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April 04, 1969 - Image 4

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1969-04-04

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THE KING IS DEAD
Both white and black suffer a great loss
It is ironical how two diametrically opposed groups can
respond so similiarly to a dire event. Not Americans, but blacks
and whites grieve.
Why this joint tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. instead of
Malcolm X, for example? Possibly, because King spared blacks
and wiites from engaging in a direct conflict with each other.
Since Martin Luther King Jr. did not employ a "spit in their
eye" approach, whites found it easier to concede to black demands.
He was capable of presenting a positive position to blacks concern-
ing "their progress."
Martin Luther King Jr. made blacks and whites believe that
they could "move forward together," and one day come to regard
each other simply as Americans. He created and maintained an
illusion of harmony-and herein lies his success.
In this sense America is a leaderless nation. His death left a
vacuum, and now Americans must choose sides. No one-not any of
the Kennedy's, not Nixon, and not Abernathy-can inspire the hope
or instill the faith that is necessary for this illusion of harmony to
grow on.
I HAVE A DREAM ...
and his dream is everyone's
Unfortunately life is real; and dreams come true only in fairy
tales. King's image will be memorialized, and his name will be used
as a tool by whites who will eulogize his own nonviolent credo.
.This eulogy will be used as an absolution amidst the sins of oppres-
sion against Malcolm X, Eldridge Cleaver, Huey Newton, Bobby
Seale, H. Rap Brown, and countless others like the 100 for the New
Republic of Africa.
And when the ceremony is over, generals will go back to ABM,
universities will return to the business of war research, and the
forces of Huberlike Tories will direct their energies against Judge
Crockett.
Somehow, it is as farcical as going to church on Sunday.

A4

-LORNA CHEROT

r
i

/

ic TauDuiWj
Seventyreight years of editorial freedom
Edited and managed by students of the University of Michigan

Memphis revisited
White irreverence

420 Maynard St., Ann Arbor, Mich.

News Phone: 764-0552

1

Editorials printed in The Michigan Daily express the individual opinions of staff writers
or the editors. This must be noted in ol reprints.

fora

black

FRIDAY, APRIL 4, 1969

NIGHT EDITOR: CHRIS STEELEI

King

__
,..r.-"---"--

Reconciling
the, irreconcilable

IT IS VERY difficult for those of us who
respected Martin Luther King Jr. more
in 1961 than in 1967 to come to grips with
the continued complexities of the dicho-
tomy between King's doctrine of passive
resistance and the more radical demands
of black separatism, black economic
power and black revolution.
Tfor struggling against problems such as
the Vietnam war, the draft and academic
oppression, many white students have
only the recourse of strict, unrelenting
pacifism as a defense against the increas-
ingly militaristic character of their
society.
BUT THE BLACK man's dilemma is not
a question of making the nonviolent
white man comfortable with certain
tactics. The real problem is for him to
decide how he is going to seek his libera-
tion,. It will be a struggle waged between
the historical polarizations of national-
ism and separatism on the one hand and
integration on the other. To what extent
the black man pursues the more radical
nationalist alternative is one that he
must decide.
THE PROGRESS made by the black man
for his liberation in the past decade
has been pitifully small. It has been the
tedious result of a combination of the
force of violent change that kept the
white publ'c fearful for its lives and
prooerty and the forces of nonviolent
cooDeration which mediate compromise.
Progres hag come only when black
militants frightened the white establish-
ment enough for whites to seize upon Dr.
King's solutions as moderate and '"rea-
sonable" alternatives /to what it saw as
black fanaticism.

And thus, the solution to the black's

problem almost necessitates
lence.

some vio-

THIS LEAVES the white student in the
somewhat awkward position of want-
ing to support the militant blacks yet'
finding himself unable to join with them
in violent confrontation. And without a
Dr. King to give us a collective dream, it
seems that the horrid schism between
"support" and"join" is inevitably insur-
mountable.
And so we go on hop' g that someone
will come along again ith the mystical
ability to surmount the insurmountable.
In some incomprehensible way, Dr. King
.a ." : v ";{ { N f q s. 5 ;. r T M I; . r:: .;:a:::

By DAVID WEIR
and HOWARD KOHN
MEMPHIS
111EMPHIS is a sprawling city of
500,000 at the junction of
three Southern states-Tennessee,
Arkansas, and Mississippi.
Through the center of town
winds the muddy Mississippi Riv-
er. Running perpendicular to it is
historic Beale Street, home of the
famous "Memphis Blues".
The Beale-Hernando ghetto,
which coalesced around the Blues
district, is dirt streets and incred-
ibly ramshackle cabins sloping
down unleveled ground in the
middle of the city. Most of Mem-
phis' 227,000 blacks live in, these
shacks.
OLD PEOPLE SIT out on the
steps of houses, often perched
fifteen or twenty feet above street
level because of the uneven ter!
rain. Weeds and assorted pieces
of junk litter the yards along the
dirt roads. Little children r u n
around nearly-naked. They are
always dirty and covered by a
minimum of tattered rags.
There is very little cement. Ur-
ban poverty in Detroit means rats,
cold and concrete tenements. In
M~emphis the black people live
in ruralhslums - whether they're
inside the city or not.

FURTHERMORE, the tentative
alliance between black workers
and the students has now broken
down.
Laura Ingram, leader of t h e
Memphis State University "Lib-
eral Club" and an, organizer of
student participation in the pro-
test, last March explained, "There
is tremendous social pressure at
Memphis State against us. It is
almost a paranoid reaction by the
majority of the students against
a minority.
"The 'long-haired boys' are call-
ed 'fags', and the girls in the Club
are widely believed to sleep with
every black man in town. At most,
we can only count on a miniscule
proportion of the student body-
about 30 kids-for any kind of
protest."
Laura left Memphis in January
after failing to brganize a campus
chapter of Students for a Demo-
cratic Society.
Also ate the protests last year
was Mike Fisher-a photographer,
parttime student and veteran of
the Coast Guard, with long hair
and a mustache. "White Mem-
phis really got uptight during the
garbage worker's strike. And after
King's murder, everyone started
" buying guns."
Fisher left Memphis in June.
Back at Fisher's apartment, his
roommate, an exchange student
from Europe, explained why he
wasn't at the march. "School of-
ficials have already warned me
that I'd lose my scholarship if I
was seen at a demonstration."

r

"I want it said even if I die in
the struggle that 'He died to
make me free' '
-Mrtin Luther King Jr.
Albany, Ga., 1962
bridged the gap between the forces of
moderation and revolution, and suggested
reconciliation between peace and the al
too necessary violence.
IT IS NOT insignificant that Stokely
Carmichael, who had earlier branded Dr
King an Uncle Tom, marched at the head
of King's funeral procession. King could
reconcile the' irreconcilable, and the year
since his death has seen no other man
who could do the same.
-THE EDITORIAL DIRECTORS*

BUT MEIPHIS blacks know
the language of the police night-
stick and the fawning of a self-
righteous city government.
They know that the white man's
testament to Dr. Martin Luther
King lies somewhere in the breach
between the barrel end of a 12-
gauge shotgun and the high bench
of a grand jury.
In keeping with the mood of
America, Memphis has not re-
sponded. The attitudes which nur-
tured King's killer remain unchal-
lenged, despite the rhetoric and
polemics of "growing social aware-
ness".
Blacks have begun to date epi-
sodes as "before King" and "af-
ter King". But for most of them;

including Mrs. Lizzie Payne, the encouragements of several city
measure is only symbolic, leaders.

LARRY PAYNE, 16-year-old
high school dropout, was killed
with a shotgun by Leslie B.
Jones, 25-year-old junior grade
police officer, on March 28, 1968,
in the first day of last spring's
rioting.
Payne had stolen a Sears-Roe-
buck television set as blacks loot-
ed several downtown stores.
Jones chased after Payne and
cornered him in an alleyway.
Jones claimed that Payne "waved
the biggest butcher knife in the
world at me." Witnesses said that
Payne's hands were in the air
and that a knife was planted on
him after the shooting.
Payne's widowed mother filed a
complaint with police commis-
sioner Frank Holloman's office.
one of 40 .specific charges lodged
against the police for alleged civil
rights violations during t h e
spring riots.
Rev. James Lawson, a leader
in the sanitation workers strike,
asked for an inyestigation, citing
the testimony of 15 witnesses who
disputed Jones' story.
HOLLOMAN GAVE them an in-
vestigation. And some six weeks
later a Shelby County (Memphis)
grand jury set down a verdict of
no true bill (not enough evi-
dence).
"I just couldn't believe what
some of these witnesses were sqv-
ing." one grand juror was auoted
in the Memphis Press-Scimitar.
Holloman. a former FBI agent,

IN MANY WAYS Memphis and
Mrs. Payne point up the utter
hopelessness of the Southern black
man.
The events of a year ago did
upset Memphis' traditional rac-
ial balance between the shiny,
downtown white peoples' world
and the grimy, aged Beale-Her-
nando ghetto.
New-found militancy by black
garbage collectors introduced a
new force against the status quo.
And in a burst of energy some li-
beral/radical students forged an
alliance to protest the city's in-
trangiency.
King had preached non-vio-
lance; he came to Memphis to
prove that non-violent action
could settle the strike. But dur-
ing his march on the 28th down
Main Street in the proud a n d
prosperous business district, some
militants began breaking w i n -
dows.
Violence came after 48 days of
tension, built up by numerous ar-
rests and indiscreet use of police
power,
"I wouldn't have come if I had
known the outbreak of violence
was possible," King said after the
riot. "I would have held up the
march."
BUT THE PEOPLE were tired of
non-violence. They had been
marching almost every day since
Feb. 26. They had boycotted Mem-
phis' two newspapers and all the
downtown merchants. But the

Loeb had been elected in Oc-
tober, 1967, leaving his economic
monopoly on the town's restaur-
ant and laundromat business to
his brother. He was not a friend
of the black community. -
After the riot, Loeb called in
the Tennessee National Guard to
cordon off the Beale Street area.
A week later King lay dead on
a Memphis hotel balcony. T w o
weeks after that, Loeb agreed to
the sanitation workers' demands,
and the strike was settled. For the
first time, the blacks had\broken
Loeb's stronghold.
THE MAYOR privately blamed
this "defeat" on the pressures
brought against him because of
King's assassination. And he con4
tinued, with the help of his police
force, to ignore justice.
Evidence used against the 897
blacks arrested during the strike
and on the night of the assassina-'
tion was pressured out by police
officers. Youths were threatened
with prosecution for perjury if
they changed their testimony in
court from what they had said in
the squadroom after their arrests.
Nevertheless, blacks have con-
tinued to give the city more pro-
tests in the past year than it had
known in all its history. Other
municipal and county workers,
such as hospital and utilities em-
ployes, mostly black, have c a m-
paigned for better working con-
ditions.
Victories in these protests have
been largely token, like the Com-
mercial Anpeal's disbanding of its
33-year-old racist cartoon "Ham-

REPRESSION
password. The
Beale-Hernando
shacks.

REMAINS the
black people in
still live in

And a year later there is still
a running race between the rest-
less young blacks and the police.
Police attitudes were dramatized
in the minutes following ;King's
assassination. Jesse Jackson, black
minister from Chicago, was on
the balcony below King when the
fatal shots were fired.
Policemen converged on Jack-
son the only black in sight, forc-
ing him against the, wall despite
his shouts that the shots had come
from across the street. James Earl
Ray escaped while police searched
Jackson.
RACISM REMAINS entrenched
in Memphis. Efforts to locate
housing projects for low-income
blacks in white residential areas
have twice been sabotaged by
white civic clubs.
One group sent a petition to
City Hall, explaining that "The
sole purpose of this outrageous
federal project is a sneaky method
developed to completely integrate
our city by placing these cancer
cells in selected areas presently
owned by white persons of modest
means . . this will devaluate their
property."
Summer in Memphis, 1968;
marked an almost painful devo-

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