About 100,000 people are expected to converge on Washington DC on August 24 for the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.
Then, on August 28, 50 years to the day of Martin Luther King's iconic I Had a Dream speech, President Obama will stand where King did on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and give his own address.
Many hailed the election of the first African American as the realization of King's vision.
Some were proclaiming a post-racial America. Even the Supreme Court - the Republican Majority, that is - used this argument as a basis for overturning the Voting Rights Act along with affirmative action. His election, they said, proved that localities don't try to game the system to suppress the vote of minorities.
But the nature and level of disrespect hurled at this President shows that bigotry and racism are far from ended. If anything, Obama's presidency has fanned flames.
And instead of a celebration of progress. this gathering is a protest of the systematic dismantling of so much of the progress made since the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act were implemented.
They convene with the memory of the Trayvon Martin injustice still raw.
They rally against Stand Your Ground laws, racial profiling, gun violence, unemployment and unlivable wages that keep people bound in chains of poverty, attacks on women’s rights and workers’ rights, tax, trade, education and housing policies designed to block access to the American Dream. They rally for economic justice, environmental justice, legal justice.
It is unlikely they will get the 250,000 people who converged on Washington, D.C 50 years ago - the largest nonviolent protest in history, at the time. There are vast swaths of society who see a plethora of Blacks in baseball but don't see the suffering and struggle of ordinary families.
Because in some respects, this is less about race - though a disproportionate number of those who suffer injustice and joblessness are racial minorities and the legacy of racism and bigotry still has impact through housing and public education.
Racism always was about economic power and inequality. How do you justify enslaving a people, having the power of life and death over them, and reducing human beings to property without a "moral" underpinning? Without dehumanizing individuals.
Indeed, how is it possible that the churches of the South did not take up the cause for abolition leading up to the Civil War, and for the next century, served to bolster and perpetuate Jim Crow laws?
These days, the quest for Jobs & Justice may be less specifically about racism, but it is still about stopping the return to a society of Masters and Serfs, where privilege equals power and that power means the ability to perpetuate that cycle.
America may be more accepting of black sports heroes but the disdain and disrespect shown this President (the rodeo clown incident being only the most recent example) as well as a legal system and prison system that offer daily demonstrations of unequal justice, with Trayvon Martin and Marissa Alexander among the most notable - are clear reminders of systemic bigotry and racism.
"Too often what is legal is not moral," Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson. Grace Baptist Church, Mount Vernon, declared at the Justice for Trayvon rally in Manhattan in July. "What is legal reinforces the status quo" he said pointing to slavery, the Supreme Court's Dred Scott ruling which legalized the capture and return of escaped slaves.
1963 was not a randomly chosen date for the March on Washington. It marked a century since the Emancipation Proclamation, a century during which Jim Crow laws kept the former slaves in a different, but equal kind of bondage.
A century after the Emancipation Proclamation, it was legal to deny service to blacks at the lunch counter, to keep them at the back of the bus, and to keep them out of the school house and colleges and hospitals. It was legal to bar blacks from jobs, pay them a fraction in wages It was illegal for whites and blacks to marry.
"They used to tell King that segregation was better than slavery. You don't know the humiliation of being watched when you are in a department store, of being guilty until proven innocent, being judged by the color of one's skin instead of his character, and no one said it better than the President of the United States, Barack Obama," Richardson said.
And what a reaction the President received when he recalled his own experience of walking down the street and hearing the sound of car locks. As if to say, "How dare he?"
How horrified were the bigots who masquerade as "pundits" on Fox fake News, with the parallels between the torture and brutal murder of 14 year old Emmett Till for whistling at a white woman in 1963, and the murder of Trayvon Martin just for walking home in the dark wearing a hoodie. The comparison was that in both cases the murderer was set free by the jury, as if the lives of those teenage boys did not count for anything.
Among the speakers on August 24, Congressman John Lewis, the only one of the six leaders of the March on Washington of 1963 who is still alive. Congressman Lewis knows better than anyone what the Voting Rights Act, passed in 1965, meant. He knows better than anyone what it was like when government, the legal system, law enforcement and even the Supreme Court enforce a corrupt and brutal system. He was spit upon by Tea Party protestors during the debate over Obamacare.
Since the beginning of the Civil War Sesquicentennial in 2011 I've been traveling on a Civil War Heritage Trail which has brought me through Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia and some unexpected places wearing the scars of America's most lethal war, which killed 750,000 people, fully 2% of the population.
What has astonished me is the lack of any remorse on the part of Southerners, even and especially today. Too many are still fighting for "The Noble Cause" in what they call "The War of Northern Aggression."
Noble Cause? Northern Aggression? It was the South who fired first, at Fort Sumter.
What is most horrifying is that it is as if the South won the War.
These bigots, these White Supremacists, these Constitutional "Originalists" who bemoan the "loss of my country" and whine "I want my country back," and really mean they want to go back to a country where White Males Ruled Supreme, have actually managed to claw back decades of progress, a shocking reminder of how tenuous it all is.
They equate their mission to overturn Obamacare - to nullify federal law - with preserving their States Rights to own slaves.
This is not hyperbole.
Trace Adkins, the celebrated country singer, was on the program in Nashville for the kick-off of the Tennessee's Civil War Sesquicentennial in 2011.
"Over generations, Southern children because of that terrible slave issue have been made to feel apologetic, if not guilty or ashamed because of heritage. I hope my children don’t feel that way," he said to applause.
"Everybody knows the majority of soldiers didn’t own slaves. My great great grandfather didn’t and had no aspirations. I teach my children that their great-great grandfather was a brave and courageous soldier who served with honor."
He is upset because there used to be a Confederate Veterans Day but then it became politically incorrect.
"Slavery, secession, taxes and tariffs were major issues, but they are all sub-categories to main issue: States Rights," he said. That's why his great great grandfather went to war.
"I don’t think that issue necessarily was settled – if it was, we wouldn’t still be arguing today." he said, getting an "Amen" from someone in the audience.
Referring to his pony tail, he said, "People ask, 'Why is your hair so long?' Well, toward the end of the war, when the outcome was obvious, a group of dedicated soldiers said the issue was not settled and until it was settled, they wouldn't cut their hair. And neither will I.”
Health care, if you could imagine it, is the new slavery.
But health care is more like slavery than people might recognize: it is the singular issue of equality, of life and death, of economic security. The idea that someone can have the best health care for their family because of their means, when someone else will suffer and die or watch their child suffer, should be abhorrent. The lack of access to health care causes tens of thousands of deaths each year.
"Now, I think the really interesting question is why it is that my friends in the other party have made the idea of preventing these people from getting health care their holy grail, their number-one priority," President Obama said in a reply to Fox News' Ed Henry's "gotcha" question at the Aug. 9 press conference. "The one unifying principle in the Republican Party at the moment is making sure that 30 million people don't have health care and, presumably, repealing all those benefits I just mentioned -- kids staying on their parents' plan; seniors getting discounts on their prescription drugs; I guess a return to lifetime limits on insurance; people with preexisting conditions continuing to be blocked from being able to get health insurance.
"That's hard to understand as an agenda that is going to strengthen our middle class. At least they used to say, well, we're going to replace it with something better. There’s not even a pretense now that they're going to replace it with something better."
States rights have nothing to do with it, since states have the right to come up with their own plan. What this is about is making sure there is a perpetuation of haves and have nots, of people who are secure and people whose fate is in someone else's hands.
In every step, though, these Republicans have blocked every measure that would have increased jobs (what do you mean you want to rebuild failing bridges?) and justice (who cares that 90% of Americans want protections against gun violence). They have blocked the means for conscientious homeowners to take advantage of low interest rates to refinance; blocked the transportation bill; even stripped out food stamps from the multibillion-dollar subsidy to agribusiness in the Farm Bill.
"This wasn't intended as legislation. It was a declaration of identity. This is who they are," stated Robert L. Borosage, Co-Director, Campaign for America's Future. "We knew Republicans fight to block any tax hikes for millionaires. We knew they want to privatize Social Security. Now we know they are ready to take food from the mouths of hungry people. 47 million Americans receive food stamps. Nearly half are children under 18; nearly 10% are impoverished seniors. Republicans said they were 'extraneous' to the farm bill. But they did nothing to protect those they kicked off the bus."
And by the way, more than half the people who rely on food stamps are white.
Sequestration has proved a wonderful weapon to wound those who are most vulnerable, most need of a hand up out of poverty, and continue this agenda. It is no wonder that Republicans are so delighted with the results, clearly outweighing the dreaded cuts to defense. It has caused 57,000 children to be kicked out of Head Start - bad for the kids, bad for taxpayers who will have to spend money for remediation because they enter school already behind, and bad for the 18,000 staff members who are being laid off or reduced pay. Sequester has decimated Meals on Wheels, caused cuts to teachers and public workers, even cut into research programs that would help America continue to be a leading innovator and public defenders are being laid off. All of these are intended to derail upward mobility and institutionalize economic injustice.
Immigration reform? Impossible. You can't have people coming out of the shadows and obtaining some kind of legal status, so that they can get fair wages and seek help from law enforcement when they are harmed.
They don't need Jim Crow - at least the label. Instead, they have figured out how to disenfranchise minorities, seniors, students and young adults, how to rig the "system" for their own political and economic advantage.
Here's another example of injustice:
Sarah Stillman, writing in the New Yorker, describes a practice of civil forfeiture - practiced in Texas and Pennsylvania, where Americans who haven't been charged with wrongdoing can be stripped of their cash, cars and even their homes. this apparent violation of the Fourth Amendment has not stirred the Tea Party - why? because the funds go directly to the police department, keeping taxes low. And who are typically the ones victimized? Minorities and lower income people who can't fight back.
They have found a new way to re-establish the Master/Serf imbalance:
Voter Suppression: purging voter rolls, sending too few voting machines to certain districts then prohibiting polls to stay open to accommodate the crowds (so that working people lose a day's pay to exercise their right to vote; what do you bet employers start threatening to fire people who don't show up to work on Election day?), requiring Voter IDs that many city-dwellers, seniors and students don't have (while prohibiting the use of College IDs but allowing Gun Permits), shortening early voting and Sunday voting, and of course, that old standby, gerrymandering. What's next: where they expect to gain advantage they will allocate electoral votes proportionately, instead of "winner take all" if that will help the Republican win.
Economic Justice. There is no question that tax policy and trade policy have damaged middle class Americans, and caused millions to fall into poverty.
What better evidence of economic injustice does anyone need that to see that corporate profits are at record highs, Wall Street has hit record highs, but hiring has lagged, and because of that, wages have actually declined in real terms - that is unless you are a CEO. CEOs have seen their annual increases grow significantly; whereas during Reagan, a CEO earned something like 30 times the average wages of his workers, now that ratio is 250 times.
Something is very wrong when six Walton families have a combined wealth equal to 42 percent of the "lower" American families, but Walmart workers can't earn a living wage.
Something is very wrong when the report that filings for unemployment hit a low since the beginning of the Great Recession causes Wall Street sell off. You would think that would be good news But these guys are only worried at the Federal Reserve will cease its bond purchases that is keeping interest rates low, bolstering the market.
They will starve certain areas of resources. Look what is happening in Philadelphia, where the school district is so broke, it almost couldn't open on time without floating a $50 million bond.
And in the case of Detroit, you can see so clearly how those in power stick it to working people. Detroit's problems are the result of tax policy and trade policy - the collapse of US manufacturing because of tax and trade policies, and white flight to the suburbs causing the floor to fall out from the tax base, and yet the city still has to provide services for businesses and workers in Detroit. The state could have rectified the situation by adjusting its state aid formula, but of course, the Republican Governor who sees this as a delectable opportunity to disenfranchise blacks and destroy public unions and retirees has no interest in actually helping Detroit.
Instead, of fairly allocating resources, these leaders have used the fiscal crisis to go after public workers and retirees, clawing back their wages, pensions and benefits, while keeping the investors (the bondholders) whole - just as they did in the Housing crisis. "Bankers got bailed out, we got sold out."
People who don't have a nickel for food, who are in jeopardy of losing their homes, don't make campaign contributions.
A fair tax code? Are you kidding? Even though that is exactly what Romney was preaching during his campaign, Republicans are refusing to eliminate corporate tax loopholes in exchange for a lower rate, they are refusing to eliminate the incentives for companies to offshore jobs and profits.
Environmental justice. Look at the destruction being caused communities where fracking has been allowed - profiting a few but harming the rest.
You don't see fracking anywhere near Dick Cheney's home in Wyoming. But Mary Russell, a MoveOn member in Carbondale, Colorado, reports how the rights of the many to clean air and water, and even access to public lands, is being sold out for the benefit of a few.
"My property value has plummeted since the doubling of oil and gas development around my home in the past ten years. I've been diagnosed with asthma since moving into my home five years ago.
"I've seen the public lands I used to swim, bike, hike, and backcountry ski closed to me. I used to lead my students through the back roads and trails of Grand Mesa, on skis, bikes, and on foot. No longer can I hike or bike due to gates erected to keep me out of the public lands my taxes support. I don't swim in the North Fork of the Gunnison for fear of water contamination from hydraulic fracturing in areas whose creeks feed this river."
Look at the cost of denying climate change and shifting resources to clean, renewable fuels. They don't care.
They don't care about prosperity that would "lift all boats". They like the inequality and the injustice just fine.
This is why there is renewed urgency to the March on Washington.
In, "The Unfinished March, An Overview,", Algernon Austin of the Economic Policy Institute, writes, "Yes, the  march galvanized the nation, and the civil rights struggle it heralded was among the most inspiring and effective social movements in American—if not world—history. Today, we can celebrate blacks’ equal access to public accommodations, a law against racial discrimination in employment, and black voting rights because of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
"But the hard economic goals of the march, critical to transforming the life opportunities of African Americans, were not fully achieved. The organizers of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom also demanded decent housing, adequate and integrated education, a federal jobs program for full employment, and a national minimum wage of over $13 an hour in today’s dollars."
He points to nine other speeches that day, besides King's "I Have a Dream," including the speech by A. Philip Randolph , president of the Negro American Labor Council:
"We have no future in a society in which 6 million black and white people are unemployed and millions more live in poverty. Nor is the goal of our civil rights revolution merely the passage of civil rights legislation. Yes, we want all public accommodations open to all citizens, but those accommodations will mean little to those who cannot afford to use them. Yes, we want a Fair Employment Practice Act, but what good will it do if profit-geared automation destroys the jobs of millions of workers black and white?"
You only have to change some of the numbers, but the statement is as true today as it was then.
What an indictment on this 50th anniversary, that people have to come together to again demand Jobs and Justice, rather than celebrating.
Karen Rubin, Long Island Populist Examiner
© 2013 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com or email email@example.com. 'Like' us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures.