Dr. Martin Luther King: Assassinating the man & his Legacy? (Con't)
Unfortunately when Dr. King was assassinated the civil rights movement and what it was to become died with him. It is one thing however, to assassinate a man, it is something else to assassinate his legacy by twisting and misrepresenting his words. Examples of this can be observed in the political arena today where conservative leaders such as Newt Gingrich, Pete Wilson and others embrace the repackaged Dr. King. These conservatives have notoriously taken Dr. King's words out of context to support anti-affirmative action measures. In To Renew America for example, Newt Gingrich praised Dr. King as an individualist who opposed group rights. And in promoting the misnomer-California Civil Rights Initiative, a ballot measure that would "ban" all state affirmative action plans throughout California, Pete Wilson evoked Dr. King's name often, insisting that Dr. King would be against all discrimination -- including reverse discrimination.
To set the record straight, Dr. King supported affirmative action-type remedies that would engender a level playing field for blacks. "A society that has done something special against the Negro for hundreds of years must now do something special for the Negro to compete on an equal basis" (quoted in Let the Trumpet Sound, by Stephen Oates). In a 1965 Playboy interview, Dr. King compared the GI Bill to remedy-based programs that would even the playing field for Blacks.
"Within common law we have ample precedents for special compensatory programs ...and you will remember that America adopted a policy of special treatment for her millions of veterans after the war."
Despite what the repackaged producers of the King legacy try to sell us, these quotes of Dr. King clearly indicate where he stood on affirmative action-type remedies. However, the most potentially damaging and lasting effect of repackaging Dr. King is presenting him to this generation as a one-dimensional black civil rights leader. In fact, Dr. King had large numbers of whites who supported him -- numbers that were gaining up to his death. Vietnam for example, wasn't a civil rights or race issue, neither were unions and campaigns for the homeless, all issues that Dr. King fervently addressed.
In 1967, Dr. King was one of the most outspoken critics of the Vietnam War.
In a speech titled "Beyond Vietnam" he called the United States "the greatest
purveyor of violence in the world today," and maintained that the U.S. was
"... on the wrong side of a world revolution." In the same speech, he
criticized the U.S. for their looting of the mineral resources of Asia,
Africa and South America. Ironically, U.S. policies and activities haven't
changed much since Dr. King made these dissenting remarks.
We don't hear conservatives publicly discussing the last year of Dr. King's life. I guess it wouldn't be in their interest to note that Dr. King was working to organize a multi-racial Poor Peoples campaign, or that he would often tell followers that most poor people are white. This was King's way of demystifying poverty as popularly regarded as a black problem. In his last days, Dr. King was a radical, and his vision was to fundamentally change U.S. economic priorities.
Ironically, if Dr. King had been a one-dimensional leader, I believe he would still be alive today. Clearly, it was his multi-dimensional leadership that made him a target of the centers of U.S. power. Dr. King's leadership in the civil rights movement ruffled the rigid social mores of America's white working class. However, a movement for civil rights and public accommodations for blacks and people of color didn't threaten the interests of the elite, who benefit most from the capitalist economic system.
In fact, the civil rights movement would eventually bring more wealth and prosperity to the economic elite by opening up new markets and expanding the workforce. During the pre-civil rights movement, blacks and other non-whites were rarely ever considered a market segment. They were economically "Invisible" to corporate America, both as workers and consumers. Unlike today, there were very few companies that had a department solely devoted to targeting minority consumers. The dynamics however, of the civil rights movement, not only changed our title from Negro to black, but also converted us from producers to consumers. Generally speaking, segregated "Negroes" produced their own goods and services, desegregated post civil rights "black" people consume the goods and services of others. Indeed, if blacks could eat in restaurants and stay in hotels where pre-civil rights Negroes were previously denied, their trends, and interests would eventually birth a new market segment. This dynamic over time would bring us to where we are today -- a $30 billion black consumer market, equivalent to the ninth-largest country in the world.
The consequences of converting from producers to consumers have been what Malcolm X warned, materialism, illusions of wealth in the accumulation of material possessions (a.k.a. "frontin"), and breeding crime in the black community. Additionally, integration has directly resulted in the absence of (or reduction) in black-owned businesses such as hotels, restaurants, country clubs, the Negro baseball league, etc. I don't believe that Dr. King looked at the long-term consequences that the movement would have on the dynamics of black economic activity. His mission was simple: End the system of segregation on the grounds that it was equivalent to second class citizenship, and a cancer on the soul of this nation.
King & the War
In one episode of the "X-Files" there was a meeting among Army brass during the height of the Vietnam war. The meeting was about the "problem" Dr. King posed for them in speaking out against the Vietnam war. What was said in this smoked filled room in a fictionalized TV series, history documents wasn't far from the truth: If Dr. King continues to speak out against the war, there won't be anymore Negroes to fight the war for us." Dr. King not only understood the Vietnam war wasn't only immoral, but it disproportionately sent more Negroes to die.
When Dr. King began to speak out against the Vietnam War, build a multi-racial coalition and bring attention to poor people, he was entering forbidden political territory. Civil rights is one thing, but attempting to close the margin between wealthy and poor Americans frightened those in power. In a moment of candor, Congressman Louis Stokes, chairperson of the U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations said Dr. King was murdered because he had begun to wake up poor people in this country, not only poor black people, but also poor white people. In expanding his movement to economic justice, King had to be killed. Indeed, American racism serves a variety of economic interest. Imagine a coalition of poor blacks and whites demanding their share of the American economic pie, only racism prevents this union. Now we understand why the
FBI's code name for Dr. King was Zorro, a political Robin Hood.
The FBI under J. Edgar Hoover had a pathological fixation with Dr. Martin Luther King. The murder of Dr. King if nothing else indicates a conspiracy took place. One of the best books on the subject I have come across is Murder in Memphis: The FBI and the Assassination of Martin Luther King, written by Mark Lane (former attorney of James Earl Ray) and Dick Gregory.
Some of the territory covered by Lane includes:
1) The FBI's many efforts to discredit King;
2) The pressures placed on James Earl Ray by his attorney, Percy Foreman, to plead guilty.
3) The lack of physical evidence connecting Ray to the assassination (the rifle has not been positively matched to the bullet, for example);
4) The story of eyewitness Grace Stephens, who said Ray wasn't the person she saw and was immediately taken by police to a mental institution;
5) The suspicious events which caused King to transfer to the Lorraine Motel;
6) The removal of police protection on the day of the assassination, including the transfer 0f two black firemen from the station across from the Lorraine; and
7) The curious experience of detective Ed Redditt, who was pulled off the protection detail two hours before the assassination under circumstances which suggested the involvement of several federal intelligence agencies.
As important as it is to understand why Dr. King was assassinated, one should never allow the memory of his assassination to usurp the memory of his life. The greatest tribute we can pay to Dr. King is to read his writings and share them with young people. And those of us who work in the interest of justice should also work to protect his legacy. Dr. King was perhaps the most dynamic figure this nation has ever produced. After winning many civil right battles, he moved on to economic, foreign policy, and human rights issues.
The lasting memory I have of Dr. King is not as a repackaged dreamer. I will remember him for the reason he was in Memphis the day he died-even as powerful forces planned his death. He was in Memphis to march with sanitation workers (trash men) to improve their pay and working conditions. This act embodies the life of Dr. King, a man who had already negotiated with American presidents, won a Nobel prize, and became a respected leader around the world, yet remained humble and compassionate to his death.
C.Stone Brown is a regular contributor to NetNoir. If you would like to share
your memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with Mr. Brown please send to
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BEYOND THE ROLLOVER: ARE WE OUT OF THE WOODS NOW? (Con't)
EXPLAINING THE UNEXPLAINABLE
Here are basic issues that remain unanswered:
1. How did the programmers all finish on
time, all over the world, when this had never before happened in any large-scale software project?
2. How did enterprises that started late, spent less, and had less experience in mainframe programming all fix their
3. How reliable are systems that did not receive any final testing?
4. How will industry-wide systems hold up, even though there was no testing of these huge systems?
5. How will the problems of undetected bad data be solved?
Let me remind you of some reports that I find hard to
put together logically. They are examples of these overall
In May, 1998, a report on Japanese banks appeared. It
said that the largest 49 banks planned to spend -- future tense -- $249 million. (WASHINGTON POST, May 20, 1998). At that time, Citicorp had spent twice this. Bank of
America had budgeted $350 million. (London SUNDAY TIMES, May 24).
A survey of 97 Japanese banks in August, 1998,
revealed that not one was compliant. Five refused to
respond. (BUSINESSTODAY.COM, Aug. 27).
In December, 1998, a report appeared that the 19
largest Japanese banks planned to spend (future) a billion
dollars on Y2K. (DAILY YOMIURI, Dec. 3).
In February, 1999, another report came out that said
that of the top 19 Japanese banks, only two were 75%
compliant. Half were 25% or less. (USA TODAY, Feb. 10). Then, on September 1, the Bank of Japan announced that 674 banks were near compliance. (ASIABIZTECH).
This does not compute. Citicorp spent $950 million,
and it took four years. Last fall, we were being asked to
believe that banks as large or larger than Citibank went
from 25% compliance to 99% compliance in six months. Then there was the matter of final testing.
So, I for one do not believe that the banking system
is out of the woods. Let's talk about final testing. Our entire economy is now in the final testing stage. A year ago -- even a week ago -- there were mainframe computers that were still able to operate in 1999 mode. If there was a glitch that shut one down in a Year 2000 test, the system would not go down. It was still 1999. Now it's 2000. What happens if a glitch shuts a system down this year? What is the fall-back position?
There were no big surprises on January 1, other than
the absence of big surprises. But in the future, say
Hamasaki, de Jager, and other mainframe programmers, there will be surprises. Maybe they won't all be big. But in
the banking world, a little surprise in a large bank can
create big problems for other banks. Y2K's simultaneity problem is now gone. It will be one institution at a time, one bank at a time. This reduces society's risk dramatically. Greenspan's 99+% figure for compliance seems to have been reached. This has to be for the entire international banking system. And yet . . . how can we explain the success of the Japanese banks? I can't do it. No one else is even asking. If 100% of the Japanese banks went from noncompliance to compliance in six months, then why did the 20 largest U.S. banks pay over $3 billion over a four-year period years to fix Y2K? I know I am the only person who is asking this question today. I ask it because the answers do not make sense.
I am not trying to play games here. I honestly do not
understand the situation. Alan Greenspan in 1997 said that
banking could not survive with a mere 99% compliance. So, did it achieve 99+% compliance? We do not know. Does it really need 99+% compliance? We do not know.
My concerns over the Millennium Bug were based on my
belief that the interdependent systems could not all be
fixed in time, tested in time, and secured from bad data in
time. I had the banks in mind, above all. Today, we are
told that banking has no problems. The markets seem to
agree. But the technical means by which the largest banks
on earth -- the Japanese banks -- achieved 100% compliance is not even discussed publicly.
VIOLATING THE LAW OF LARGE PROJECTS
I look around me and think, "How did I get fooled?"
Were the press reports on Japan wrong? Did U.S. banks use Y2K as an excuse to upgrade their computers when the old ones would have worked?
I do not believe that Y2K was a hoax. I never read
any report by any mainframe programmer who said, "This is a hoax. Nothing will happen if we don't fix this."
I read Ed Yourdon's report, written in late December,
on the history of large-scale software projects. A
significant percentage of them come in late or are
cancelled. Always. Yet this time, all over the world,
they supposedly all came in on time. All of them. How?
I am not a programmer. I have read the words of a lot
of programmers since late 1996. Not one of them indicated that this law of large projects is false. Capers Jones said it was true. So did all who commented on it. Many cited Fred Brooks' mid-1970's book
THE MYTHICAL MAN-MONTH.
Large projects run late. Always. But they seem to have finished on time this time. Am I baffled? Yes. Do I have an explanation? Not a good one. But here is the one, for now, that I believe. They did not all come in. We are looking at systems that did not get fixed. They surely did not get tested for a year, as promised in 1998. They are incomplete. Then how can they still be running at all? I have only this answer, made up on the spot to fit the anomaly: Y2K is not a fix-or-die technical problem, but a side problem that has long-term negative effects, but is more corrupting than catastrophic. The only other answer I can come up with is this: Y2K was always insignificant, but the programmers all lied in order to get the money. This is the old "consultants' hype" argument. The trouble is, across the world, not one full-time mainframe programmer ever sounded the alarm by saying, "Y2K is not a problem worth fixing."
There was money to be made, speeches to be paid well
for, and TV interview shows galore for one person to stand up and announce, "Y2K is not a problem worth fixing." There were more than 15 minutes of fame to gain by saying this, but no full-time mainframe did. No CIO did. No government official did. The systems were not tested. This, we know. Now we must sit back and wait. Will Y2K be a corrupting problem? Systems will start getting fouled up. Noise will increase. Or has Y2K been fixed? Then how is this possible? Or was it never worth fixing? If so, then why did U.S. businesses spend $90 billion to fix it? I think Y2K remains a problem. But its form has changed. It is now inside supposedly compliant systems, undetected, ready to pass bad information to decision-
makers. It is not conceivable that it was completely
fixed. Programmers who have spent their lives working on large projects say it has not been fixed, could not be
fixed. I believe them. We missed a show-stopping failure. The erosion process has begun.
EROSION AND THE U.S. STOCK MARKET
Y2K will soon fade from the media. Glitches will not
be news. On January 6, East Coast airports suffered a
major FAA computer failure. Flights were delayed for
hours. But there was not much coverage of this. Fox News ran a brief report as its headline. Nowhere in the story was there any mention of Y2K. This is the shape of things to come. Erosion is not newsworthy. It will not be covered.
It will be visible, case by case, in our daily dealings,
but these will be non-simultaneous events. This, above
all, is THE surprise of Y2K: major problems did not appear simultaneously, despite the deadline date. That fact has killed Y2K as a media topic. If Y2K is significant -- not a hoax, but not really fixed -- then it will reduce corporate efficiency. This will lower corporate earnings. The stock market will take a hit, assuming, perhaps naively, that earnings affect stock prices. They don't with Internet shares.
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