Remembering the Civil Rights and Anti-Vietnam-War movements on MLK’s holiday

Desapite what folks like Haley Barbour might claim, the Civil Rights movement and the movement against US involvement in the war in Vietnam were on the right side of history.

Let me repeat: those two movements were totally justified.

I can truthfully boast that I took part in both of those movements. Sometimes more active than at other times. Not very skillfully, and with no great distinction, and I don’t feel like recounting details here. But I can at least claim that I personally put forth a substantial effort.**

Those changes needed to happen.

Even if our side had some members (and groups) who did and said some stupid or misguided things or advocated some goofy stuff.

We had right on our side.

And we were mostly successful.

Racial prejudice, segregation, and racial oppression were real.

I won’t go into detail, but I remember “whites only” signs at bars and restaurants in MD. And schools that were de-facto segregated in both DC and MD.  I also remember horrendous poverty among both whites and blacks, both in the countryside and in DC — but it was way worse for blacks.  In those days, racists made no bones about their bigotry and their utter hatred and contempt for African-Americans and other people of color.

The United States of America had absolutely no right to be sending its troops into Southeast Asia to initiate an active war against the various popular, pro-independence, anti-colonialist and anti-imperialist movements there, and to help oppress and exploit the people of that part of the world. Let me add that the Japanese, British, Dutch, Chinese, and French empires didn’t have that right either, and it was right for the Vietnamese (and others) to resist all of them. Just like it was right for the American colonists to oppose British imperialism. And it was right for the United States to put down, by force, the southern slaveholders’ rebellion during our own American Civil War.

So when we in the international anti-war movement advocated the US getting out of Vietnam, we were right. Eventually, the American troops who were sent over there decided that the war wasn’t worth fighting, and became totally unreliable and rebellious, prompting the US brass to begin withdrawing them. I believe that was one of the most decisive factors that led to the victory of the Vietnamese revolution. Let’s remember that, too.

In hindsight today, we can argue about which groups or individuals made the greatest contribution to the struggles against racism and imperialism. And of course, history never quite turns out the way that any of the participants thought it would.




**(I’m even mentioned in a book by some right-winger complaining about how bad we were…)

Published in: on January 18, 2011 at 8:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

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