by Elinor Tatum
On Aug. 28, there will be two rallies and marches in Washington. One, at the Lincoln Memorial, and another at Dunbar High School. But on the occasion of the 47th anniversary of the march on Washington and the historic “I Have a Dream” speech, the people attending the rally at the Lincoln Memorial won’t be who you think. Gathering there will be none other than the right-wing hate-monger Glenn Beck and members of the Tea Party—hijacking the dream.
It is not surprising that Glenn Beck, a demagogue, and his Tea Party supporters would choose to defile the memory of the March on Washington and the dream articulated by Martin Luther King Jr. The dream stands in stark contrast to everything that they believe in: progress for our people in terms of housing, health care, employment and education. These folks talk about “taking back their country,” conveniently forgetting our country’s history, a history where so much has been built in this nation with the labor of African-American men and women, and often that labor has either been coerced or paid unfair wages.
And these same Tea Party activists have a shown their utter contempt and uncouth nature by spitting on Black leaders and hurling racial epithets at civil rights giants like Congressman John Lewis of Georgia. All too often, they have been uncivil and unruly with anger toward the idea of a Black president and Black political power in general.
Meanwhile, on the other side of town, Rev. Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network, and leaders from over 47 chapters across the country, along with progressive heads of organizations, unions and clergy, will lead a mass rally and march in Washington, D.C., to “reclaim the dream.” They will convene at the historic Dunbar High School, the first high school for Black students in Washington, D.C. The focus on the march and rally is to shed light upon issues that have diminished the dream.
So, while the real activists are at Dunbar reclaiming the dream and trying to address the issues that still remain in our communities as they did 47 years ago, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and their ignorant and bigoted Tea Partiers will continue to try to co-opt America into thinking that an all-too-homogeneous society with little or no social consciousness is the kind of country we all want to live in. Where the first thing you are judged by is the color of your skin and whether you have a full pocketbook.
Instead of supporting health care for every American, a decent education and quality housing and employment opportunities, these Tea Party dupes—and they are dupes—push for cutting off many aspects of our social safety net of which they and their families have been the beneficiaries. They are afraid that Black and Brown people may also share some of these benefits, and they see too many faces of color in positions of power and authority—which, of course, also was so much a part of the dream of the Civil Rights Movement.
For these people to gather on such an auspicious and sacred day in our community is just another ploy to try to hijack our movement and our dream. This is just one more reason to believe that the Tea Party is only about one part of America—White America—the America that wishes slavery was still the norm and that the right to bear arms actually means the right to be able to kill people who don’t look or think like them.
At the historic 1963 March on Washington, Dr. King talked about a dream in which all men are created equal and are judged by the content of their character. We know that there are those around us who still uphold this dream and will do all in their power to preserve it and make it come true. Those people will be at Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C., Aug. 28. Won’t you join them in reclaiming the dream?
Saturday, Aug. 28
11 a.m. at Dunbar High School
1301 New Jersey Avenue Northwest
(Elinor Tatum is publisher and editor-in-chief of the New York Amsterdam News.)