The Moral Revolution America Needs

May 28th, 2018

By Jessicah Pierre

Guest writer for Wake Up World

Poor people of all races are shifting the national conversation on poverty and race from “right vs. left” to “right vs. wrong”.

Thousands of civil rights advocates, low-wage workers, and religious leaders kicked off massive protests on May 14, launching a 40-day campaign across the nation in an effort to revive Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign.

The Poor People’s Campaign brings together poor and marginalized people from all backgrounds, places, and religions to stand up for their lives and rights by calling for a “revolution of American values.” They’re taking aim at the evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, and ecological devastation.

King’s Dream Included Economic Equality, Not Just Racial Equality

Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t just criticize racial segregation, he called for an end to economic injustice.

King identified three evils plaguing western civilization in a speech at the National Conference on New Politics in 1967. The United States, King said, is suffering from “the sickness of racism, excessive materialism, and militarism” — a sickness that “has been lurking within our body politic from its very beginning.”

“We have deluded ourselves into believing the myth that capitalism grew and prospered out of the Protestant ethic of hard work and sacrifice,” King observed. But “the fact is capitalism was built on the exploitation and suffering of black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor — both black and white, both here and abroad.”

King foreshadowed that if we maintain our exploitative economic and political systems, then we’d get not only racial apartheid, but economic apartheid as well.

He was right. Nearly 51 years after that speech, we’re still heading in that direction.

King called for a “radical redistribution of political and economic power” in order to end those three evils. Now is the time for this necessary radical change. We must channel MLK’s revolutionary spirit into an effort to reshape America’s values to ensure justice for all — “both black and white, both here and abroad.”

Shifting the National Conversation on Poverty and Race

The first Poor People’s Campaign in 1968 brought thousands of Americans of all races together to fight for fair incomes and living standards. After King was murdered that same year, the movement slowed down. But with the fights for racial and economic equality as intertwined now as they were 50 years ago, organizers believe that the movement’s vision for America couldn’t come at a better time.

The Poor People’s campaign calls not only for a radical redistribution of political and economic power, but for a deep moral analysis of the national consciousness around poverty and racism.

This analysis calls out the common myths that perpetuate systemic inequality, including the dangerous belief that poverty is the fault of the poor. Those with more than ample wealth, the narrative goes, fully merit what they have. And others merit less.

My colleague Chuck Collins describes this narrative as the “myth of deservedness.” In his book Born on Third Base, Collins defines that myth as the belief “that people are poor because they don’t try as hard, have made mistakes, or lack wit and wisdom.” And the rich, the same story goes, have worked “harder, smarter, or more creatively.”

This “deservedness” narrative largely ignores the discrimination and other barriers that have blocked economic progress for poor people and people of color, or the public policies that have kept these barriers intact — things like housing and employment discrimination, mass incarceration, and tax policies that favor the wealthy over poor people of all colors.

A report released this year by the Institute for Policy Studies, The Souls of Poor Folks, examines how what Dr. King called the “Triplets of Evil” — systemic racism, poverty, and the war economy and militarism — as well as the interrelated problem of ecological devastation, have deepened since 1968 because of structural and systemic reasons, rather than individual failures.

The report points out that since 1968, the top 1 percent’s share of national income has nearly doubled, while the official poverty rate for all U.S. families has merely inched up and down. The 400 wealthiest Americans now own more wealth than the bottom 64 percent of the U.S. population (or 204 million people).

As the government increasingly caters to the interests of the few rich and powerful rather than being accountable to the poor and marginalized majority, the Poor People’s Campaign reminds us of the ongoing and emerging movements that are compelling a change in our national priorities.

During a time where America couldn’t be more politically and economically polarized, it’s time to change the moral narrative in this country by coming together under moral clarity. We must shift the national conversation from “right versus left” to “right versus wrong.”

The Poor People’s Campaign is currently organizing events in over 30 states. Learn more about how you can get involved at www.poorpeoplescampaign.org.

About the author:

Jessicah Pierre is the inequality media specialist at the Institute for Policy Studies.

This work distributed by OtherWords.org, reproduced under a Creative Commons license.


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  • bcainw

    We need a halt to immigration NOW. How about that as a first step?

    The way I see it our culture is basically circling the drain. Job opportunities are already plummeting due to mass legal and illegal immigration. You can see the effects of legal and illegal immigration in my hometown of Dearborn where huge amounts of foreign wealth have entered the ecosystem over the last 50 years. In 1985 my neighborhood had 0 Middle Easterners. Today I would guess the figure to be close to 80 percent. In those years basically ALL gas stations are now Middle East owned or managed. This is now extended to everything: real estate, restaurants etc. Then you have the refugees in the South and East ends of Dearborn where you now see a common sight of women in Burka’s — which is patently illegal for the same reason KKK idiots cannot go around in bed sheets. I’m sure you could find similar trends with Chinese and Indian migrant populations. Essentially the European populations are quickly being displaced.

    Next let’s consider the Dreamers and the pending Discharge petition that could make as many as 30 million illegal immigrants legal. As much as we love the kids bringing in millions of young foreign breeders is going to have a drastic effect on our demographics and quicken the displacement.

    Then you have the effects of technology which will erase 50% of all remaining jobs in the next 20 years. Then you have 50% of college grads starting out their careers with $30,000 in debt that cannot be alleviated through bankruptcy.

    Then you have the rising divorce rates that were about 15% in 1954 (when I was born) and are now over 50%. So now we are seeing the effects of all of this — no father figure, diminishing incomes, increased foreign populations, technological displacement — negatively effect our young boys and girls. Is it any surprise then that the beta mindset has increased.

    Next we have the school shootings which are further effected by drugging our kids with Ritalin, Antidepressants and Anti-psychotics. 90% of school shooting are committed by mostly young boys — on or getting off these drugs.

    To be clear I have nothing against anyone. But what has happened, over the last 50 years, is a fucking crime. And make no mistake the global architects of this insanity have an agenda: a One World Global “Future” Dystopia for all but the 1 percent.

    So to your question: how do we keep them from shooting us?

    * Stop all immigration for the next 20 years.
    * Pass the Goodlatte Bill: no more chain migration, universal E-Verify.
    * Stop the public school system from pushing or kids onto these Big Pharma drugs. They get a stipend for each child they put on this crap.
    * Figure out some form of debt forgiveness — a Jubilee — ONLY for the legal citizens.
    * Deport as many of these Dreamers as possible. Let them dream back home. But also try to foster sustainable societies when they do get back home. Getting rid of GMO farming would be a great help in creating jobs and healthy foods.

    We both know how unlikely this is. And even if implemented it would take years to reverse this trend. But as the professor makes clear, it is no surprise that these trends do effect our biochemistry — Serotonin, Dopamine, Oxytocin — and directly form the creation of dysfunctional young men and women.

    And then we have this mass gender dysfunction which is also related and also being pushed by the very same global architects. Don’t you just wish this was just a bad dream? I do.