‘We the people’
It is clear by studying recent events; coupled with patterns of history, that the democratic principle of “We the people” is constantly endangered by plutocratic mindsets, those who are often controlled by greed and quests for power.
Plutocracy, according to Webster, is one, “Government by wealthy people”; two, “A society governed by wealthy people”; or three, “A ruling class whose power is based on their wealth.”
I caution that America could succumb to this social mindset – if we do not continue to stand guard using our democratic powers of “We the people” to the fullest.
It is important to note that throughout history, struggles for equality and justice in America have continued to move from victory to setback and from setback to victory.
In fact, about every 30 to 35 years, there’s a new movement in this country. The civil rights movement was the last one. The one before that was the labor movement. Somewhere between 35 and 40 years, there’s always a new people’s movement. This time, it’s the continuation of the civil rights movement, which includes the movement on behalf of the poor.
Marched with King
At the blessed age of 88, I recall the degradation of segregation and Jim Crow. I struggled for justice through the freedom rides and alongside Dr. King. I marched on Washington on August 28, 1963 and I was there to ultimately rejoice at the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
And then we suddenly found ourselves mourning upon the assassination of my dear friend and brother, Dr. King, in 1968. He was only in Memphis for the cause of the sanitation workers, the poor, the struggling, and the oppressed who were suffering unequal wages and working conditions.
Fast forward, to see America elect and then re-elect its first Black president nearly 50 years later is reason to rejoice. And yet even President Obama’s inaugural speech called for honest labor wages that “liberate families from the brink of hardship.”
Power of the vote
This is a clear reason that we must continue to march to the polls as well as to take up our banners and plead our causes. We must win our battles in the basic old-fashioned way that it has historically worked – with non-violent direct action protests, coupled with the vote. In doing so, our movement will continue to grow.
The state of equality and justice in America is a continued struggle for the poor despite all of the strides America has made. The urgency of now is to maintain the power and sanctity of the vote, which has become the greatest power held by the poor. As Dr. King said, if we do what is right, others will follow us. This is the power of “We the people”.
The Rev. C.T. Vivian is national president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He was also a close friend, lieutenant and advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Lawyers’ Committee is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, formed in 1963.For more information, please visit www.lawyerscommittee.org.