Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968. Gradually, the people of this nation have moved King from the position of being a slain leader into that of an icon, safely enshrouded in legend, admiration, a man whose very speeches are quoted, memorized even and repeated on the National Holiday that we have set in his honor.
Why then, was it still necessary in 2006 for the Green Party of California, to have a proposal to "end racisim" within the GPCA? It is something that I fail to comprehend. Yet, maybe by making a symbol out of the persona of King, we have gotten to the point that we no longer feel the need to deal with that which King spent most of his life fighting, a racism that is so deeply engrained in the human experience that eradication is a daily struggle.
My first experience of racism came as a high school student in the Flagstaff, AZ fo 1954. We had moved from a very small (< 300) town in rural Illinois to the much larger Flagstaff just as I moved from elementary scholl to high school. That was the year of Brown vs. Board of Education decision and the closing of Paul Laurence Dunbar Elementary School, It was also the end of the time in which Dunbar's achievement meant much of anything around there. The principal of Dunbar Elementary School was Wilson Riles, later to become State Superintendent of Public Instruction here in California and whose son is an influential Oakland political figure and now a member of the Green Party.
The one thing that sticks in my mind now was the fact that the closing of Dunbar School only reinforced the pecking order of racial identiy that existed in Flagstaff at that time.
It is human to try and attain that which is denied to us. For the homeless, it may be the home. For the powerless, the goal becomes power and power is defined in our society by politics. The Green Party is not now seen as a pathway to power for the powerless. King's path to power was in the streets at a time when there was no other way. Now, with merely tacit recognition by the dominant political parties, the paths to power may seem to be dead ends.
What then, would pull the powerless to the Green Party?