TheGrio Daily

Democracy was always the answer

Episode 24

As much as we might not believe it, Democracy was always the answer. Michael Harriot breaks down exactly why the answer could have been in front of our noses this entire time.

Read full transcript below:

Michael Harriot: [00:00:05] In the November 1942 issue of Survey Graphic Magazine. A. Philip Randolph, the organizer who I think might be the most important Civil Rights figure in American history. He proposed a revolutionary, unthinkable idea. He said Black people could actually turn America into a democracy. And a few months later, after winning the NAACP’s highest honor for forcing the President of the United States to ban discrimination in the defense industry, a decade before he dispatched his allies to teach the nuances of peaceful protest to a little, young kid named Martin Luther King Jr. Three decades before, he pledged to fight laws against abortion prohibiting bylaw a social sanctioned sexual behavior between consenting adults. Randolph suggested that the fight for Black equality could become a tool for changing the world. This is what he said, “A community is democratic only when the humblest and weakest person can enjoy the highest civil, economic and social rights that the biggest and most powerful possess. And then, he said, by fighting for their rights now, American Negroes are helping to make America a moral and spiritual arsenal of democracy. The fight against the poll tax against lynch law, segregation, and Jim Crow. Their fight for economic, political and social equality thus becomes part of the global war for freedom.” See, democracy has always been the answer. And then wypipo said, Nah. [00:01:54][109.5]

Michael Harriot: [00:02:06] Welcome to theGrio Daily, the only podcast that knows that Black people had the answer all along and it was democracy. I’m Michael Harriot, and this is, The Grio Daily. The Oxford English Dictionary, the most authoritative source on the English language. Besides, you know our girl, Merriam Webster, it defines democracy as, “A government by the people. That form of government in which the sovereign power resides in the people as a whole, and is exercised either directly by them or by officers elected by them.” [00:02:43][37.5]

Michael Harriot: [00:02:44] To be fair, America has never been interested in conforming that definition. See slavery, jim Crow, segregation, voter suppression, felon disenfranchisement, the Electoral College, the Senate filibuster, and gerrymandering are just a few examples of our aversion to creating – and here’s another part of that definition: “A social state in which all have equal rights without hereditary or arbitrary differences of rank or privilege.” The crusade for equality has been historically ignored as an antidote for America’s problems. So all this stuff Black people been doing – see wypipo have been ignoring it because they knew that it could solve all of these inequality issues. And people see mass shootings, abortion, LGBTQIA rights and wealth inequality as separate issues. But we could easily solve all of them, if we realized that Black people been doing this all the time. After all, what is Black liberation, if not a century old fight for democracy? Take the women lamenting the Supreme Court decision to put white legislatures in charge of women’s reproductive rights, for example right? See, most wypipo believe abortion should be legal in most cases, that’s poll data, it shows that. And a majority of white Americans, including white women, also voted for anti-choice, Republican candidates in the last three national elections. So, democracy is the answer to reproductive rights, but nobody don’t want to get on board. Why? Because according to Pew Research, the vast majority of Americans support common sense gun control laws, background checks and band capacity – bans on high capacity magazines. But, nobody don’t want to get on board with that, right? Why? Because democracy is the answer for gun control. Or, when you talk about LGBTQIA legislation, right? Right? So, they’ve been passed all across the country, right? A march poll by the Public Religion Research Institute shows: [00:04:55][131.1]

[00:04:55] “79% of Americans support local laws that, ‘Protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people against discrimination.'” Democracy is the answer, but the only thing that’s stopping it, is that wypipo don’t want to get on board. See the white women who fight for reproductive rights while voting for anti-choice candidates see black-led grassroots groups as separate entities from the reproductive rights movement. Take Latosha Brown, for instance, and Black Voters Matter. They say on their website that their work is to, “Expand voting rights access,” and to, “Access the ballot that intersects with race, gender, economic and other aspects of equity.” So, can anybody explain to me why Bernie Sanders supporters who claim any income inequality was their top issue, wasn’t involved with the fight for reparations? Or, why do people who occupied Wall Street were too busy to show up at Reverend William Barber’s Poor People’s March? Or, when a police officer shoots a black person in the face, where are all the people who poured into the streets to demonstrate against gun violence, when they marched for our lives, does “our” mean white? And I’m not just, like, trying to put this all on wypipo. I’m actually confused about the strategy. See, Black organizations have been fighting for all of these issues for years under the banner of black liberation and democracy. They already created infrastructures, they have political bases, and all of those could benefit those stratified, majority white movements. Black voters are more likely to support gun control, abortion, LBGTQ rights, and why wouldn’t someone jump at the opportunity to take advantage of that? Remember that part I said about, “these are black-led organizations?” Well, that’s why. Because see, they can’t subvert themselves to Black leadership because, it’s really no surprise, right? The lynching epidemic of the Red Summer was caused, in part, by white animosity against Black veterans who returned from fighting, and wypipo said, “Oh, they think they uppity!” Like, “We got to take em’ down a peg.” The white women’s suffrage expelled Black women from their suffrage movement. [00:07:19][143.9]

Michael Harriot: [00:07:20] The movement at birth, the Civil Rights movement was inspired, in part, by Black World War II veterans returning home to inequality, discrimination and terrorism at the hands of the people who called themselves, “the greatest generation.” See, they could never subject themselves to Black leadership, and that’s part of the reason why Obama is so hated. See there has never been a millisecond of American history where white lives didn’t matter. So anyone who truly believed that All Lives Matter would support the movement for Black Lives, which, by proxy means they would also support common sense gun control, ending wealth inequality and eliminating voter suppression. But, of course, gerrymandering is a form of voter suppression. So ending that would create a more representative judiciary. Furthermore, a more representative judiciary – that would preserve a woman’s right to eliminate/ terminate pregnancy and protect the right to vote, which, by proxy would also create more diverse legislatures that are less likely to draw the gerrymandered voting districts that result in voter suppression. See how it works? For some reason, white America, who believe in these individual issues and, who, out of their mouths, say that they support black movements – can’t get behind them. Instead, they want to create a women’s reproductive rights movement over here and a LGBTQIA rights movement over here, and a separate gun rights issue over here, when Black people have already been working under the combined umbrella toward all of these issues. Remember, right, when it comes to that thing I was talking about earlier, about Martin Luther King learning how to enact peaceful resistance? Well, the person who taught him that was a member of the LGBTQIA community. And for some reason, those Black civil rights workers and those Black civil rights demonstrators, they didn’t kick him out. [00:09:35][134.8]

Michael Harriot: [00:09:35] They embraced all of the people who were trying to build a democracy for America, even when it was in churches – even when it was in synagogues. Black people have been working under one umbrella, under one big tent. But, for wypipo, it was too much. See, on August 28, 1963, after 20 years of planning, A. Philip Randolph, that guy we talked about earlier – his event became a reality. After 40 years of planning and 20 years of him handing out that plan. He watched the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom take place in Washington, D.C. He gave the opening remarks to a crowd of 250,000 attendees. And, that’s also where Martin Luther King gave his I Have a Dream speech, that wypipo liked the quote so much. Even though they quote that speech, right? And, even though they love to talk about little Black girls and little white boys holding hands. Even though, they love to talk about people judging each other, not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. According to pollsters at Gallup, when they surveyed 1558 people on their feelings about the March on Washington, at that time, 60% of wypipo said they had an unfavorable opinion. Three in four participants of the March on Washington, were Black. wypipo did not show up. So when they quote that speech, it’s because they saw it on TV. It’s because they read about it in history books. It is not because wypipo were part of the most significant Civil Rights event of that era. But, what those Black people were fighting for, was not just Black people’s rights, that’s why they could have called it, easily, the Black Rights Movement. [00:11:40][124.9]

Michael Harriot: [00:11:41] They weren’t just fighting for the end of segregation or the end of Jim Crow, they were fighting for civil rights, for every human being to treat each other with civility and respect. And as a name for that, I can’t quite think of it, but, maybe that speech will help us. Because what King said was, “And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us, upon demand, the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.” And then he said, “Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy.” It was right there this whole time. [00:12:40][59.1]

Michael Harriot: [00:12:42] Thank you for listening to another episode of The Grio Daily. Remember to download The Grio app. Remember to subscribe on your favorite platform, and remember to tell a friend about us. And as always, we’re going to leave you with another Black saying, “Everybody can, but not everybody will.” [00:12:42]