What is the Political Plan?
America in the late 1960s was a land of much racial progress and stagnation. On the one hand, you had Brown V Board making school segregation illegal. On the other, you only had 90% of schools in segregation over a decade later. Most white people cheered the end of racial segregation in interstate travel. Those same white people would object to their child marrying a black person. Voting rights act of 1965 ushered in new hope and opportunity. At the same time the lack of hope an opportunity lead to the Watts Riots the same year.
The Watts Riots were especially perplexing. The Voting Rights Act 1965 which most people thought was the goal of the Civil Rights Movement had just been passed. It was perplexing to most whites why there was so much unrest in the black community at this point.
King assures us the riot was not the result of the Civil Rights Movement. It was the culmination of years of frustration and stagnation that people in the urban ghettos faced. The establishment of a serious, long-term, comprehensive anti-poverty program will prevent further unrest. This program would need to be nationwide.
The Civil Rights Movement had reached a turning point. The first phase ended with the signage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. The first phase was implemented to win black people a basic level of dignity. Now the Civil Rights Act must focus on bringing forth equality. By equality, King meant an improvement of the material condition of blacks relative to whites.
By moving from decency to equality, King knew he would lose some white allies many of whom wanted to make the racial wealth gap less visible not close it. Many of these white allies thought blacks were asking for too much or a true anti-poverty program would bankrupt the country. King uses data from the Office of Economic Opportunity to show the country can comfortably afford a comprehensive anti-poverty program. Also, increasing the standard of living and wages of black Americans helps the entire country. As a practical example, King shows the salaries of whites in the South is depressed because black labor is kept at poverty wages.
The future of the Civil Rights Movement will be a coalition of poor people from all races, ethnicities, religions, and regions of the country. The fate of all ethnic groups in the country are intertwined and unless we act as a unit nothing will be accomplished. As a unit, a comprehensive anti-poverty plan can be pushed forward in Congress.
Politics to advance humanity did not stop on Americas shores. King advocated for foreign aid and opposed military intervention. America and Western Europe were bastions of revolution. Now those same powers oppose independence in the third world. The West must take their mantle as leaders in freedom.
What is the plan to build brotherhood?
King understood policy alone will not solve the race problem. Blacks and Whites had to see their fate as intertwined. Both races had to embark on a re-education program on race to build understanding. Black people had already begun this process, yet whites lag behind. It is a symbol of their sense of superiority that they feel they have so little to learn.
The book gives a brief history of how the concept of race was born as a justification for slavery. Institutions of religion, education, and government were co-opted into the white supremacist framework. Slavery made America split in its intentions. On the one hand, it was home to liberty and democracy. One the other it perpetuated a racial hierarchy for economic gain.
America has always had a considerable contention of people against racial equality. The Civil Rights Movement did not awaken or embolden the racist that were already here. Racism was endemic in both conservatives and liberals.
The conservative racism expresses itself in outright violence toward black people in the form of lynchings and church bombings. It also expresses itself in obstruction of laws meant to aid black people.
Liberal racism is expressed by those that are more interested in keeping the peace than expanding equality. Racist liberals hide their obstruction in wanting to avoid undue tension. King reminds us that all tension is not bad. Some tension is needed to expose the evils of segregation and inequality.
Many critics of the Civil Rights Movement argued the advancement of black people brought on a white backlash. King was clear in rebutting that racism has always existed in America. Securing the rights of black people is the best way to combat racism. King gives examples of how the failure to enforce anti-segregation law has embolden racists and their organizations.
What can white allies do?
The Civil Rights Movement was not only meant to change America; it was intended to alter black America. For too long, black people lost faith in themselves as agents of change in their own life. Many accepted that they were inferior to whites. The Civil Rights Movement was also about letting black people see they can change the government and build a sense of self-pride.
A few years before the book was published the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) an organization that aided King in many protests, kicked all the whites out of their organization. The reason was whites often took leadership roles because they had more education and experience. Blacks could never develop leadership skill if this continued so the leaders of SNCC kicked the white people out.
King vehemently disagreed with removing whites from Civil Rights organizations wholesale. It would be a travesty to all the whites that had died in the movement up to this point. However, he did agree that blacks need to hold leadership positions in their organizations. If not blacks will view the movement as whites coming to save them. King implored whites to leave leadership in these organizations to black people. Black people need the psychological boost as well as the practical leadership skills. These leadership skills could be applied to business or politics in the future.