4 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of Dr Martin
Luther King, Jr. Although five full decades have passed since the
American civil rights leader was martyred in 1968, his words are just
as relevant today, if not more relevant than ever in the age of
Donald Trump. King was prophetic in his assessment of America's
problems - his condemnation of the triple evils of racism, militarism
and economic exploitation - and his prescription for change,
including a "radical
redistribution of economic and political power"
to bring about racial and economic justice.
America has not overcome these triple evils, these forms of
oppression that are interrelated
and create a vicious cycle.
election of Trump represented a racial backlash on the part of
aggrieved whites who resented the changes afoot in society. Barack
Obama, the first African American president, was a nightmare for
some, as he represented black power in a nation built for white men,
occupying a White House once intended as a whites only space in
perpetuity. People of colour are emerging as a national majority in
the coming few decades, and brown and black babies already constitute
the majority of children born in the US today.
promised to return angry white America to the pre-civil rights era,
when white people reigned supreme in the land of the free. This would
seem an impossible feat, and yet if Trump were to accomplish this, he
could do so only through policies of violence - whether through voter
suppression, police violence and mass incarceration against black
people, law enforcement crackdowns and mass deportations of Latino
and other immigrants, or travel bans and the ostracisation of
you know that a lot of the race problem grows out of the drum
King asked. "A need that some people have to feel superior. A
need that some people have to feel that they are first, and to feel
that their white skin ordained them to be first."
Trump enacts measures to uphold white supremacy, he empowers the
neo-Nazis, white nationalists and other "very
as he calls them to commit acts of violence. White supremacists are the
most serious source of domestic attacks in the US, responsible for 71
of domestic extremist-related killings over the past decade.
a year before he was assassinated, on April 4, 1967, at Riverside
Church in New York, Dr
King broke his silence on the Vietnam War.
In that speech, he called the US government "the greatest
purveyor of violence in the world today." King's words have
stood the test the time.
military spending amounts to 54
of the federal discretionary budget at $700bn for 2018. America has
less than 5 percent of the world's population but as much as half
of the world's civilian gun supply,
ranking first in firearms per capita, and first among the advanced
nations in firearm-related homicides.
recent brutal killing of Stephon
- who was shot eight times, mostly in the back, by Sacramento,
California police while in his grandmother's backyard - and the
recent failure of state and federal prosecutors to indict Baton
Rouge, Louisiana police officers in the 2016 shooting death of Alton
speak to the continuing crisis of police brutality in communities of
the US also exports its violence to foreign countries. For example,
the US government provides billions of dollars in military
aid to Israel,
which that country uses to maintain its occupation of the Palestinian
people, a human rights catastrophe. Most recently, the Israeli
Defense Forces fired
on a peaceful protest of 30,000 Palestinians during the Great March
of Return in Gaza, with snipers shooting unarmed people in the back
and killing 18 and wounding as many as 1,700. The massacre caused
some observers to make comparisons to the 1960
and the 1976
Soweto youth uprising
in apartheid South Africa.
the US has the world's largest military and the largest economy, it
also suffers from the most inequality and poverty among the advanced
- with 40
Americans living in poverty, and inequality rivaling pre-Great
now has more wealth than the bottom 90 percent. "Again we have
deluded ourselves into believing the myth that Capitalism grew and
prospered out of the Protestant ethic of hard work and sacrifice,"
"The fact is that capitalism was built on the exploitation and
suffering of black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation
of the poor - both black and white, both here and abroad."
Republican-controlled government in Washington has tightened the
screws even further with a massive tax cut for the wealthiest
Americans and corporations, and a corrupt system of politics that
rewards lobbyists and politicians, yet fails to meet the needs of its
people. This, as thousands
in Republican-controlled states such as West Virginia, Kentucky and
Oklahoma have waged massive strikes and walkouts. This "red
in protest of low education spending and teacher salaries is only
part of a greater movement of activism - from Black Lives Matter to
students fighting for gun control to women and the #MeToo movement.
This level of opposition to Trump's policies - and activism this
country has not seen since the days of the civil rights movement King
helped lead - is reassuring.
Luther King said the US would have to "undergo
a radical revolution of values"
that would cause the country to question the fairness and justice of
its past and present policies, its glaring economic inequality, and
the spiritual death that comes with spending more on the military
than programs of social uplift.
must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a
person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives
and property rights, are considered more important than people, the
giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are
incapable of being conquered." Fifty years after King's
assassination, there is still much work to do.