A dream still unfulfilled

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the March on Washington, a watershed event in the history of the United States. On Aug. 28, 1963, more than 250,000 marchers came to Washington, D.C., to hear Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders champion the cause of freedom and equality for the African American people.

In his extraordinary “I Have a Dream” speech, Dr. King noted that 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, African Americans were “still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of segregation,” still beset by poverty, still living in appalling conditions.

Forty years later, it’s important to recognize that the March and the Civil Rights Movement had a lasting impact. Great victories have been won in the fight against racism. Formal segregation has been virtually abolished. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 won the franchise for African Americans in the South. Advances have been registered in access to education and public services. More African Americans hold political office.

But Dr. King’s words about the persistence of economic inequality between Black and white still ring true today. Full equality is far from achieved. African Americans are still victims of a racist wage-gap and suffer disproportionately from unemployment. Segregation in housing persists in many cities and towns. Police brutality against African Americans and other racially oppressed people remains rampant.

Further, two tools used to advance the struggle for equality – voting rights and affirmative action – are under assault by the Bush administration and the ultra-right. Witness the mass disenfranchisement of African American voters in Florida in the 2000 elections, or the campaign against affirmative action.

As Dr. King said in his speech, “This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.” It is in the interests of all workers to step up the fight against racism. It is time to re-commit to fulfilling Dr. King’s dream.

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U.S.-UK occupation: more misery and chaos

The bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad is yet another tragedy that dramatizes the consequences of the illegal U.S.-British occupation of Iraq. The war and occupation make the world a much more dangerous place. Humanitarian efforts by international aid groups are almost impossible in the chaotic atmosphere of the occupation.

At the 100-day mark of the end of the war, the Bush administration issued a report detailing the accomplishments of the occupation in their customary sleight of hand way, substituting fact with spin. Meanwhile Iraqis and U.S. troops die every day.

The Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies has released a poll that says that that nearly half of Iraqis polled say that the violence is attributable to provocations by the U.S. armed forces or resistance to the occupation.

The Bush administration and the far right also turn a blind eye to the mounting opposition to the occupation at home, including among military families, veterans and active service people.

War, “regime change” and occupation do not bring about peace and democracy. Though many in Iraq criticize the history of the UN role in Iraq, the UN is the only international organization that can provide the umbrella for peacekeeping forces from countries that refuse to participate in the U.S.-UK occupation.

The Bush administration threw roadblocks in the way of the UN weapons inspections before the war and lied about weapons of mass destruction. Bush has rejected any meaningful UN role all the way along.

The entire region has been destabilized, giving new life to far right religious fundamentalism. The possibilities of the Iraqi people and their organizations taking charge of their future are almost nil while the U.S.-British occupation continues.

Peacekeepers, not occupiers, are needed for the Iraqi people to take charge of rebuilding their country. Call Congress and demand an investigation into why Bush administration made war on Iraq and continues the illegal occupation. Tell them “Bring the troops home” and let the UN play its rightful role.