By Eljeer Hawkins, Bronx, New York
On August 28, the right-wing populist Tea Party Movement, an assortment of conservative organizations, and Fox News commentator Glenn Beck will descend on Washington, D.C. for the so-called “Restoring the Honor” rally. For the black freedom movement, August 28 marks the 47th anniversary of the great March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and Dr. King’s oratorical benchmark “I Have a Dream” speech.
The selection of this day by the Tea Party Movement and Glenn Beck is blatantly intended to tarnish the memory of that historic day when the Civil Rights Movement marched to demand that President Kennedy and Congress end Jim Crow in the South and extend full citizenship rights to African-Americans.
Hijacking Our History
The Tea Party’s three-day event will showcase the racism, right-wing populism and support for corporate, capitalist ideology that defines this broad and heterogeneous movement of the disaffected middle class, confused white workers, right-wing politicians and conservative commentators.
Using the Lincoln Memorial as a backdrop, the Tea Party Movement is stealing the symbolism of the Civil Rights Movement; the Tea Party’s message is not about freedom and full equality for all. The right-wing populists increasingly invoke the claim of “reverse racism,” that it is white people who are being “discriminated” against.
Unwilling to point to the real problem of big business’s and Wall Street’s dictatorship, right-wing populists like Glenn Beck are trying to take the anger, fear and insecurity that millions feel because of the economic crisis and try to blame it on immigrants, people of color, the LGBT equal rights movement, public sector workers like teachers and, of course, a black president who they claim has a hidden “socialist” agenda!
In reality, the dominant elements within the Tea Party and conservative movement – Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Tom Tancredo, Dick Armey and others, spearheaded by Fox News – are articulating a thinly-veiled white nationalist ideology. They want to use the old electoral “Southern Strategy” to re-arm the Republican Party to win back Congress in 2010 and the White House in 2012.
Why August 28 Matters
On August 28, 1955, three months before Rosa Parks and the beginning of the Montgomery Bus Boycott movement against Jim Crow and segregation, Emmett Till was lynched and brutally beaten for allegedly whistling at a white woman. The fourteen-year-old black youth from Chicago was visiting family in Mississippi. Mamie Till would make the heartbreaking and powerful decision to have an open casket so the world could see the violence of Jim Crow. Mamie Till’s gut-wrenching statement became a rallying cry for workers and youth – particularly black workers, youth and the modern day Civil Rights movement – to challenge slavery and Jim Crow.
The August 28, 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was the culmination of vigorous organizing and bloody battles against white supremacy and Jim Crow throughout the country, particularly in the South.
The call to go to Washington, D.C. also has a long history, dating back to the Veterans’ Bonus March of 1932 in the midst of the Depression. The World War I veterans’ encampment demanded economic compensation for service during the war. Later, the March on Washington Movement of 1941, led by labor leader and socialist A. Philip Randolph, demanded the end of racial discrimination within the war industry. This forced President Roosevelt to issue Executive Order 8802, which banned racial discrimination in government employment, defense industries and training programs.
The Response: How Do We Fight Back?
The traditional civil rights organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Urban League and Al Sharpton’s National Action Network will hold a counter-rally and commemorative events on August 28. While these events are important, this can not be the only way to counter the lies and fear-mongering of Tea Party and right-wing populists.
What is needed is a broad, worker-based, radical grassroots movement that can challenge the right wing and the policies of big business and its parties: both Democratic and Republican.
The language and actions of hate, discrimination and racial supremacy must be vigorously combated by the collective action of the working class and youth. A mass movement would be multi-ethnic, democratic, accountable and politicized, learning valuable lessons from past struggles for economic justice, including the need for political independence from the two-party system.
A series of marches and mass demonstrations in every city and state would be necessary to answer the lies Fox News spews against immigrants, workers, people of color, LGBT people and others and to expose the reality that it is big business and Wall Street that caused the crisis we are now facing.
Obama and the Democrats have clearly shown that they are incapable of answering the Tea Party’s lies because they are accomplices of Wall Street.
The conclusion also needs to be drawn about the need to run and support independent, working-class candidates for the November congressional elections. Only candidates who stand for jobs for all at a living wage, union rights, full rights for undocumented immigrants, socialized health care, and ending police racism and violence can stop the right-wing populists and their Democratic Party enablers. The time has come to end the dictatorship of big business that creates racism, poverty, war and environmental destruction. August 28, 2010 should be the beginning of a movement for Struggle, Solidarity and Democratic Socialism.
“Let the nation and the world know the meaning of our numbers. We are not a pressure group, we are not an organization or a group of organizations, and we are not a mob. We are the advance group of a massive moral revolution for jobs and freedom … But this civil rights revolution is not confined to the Negro, nor is it confined to civil rights … We want a free democratic society dedicated to the political, economic and social advancement of man along moral lines…”
-A. Philip Randolph, The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963