"Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it." —Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.The annual celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday is always a good time to take stock of our struggle with racism and discrimination, and with Glenn Beck, Pat Robertson, and Rush Limbaugh slinging arrows of hatred daily at our first African-American president, it would seem we haven’t made much progress. But a closer look reveals the Beast is now parading around so ostentatiously in public that we may have a chance to cut out its heart (nonviolently, of course).When we left Atlanta thirty years ago, we did so because we were weary of living in an ugly warp where race pervaded every moment of every day. Family gatherings were always erupting in racial disagreement. Friends of different races still couldn’t get served in most downtown restaurants. A staggering 15 percent of white voters would cross over the back alleys of our society and vote for a white candidate who consorted with known Negroes (I know, I found out the hard way). The election of our first black mayor had sent tens of thousands of white homeowners scurrying for the suburbs (my mom and dad among them). Those who stayed behind had ripped the financial and educational stability from our public school system by transferring their kids to elite private institutions and segregation academies.We moved to Washington, DC, and discovered a city that, while not perfect, not only tolerated, but encouraged equal treatment of its citizens, black and white, gay, lesbian and straight, immigrants and Mayflower descendants alike. And we found in the labor movement a home, again far from perfect, where problems of race, discrimination, and bigotry were at least discussed and even occasionally addressed. We traveled the country, proselytizing not only for union members, but for like-minded souls with whom we could march, demonstrate, and agitate for better schools, a cleaner environment, health care for all, control over corporate excess, and always for equality of opportunity and freedom from discrimination.Like so many of our comrades and colleagues, we blew the corks off our bottles when Barack and Michelle and their lovely daughters walked in the front door to the White House. But then it seemed the ugly dragons that had stalked them through the election began to slither again from their caves. The “birthers,” who masked their racism in nativist in claims that Obama wasn’t American born; the religious right, steadfast in smearing our new president as a Muslim (and denigrating Muslims in the process); the “teabaggers” who conjured up a facade of patriotism to conceal their bigotry against blacks, women, immigrants, the poor and the disabled.By the end of last year, only slightly encouraged by Sonia Sotomayer’s ratification, I was flattened out in a funk, plotting out another location transition, maybe to Paris, where I fantasized reliving the days when liberal thinkers, writers, and artists of all races had allegedly been able to live out their lives in the joyful absence of oppression. Okay, Okay, could be Australia. Somewhere else.Not a religious man, I shouted hallaleulyah when Glenn, Pat and Rush saved me the grief of ripping up my roots again by blowing themselves up like helium balloons. Beck took the gas first by labeling Obama a racist and costing himself viewers, sponsors and buck. Limbaugh, who’d long been pounding the same theme, waited until the earthquake that devastated Haiti this week to puff himself beyond redemption, trumpeting the baseless charge that Obama had exposed his racist bent by taking but a day to address the crisis in Haiti, after taking six days to respond to the Panty Bomber attack. He then launched a campaign to dissuade his Dittoheads from making contributions to Haiti relief charities. Robertson, bless his seedy little heart, conjured up a “true story” about how the Haitians had brought this on themselves by “making a pact with the Devil” many years ago to get rid of their French rulers.Now the Beast is free and floating over our national values like a dirigible of discrimination, a giant, pungent bag of putrid air in a Macy’s parade. Glenn, Pat and Rush are finally up there for everyone to see and most to condemn. The lust they share is for money and attention, so we should quietly deny them both by tuning out their radio and television shows, and turning our backs to their advertisers. It’s a great opportunity to deliver an object lesson to the race-baiters, gay-bashers, and immigrant haters dwelling in our collective bosom: racism and discrimination are intolerable in a righteous nation; you play, you pay.This post originally appeared on From the Left Bank of the Potomac, Ray Abernathy's blog.
Ray Abernathy has been a political, labor and public relations consultant for more than 40 years, working exclusively for labor unions and nonprofits. His blog, From the Left Bank of the Potomac, is at www.rayabernathy.com. He is co-author of The Inside Game: Winning With Worksite Strategies and author of A Practical Press Guide for Local Labor Unions.