Response to Recent Police and Civilian Killings
September 21, 2016 by Herbert Daughtry
In 1982, I was invited to deliver a message based on Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s last book, “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” The topic and my response to the topic are so relevant as to generate an uncanny feeling regarding the subject matter. “Where do we go from here?” is a question whose answer is urgently needed today. Towards that end, the following was my presentation.
“Where Do We Go From Here”
A Speech by Rev. Dr. Herbert Daughtry, 1982
“The subject before me, ‘Where Do We Go From Here?’, you readily recognize comes from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s last book, “Where Do We Go From Here – Community or Chaos?” In 1967, Dr. King participated in a conference on crises in the Civil Rights Movement. Candidly, he admitted that the Civil Rights Movement had been more surface than substantive. He called for the restructuring of the American society, and the redistribution of political and economic powers – and that, I believe is where we need to go from here.
“A redistribution of political and economic powers. Anything short of that will amount to more surface change, or pacification. In his presentation, Dr. King mentioned that he had gone to Sweden and had seen a society without unemployment. He compared Sweden, a small country, to the USA, a huge, rich country, which even then had an unemployment problems. He raised the questions, ‘Why?’ Why is there no unemployment in Sweden and rampant unemployment in the USA? A redistribution of political and economic powers will eradicate unemployment – in fact, it would eradicate poverty.
“Now, I haven’t been to Sweden, but I have been to the German Democratic Republic. In that society, I saw what Dr. King saw in Sweden: no unemployment. In fact, employment for every citizen is a constitutional right. I saw more – free medical services for everyone. Some of you will remember when we had to stay two weeks in Sydenham Hospital to try and keep a hospital open in a community that the government had said was one of the country’s most deprived areas. I also saw free education, from kindergarten through college, and a plan to eliminate substandard housing by 1990. I ask, as Dr. King asked, ‘Why?’ Why is the richest country in history cannot employ its own people? Feed its own people? Educate its own people? Heal its own people?
“And, let us not blame the poor. No, let us put the blame where it belongs: gross, obscene, criminal inequalities in the economic and political systems. The problem is not with the needy, but with the greedy.
“We have marched innumerable times, as you know, from Brooklyn to Wall Street, just a matter of thirty minutes, and we – men and women, boys and girls, most of whom were unemployed, many of whom were living in the most deplorable conditions – marched. In thirty, quick, fast-stepping minutes, we were in the lap of luxury that most of us cannot even comprehend. We need redistribution of political and economic powers. We must struggle toward that objective.
“Dr. King knew – you could hear it in his voice and in the change in his decorum – that people would say, ‘That’s socialism. That’s communism.’ Why do the enemies of communism, I ask, think it promotes their cause by blaming every noble struggle for justice and self-determination on communism? Does it make you a communist to want to see full employment, adequate medical services for all of the citizens, decent housing for everybody, quality education for every child? Does that make you a communist? Does it make you a communist to want full democracy at the political place as well as the work place? Why does wanting these things make one a communist? It becomes almost like the moon blaming the devil for the sunshine.
“I believe in the Bible. The Bible says that God wants these things for His people. The Bible says, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and they that dwell therein.” Translated, it means that no small group of people owns anything but the six feet of dirt when they die. The earth is the Lord’s.
“No, we cannot so easily escape the great and urgent question before us by blaming communism – not if you agree with Dr. King. If you want his dream, his 1967 dream, for America to become reality, then we’ve got some hard work to do. We have a winding, twisting path before us. Yet, it is still true, as Frederick Douglass said a long time ago, power concedes nothing without a demand. If moral importunities could rearrange power relationships, Black people would be in the highest echelons of power. We have been pleading, begging, and praying for many years. Frederick Douglass would say, Those who want change without struggle, are like people who want the ocean without the awful roar of the waters, who want crops without plowing the ground.
“May I just say in passing that the redistribution of economic and political powers would have radical, international implications. If indeed, we should awaken tomorrow morning to discover that redistribution had occurred, how many of us here would want to go down to El Salvador and support the Duarte regime. How many of us her would want to engage in saber-rattling with the little island of Grenada? And, how many of us here would want to continue this belligerency towards Cuba? And Nicaragua? And, how many of us here would want to continue supporting a racist regime in South Africa?
“Surely, we would want to know: Nicaragua was all right when Somoza was there, why is it all wrong now? If Grenada was all right when Gairy was there, why is it all wrong now? If Cuba was all right when Batista was there, why is it all wrong now? We would want to ask these questions. And, since we enjoyed this redistribution of political and economic power, we would not have to be told that ‘we need to protect your interests.’ We would protect our own interests, and it would not be with a $200 billion military budget!”
… to be continued.
(Originally published in the Daily Challenge on September 21, 2016.)