaks to the core of America’s as well as the world’s most grievous wounds. His words continue to speak to the need for intergenerational and interracial healing that transcends class boundaries to confront a system that mortally threatens our moral, social and environmental integrity.
The Whatcom Human Rights Task Force invites all to participate in the 22nd Annual Conference, Tomorrow is Today—The Fierce urgency of Now taking place from from 9am to 4pm Sat., Jan. 18 at the Syre Student Center, Whatcom Community College.
Larry Estrada is an associate professor and director of the American Cultural Studies program at Western Washington University, and is the president of the National Association for Ethnic Studies. He is a member of the Whatcom Human Rights Task Force. For more information, http://www.mlkconference.org