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We need an economic bill of rights

Categories: Articles:Social Justice | Published: 04/04/2018 | Views: 612
Remembering Martin Luther King on the 50th anniversary of his death, the Guardian have published an, abridged version of the civil rights leader’s 1968 essay published in Look magazine shortly after his assassination in which he promotes non-violence as a way to bring about lasting change.

There is a literal depression in the Negro community. When you have mass unemployment in the Negro community, it’s called a social problem; when you have mass unemployment in the white community, it’s called a depression. The fact is, there is a major depression in the Negro community.

We need an economic bill of rights. This would guarantee a job to all people who want to work and are able to work. It would also guarantee an income for all who are not able to work. Some people are too young, some are too old, some are physically disabled, and yet in order to live, they need income.

We feel that much more building of housing for low-income people should be done. On the educational front, the ghetto schools are in bad shape in terms of quality. Often, they are so far behind that they need more and special attention, the best quality education that can be given.

These problems, of course, are overshadowed by the Vietnam war. We’ll focus on the domestic problems, but it’s inevitable that we’ve got to bring out the question of the tragic mix-up in priorities. We are spending all of this money for death and destruction, and not nearly enough money for life and constructive development.

We hear all this talk about our ability to afford guns and butter, but we have come to see that this is a myth, that when a nation becomes involved in this kind of war, when the guns of war become a national obsession, social needs inevitably suffer.
And we hope that as a result of our trying to dramatize this and getting thousands and thousands of people moving around this issue, that our government will be forced to re-evaluate its policy abroad in order to deal with the domestic situation.

We need to put pressure on Congress to get things done. We will do this with first amendment activity. If Congress is unresponsive, we’ll have to escalate in order to keep the issue alive and before it. This action may take on disruptive dimensions, but not violent in the sense of destroying life or property: it will be militant non-violence.
Riots tend to intensify the fears of the white majority while relieving its guilt, and so open the door to greater repression. We’ve seen no changes in Watts, no structural changes have taken place as the result of riots.
We are trying to find an alternative that will force people to confront issues without destroying life or property. We plan to build a shantytown in Washington, patterned after the bonus marches of the 30s, to dramatize how many people have to live in slums in our nation.

Demonstrations have served as unifying forces in the movement; they have brought blacks and whites together in very practical situations, where philosophically they may have been arguing about Black Power. It’s a strange thing how demonstrations tend to solve problems.
Anytime we’ve had demonstrations in a community, people have found a way to slough off their self-hatred, and they have had a channel to express their longings and a way to fight non-violently – to get at the power structure, to know you’re doing something, so you don’t have to be violent to do it.
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