A 'million' black men march on the capital as a nation examines its racial conscience
Tuesday 17 October 1995
This is the day the Lord has made, but there are still two Americas, one black, one white, separate and unequal. Down there is the Washington Monument, 555 feet tall. Add a one to the 555, and you get 1555, the year the first slaves landed at Jamestown . . . the slaves used to be brought in chains on this mall, to be sold up and down the Eastern Seaboard . . .The official seal of our country, E Pluribus Unum, was never designed to reflect our presence. Native Americans and blacks were to be burden- bearers for the whites . . . Whether you like it or not, God brought the idea through me, and he didn't bring it through me because my heart was dark with hatred and anti-Semitism. If my heart were that dark, how come the message is so bright ? You can't separate Newton from Newton's law, Einstein from Relativity . . . Moses from the Tora, Jesus from the New Testament, Mohamed from the Koran. Now you say, "You Farrakhan ain't Moses. You have a defect in your character." That certainly may be so. But I never heard Solomon separated from the building of the temple because he had 1,000 concubines . . . A white slave owner in 1712 promised what he called a foolproof method of controlling black slaves for at least 300 years. "Set old black males against young black males, light-skinned against dark-skinned." Many of us still are under the control mechanisms of former slave masters . . . I want to close with a message to the President. There is a great divide. But the real evil in America is not white flesh or black flesh. The real evil is the idea which undergirds the Western world. That idea is called White supremacy . . . White supremacy must die, if humanity is to live.
President Bill Clinton 16 October 1995
Some of those involved with the march do have a history that is far from its message of atonement and reconciliation ... one million men do not make right one man's message of malice and division. No good house was ever built on a bad foundation, nothing good ever came of hate.
Today we face a choice. One way leads to further hate and bitterness, the other path of courage and wisdom leads to unity and reconciliation ... African Americans have lived too long with a justice system that continues to be in many cases less than just.... more African American men are in our correction system than in our colleges ... nearly one in three young black men are in trouble with the law. I'd like every white person here to think how he or she would feel if one in three white men were in similar circumstances. It's fashionable to talk of blacks as some kind of protected class getting more than their fair share of jobs. That is not true. The truth is that blacks make about 60 per cent of what white people do. But blacks must understand and acknowledge roots of white fear. There is a legitimate fear of violence, and violence for white people too often has a black face.
The great potential for this march today, beyond its importance for blacks, is that whites will see a larger truth: that blacks share their goals, and their old-fashioned American values ... white racism may be the black people's burden but it's the white people's problem. We must clean our house. To black citizens I say, I honour your presence in Washington and call on you to build on this. In your house too, racism must be cleaned up. Too many seek to use division for their own purpose. I say, no more; we must be one.
Martin Luther King 28 August 1963
There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America ... until the bright day of Justice emerges ...But the marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the black community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people ... I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed, `We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal.' I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will be judged not by the colour of their skin, but the content of their character.
I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama ... will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers ...
When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: `Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.'
Born black in the USA
Almost half of black children - 46 per cent - live in poverty (compared with 17 per cent of white children).
Unemployment among blacks last month stood at 11.3 per cent; among whites, 4.8 per cent.
Nearly 65 per cent of black families are looked after by a single parent.
Blacks form 12 per cent of the American population. They provide13 per cent of the nation's drug users. BUT blacks form 35 per cent of those arrested on drug charges; 55 per cent of those convicted of drug crimes; and 74 per cent of those imprisoned for drugs offences.
At the end of last year, one in three black men in their 20s was either in prison, on parole or on probation. The equivalent figure for white men was one in 16.
The median weekly earnings of blacks is $380. The figure for whites is $491. The gap has been much reduced in the last 30 years. BUT these figures apply to wage-earners. The gap between the median net worth of all whites and all blacks remains staggering. In 1993, the median white household was worth $45,740; the median black household $4,418.
Educationally, the picture is improving rapidly. The high school drop- out rate among blacks - 5 per cent - is similar to that for white teenagers. In the last 15 years, the percentage of blacks aged 25 and over who completed high school rose from 51 per cent to 73 per cent. The percentage of blacks with first degrees rose from 8 per cent to 13 per cent.
When whites and blacks with equal credit and job qualifications apply for mortgages, blacks are rejected 60 per cent more than whites.
More than 60 per cent of the players in the National Football League are black; two out of 30 head coaches in the NFL - about 6 per cent - are black.
Over half the murders in America - 56 per cent - are committed by blacks. But over half the murder victims - 51 per cent - are also black. Blacks mostly kill blacks and whites mostly kill whites.
Of the nearly 3,000 people on death row in America, 40 per cent are black. In other words, the proportion of blacks on death row is three times larger than in the nation as a whole.
The most common cause of death among black men aged between 15 and 25 is homicide.
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