DEAR WHITE FELLOW AMERICANS: Where are your responsible white leaders?
During the turbulent 1960s, it seemed that not one week would pass without a white politician, businessman, churchman or media personality asking "Where are the responsible black leaders?" It is long past the time when blacks must ask the flip side of that question.
Frankly, blacks are tired of carrying the overwhelmingly disproportionate share of the responsibility for preserving freedom and extending democracy in America. We are weary of taking the lead in putting our lives on the line to guarantee that our Constitution will remain an inviolate "living document," a beacon of hope to oppressed people around this globe. Tired of your leaders predicting riots and "long hot summers" for urban ghettos where many blacks live.
And we are sick and tired of being your favorite scapegoats whenever your irresponsible, greedy leaders rip you off, treat you like the "boobs" you are sometimes -- remember what one of your better writers, H. L. Mencken, wrote about you? -- and then tell you that we are responsible for what they did to you and us. It seems that the bigger the lie your leaders tell you, the more you like it.
Let's look at a few examples:
In every war this nation has fought, our ancestors gave their lives and spilled their blood disproportionately.
If any American child should refuse to serve in the military, it should be ours, not yours. If any American child should clasp Marx and Lenin to his or her breast, it should be ours, not yours. But the opposite is true. Our "Johnnys" who came marching home, our "doughboys," our GIs, our Korean "policemen," and our Viet vets came home not to the nation's love and appreciation and honor, but to hate and bigotry and official, government-sanctioned, often government-initiated discrimination.
Yet it was your children who fled to Canada during the Vietnam War. It was true- blue Americans like David Stockman who fled to schools of theology or took other avenues to deferments. It is your child and your neighbors' children who are looking to Marxism and Leninism and all the other "isms" for salvation from the dislocations created by your greedy, irresponsible leaders. Yet, throughout his sick life, your spymaster, J. Edgar Hoover, wasted millions of man hours and tens of millions of dollars in his obsessive, misdirected search for black communism.
In the entire history of this nation, no black American has ever been convicted as a spy.
Given the long travail of oppression we have suffered, that is an astonishing fact. No other group in this country has better reason to commit treason, yet it is your children -- not ours -- who have sold our nation out to the enemy. That is a hell of a truth to contemplate, isn't it?
Black Americans do not send your children to war. And we have killed no one with muclear arms.
Need we elaborate? Systematically and with malice intended, blacks have been excluded from the vast majority of the decision- making process that determines whether or not American boys are forced to fight, die or get maimed in battlefields on foreign shores. Those decisions have been the exclusive province of white males, most of whom are themselves too old to fight. Even your women have no say.
No individual black American, no black American leader, and no group of black Americans makes any major decisions about the American economy.
It then follows -- like the night follows the day -- that no black American can be held responsible for the decisions that produce the ups or the downs of the American economy.
Let's do a simple review of facts. According to the history books, no black American has ever been elected president of this country. Of 100 senators, there has never been more than one black American serving at one time in this century. In a House of 435 representatives, there have never been more than 17 black Americans elected to serve at one time in this century.
In the entire history of the U.S. Supreme Court, one -- one -- black has ever served. In the entire history of the Federal Reserve Board, only two blacks have ever served.
No black American has ever been president, chief executive officer, chief operating officer or board chairman of any Fortune 500 company, any major bank, any major multi- national corporation. Black Americans have held controlling stock ownership in none of these corporations. Neither have black Americans comprised a board majority or even a significant minority of the boards of these corporations.
No black American has ever served as president or chairman of any major daily newspaper. And black Americans have never comprised a board majority or even a sizeable minority of the boards of these major media corporations.
No black American has ever headed any stock exchange or commodity exchange in the history of this country and fewer than five have even had seats on these exchanges. Federal Reserve Banks have had not a single black head throughout their history.
If the company you work for moves to the Sun Belt, the decision was made by a white leader. If your job was exported out of the country, to South Africa, for example, or maybe even to England or -- worst of all worlds -- to a communist, Eastern European country, don't blame us. It was your white leaders who were responsible.
If the Federal Reserve Board keeps interest rates in the stratosphere, don't blame us -- it is your white leaders who are responsible. If the federal deficit and unemployment rates are also heading into orbit, look to your leaders, not to ours. If your heating bills are almost as high as, or even higher than, your mortgage payments; if the cost of a home exceeds your ability to pay; it you are a paycheck or two away from bankruptcy -- look to your leaders, not to ours.
If your child has a hard time getting admitted to medical, dental, law, engineering or other professional schools, don't run around yelling "reverse discrimination." Take a look at the increasing number of non-Americans admitted to those schools, then blame your leaders, not ours or our children. We are just trying to "make it" like you and your child.
If you are upset that your child can successfully complete training at an accredited professional school and still must pass another exam before practicing that profession -- and in a few professions must get permission to even take the exam -- demand some answers from your leaders. Logic will tell any fool that either the accreditation is meaningless or the extra exam is unnecessary and simply a way to keep people out of the profession, as has been done to us.
If your labor union is forced by corporate power to give back salary and fringe benefits that we fought together for decades to achieve and you find that job security is an illusion, look to your leaders, not to us.
If investments made with your pension fund money finance either antiunion activity or the development and manufacture of robots to displace you from your job, look to your leaders, not to us.
If major corporations, benefiting directly from your pension fund investments, created political action committees to "buy" congressmen and presidents to do you and your union in, your leaders are responsible, not us.
If you voted for the current crop of politicians now in Congress and the White House, you are responsible for being a "boob," not us. Just as we have been right about presidential candidates during most of this century, we were right about Ronald Reagan. And if recent polls are any indication, most of you are finally seeing the light.
But enough of this approach. Let's take a look at our mutually ridiculous situation from another angle. Let us make this flat, bold, provocative assertion: Black Americans are principally responsible for almost all of the humanizing reforms that have taken place in this country since, let's say, the 1950s.
Certainly we were joined by some of your best, brightest and more courageous, but most of the lives and livelihoods that were jeopardized or snuffed out in frontal assaults on insensitive officialdom, at all levels throughout the country, were black American. Most of the benefits, however, that flowed from the blood we spilled went to you, not us.
Let's take a few examples:
Until the 1960s, local and state public employes were at the bottom of the pay and job security ladder. Moreover, with a few limited exceptions, most of you were not courageous enough to organize and fight a sustained battle to achieve pay and job security equity. Black Americans changed all of that. You can chart your increased courage and your increased pay and fringe benefits and your increased organizing by the evolution of the black protest movement. The more hell black Americans raised on our cities' streets, in city halls, in corporate offices, in state houses and in the nation's capital, the more pay and benefit increases your leaders found they could award you.
Our movement was the best thing that ever happened to local and state public employes, the overwhelming majority of you white, since we were not often found worthy by you and your leaders for such jobs. In fact, the leaders of your employe and professional associations and your unions quickly understood what a good weapon our movement gave them. And your professional schools -- schools of education, for example -- also wised up in a hurry.
Police departments and unions and benevolent associations demanded not only higher salaries and benefits, but more men as well. The reason? "Crime in the streets." Now wasn't that clever? In one catchy phrase, they had joined routine criminal activity and the legitimate black protest movement, focused white fear and anger and confusion, and fashioned for themselves a weapon to use on officialdom to get the higher salaries and fringe benefits they demanded.
Not to be outdone, fire departments and their associations and unions demanded equity with policemen. After all, they said, more of us die in the line of duty than policemen; the areas having the greater incidences of fire are the same as those areas where policemen are having their greatest problems; and we are unarmed. We really should be paid more than police, they said, but we will settle for equity and we also need more men since our forces are understaffed.
Then came the teachers. We can't continue to teach in these "blackboard jungles," they said, at these abysmally low salaries we are paid. These kids, they said, are raising hell in our classrooms and in the halls; their parents are on our backs constantly because we haven't even taught their children to read; and now community organizations are harassing us with demands that we do a better job, plus relate to these "blackboard jungle" neighborhoods. We teachers are under constant threat of physical assault and are often actually assaulted.
In no time at all, teachers colleges and associations and unions had appropriated from the military a concept that officialdom would readily understand. Combat pay, they said. Teachers need combat pay.
And so it went throughout the 1960s. As long as the black movement was vigorous, the money flowed; annual increases in salaries often reached double digits; retirement benefits increased and the number of years to qualify decreased; health benefits often were fully paid and not contributory; and more people were hired. Even a few women and black Americans and other minorities were hired! Women were hired by police and fire departments to actually do the same jobs that men were doing. Miracle of miracles!
Those were heady days. Then "something" happened that began the initially slow but now accelerating reversal of your headiness.
That "something" was the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the death of Whitney Young, the reaching of old age of A. Philip Randolph tak and Roy Wilkins, the railroading of Adam Clayton Powell, the exhaustion and organizational demise of James Farmer, the end of Stokely Carmichael's and Rap Brown's effectiveness, the early assassination of Malcolm X and the end of the national effectiveness of Elijah Mohammed. Finally, this was capped by the infiltration of the black movement's organizations by provocateurs paid by our government's intelligence agencies. This combination of events was the "something" your leaders needed to begin turning back the clock on you.
And your President Reagan is your oligarchy's "hired gun" whose job it is to administer the coup de grace to all of you public employes. He and his supporters, by repeatedly saying that "government is not the solution; government is the problem," have really been saying: "public employes are not the solution; public employes are the problem."
He and they know that without a revived, courageous black movement, they can get away with it because you will not risk in the 1980s what we risked in the 1960s. Unlike us, you have been brainwashed too well, especially your men. Just take a look at the polls. Apparently only blacks and white women have pierced through the veil of delusion created by Hollywood-on-the-Potomac.
The presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson produced more than 50 major pieces of domestic social legislation. Two facts of public life enabled President Johnson to push this legislation through Congress -- the advent of Dr. King and the black movement's actions on the streets and in the courts.
But who have been the major beneficiaries? You and yours. And not only your poor. Take a look at those who benefit most from federal education loans and grants. Or health programs. Or food stamps. Or Supplementary Security Insurance. Medicaid. Medicare. Or even affirmative action programs. Ask your women about affirmative action or, better yet, check the figures on the dramatic increase in the number of working white women, especially women working in jobs from which they were historically excluded.
Who had ever heard of sexual harassment or of programs to help abused wives? Even homosexuals found the courage to leave their closets. And how about the antiwar movement in protest of our country's involvement in Vietnam? Finally, how about the multiplication of Ralph Naders across this country?
We know it is hard for you to admit it, but the visionary and sacrificial courage of Dr. King and his associates and followers inspired and gave hope and courage to all of these groups and more. Democracy became stronger and healthier throughout our land and inspired peoples throughout the world.
But you became confused. We became exhausted, some of us disillusioned by the constant harrassment by our government and the increased "yellow journalism" of the major daily media. We had been in constant struggle from 1954 through the 1968 murder of Dr. King. That is a long time to struggle to change the policies of the most powerful and richest nation on earth; moreover, we struggled not just with the central government, but with state governments and city governments and major corporations as well. Even though it was a long time, it was not long enough. Our strength and resources ebbed.
At that point, your oligarchy took over. And their brainwashing of you accelerated geometrically. They had to kill a few of your kids at Kent State and beat up a few at the Democratic convention in Chicago to let you know they meant business, to drive home the point to you that the white color of your skin meant nothing to them. Only their power and the retention of their ability to slake their greed had meaning and substance to them.
When the killings didn't shut up your vocal minority of courageous kids, they made draft deferments easier and ultimately ended the draft, creating a "volunteer" military. Loans and grants for college and graduate education increased and were made available to higher- and higher-income families.
But you were told by your oligarchy that we were getting everything and that only you were paying the bills. You became "the taxpayers," that virtuous, suddenly rediscovered magical entity, being victimized by "tax- eaters." And in myriad ways, you were made to understand that "taxpayers" were white and middle-class and that "tax eaters" were blacks and other minorities, lazy loafers who preferred the "dole" as their way of life. Now, wasn't the oligarchy smart? Once again, you were the "boobs" (Mencken, again) and we were the victims.
And while you were being pumped up again, you were being robbed and raped by manipulated prices. Your salaries jumped arithmetically -- making you feel good about yourself and your self-worth -- but the prices you (and we, with 50 percent less money to spend) had to pay for goods and services increased almost geometrically. Your leaders, who set both prices and salaries, were screwing all of us. The difference between us was that we always understood who the screwers and the screwees were; you seemed only to partially understand who the screwees were.
And now your president and his buddies in the Senate, your elected representatives, have completely unleashed your greedy oligarchy. While they kept you entertained with bombastic assurances that they would get rid of "fraud, waste and abuse" in government -- code words for killing programs thought by you to benefit only us and a few "white trash" -- they opened the federal treasury and poured out a cornucopia of goodies into the coffers of the oligarchy.
The Great Communicator didn't tell you this, since he probably didn't fully understand it himself, but supply-side economics really means to the oligarchy: I will supply my side.
We didn't do that; you and yours did it or allowed it to happen without any strong protest. But to rub your nose -- yours, "the taxpayer's" nose -- in their mess, the oligarchy's man, who wrote their tax package, had the gall to tell Congress recently not to touch the corporations' tax cut, but that your and our tax cut should be deferred or eliminated. You see, your leaders are always looking out for your best interests!!
But the big boys are not through with you (and us) yet. They are going to cut Social Security, but to keep you in line until after this year's congressional elections, they are going to wait until 1983. You see, they not only plan to continue to screw you (and us) today, they plan to screw us all in perpetuity.
And how are they planning to keep you as "boobs" throughout 1982? They have a simple approach that has worked throughout the years. They will entertain you and energize you with diversions, fear, and emotional appeals. They will discover communist plots everywhere in the world. El Salvador. Nicaragua. Africa. Honduras. Guatemala. Libya. And good old Cuba is the all-time favorite, edging out Russia to whom we are selling 28 million tons of grain. Then they will find plots in the U.S., maybe even something really exciting, like communists in government or in our colleges and universities or even in the churches and synagogues and temples. Communist plots everywhere!
Then there will be "great debates" on abortion. To keep the religious pot boiling, there will be "great debates" on teaching "creationism" and reinstating prayer in the schools. Nothing like religion to get the old juices flowing!
But if all else fails, there is that old standby, race. How about some "great debates" about affirmative action, racial quotas and school busing?
In short, Hollywood-on-the-Potomac will attempt to keep the juices of hate, anger and fear flowing with scenarios worthy of B-movies. You can count on cues to laugh, grimace and cry -- mostly cry -- at least until the first Wednesday after the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November. That is election day plus one.
Let us return to our original question: White Americans, where are your responsible leaders? In the 1960s, when the reverse question was asked of blacks, it was directly related toligarchy th white concerns about black riots taking place in major cities. Many blacks in positions of leadership understood your question; others thought it was racist.
As we ask you the reverse question today, we are certain that some of you will think it a black racist question. It is not, at least by intent. Rather it is prompted by our concerns regarding the riot that has been taking place in our economy for a decade and is coming to a crescendo under the direction of the Great Communicator. It is prompted by concerns regarding the crashing waves and volume of war talk emanating from the White House. Finally, it is prompted by your immobilization, your failure to act.
In the 1960s, when you posed that question to blacks, many blacks responded. Black "mini-leaders" took to the streets, risking their lives to calm their outraged brothers and sisters. Dr. King and others at his leadership level risked their credibility among their own followers by publicly calling for calm and denouncing riots and chaos.
What will you do to bring this nation's economic riot and chaos under control in the 1980s? What will you risk? What will your "mini-leaders" do? What will those in your community at Dr. King's equivalent leadership level risk?
Our economy is in shreds. The dangers within the body politic are a greater threat to the nation than any foreign danger. Our Constitution is threatened. Do the safeguards of democracy mean as much to you as they do to us?
We await your reply in action.