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ML King’s Lesson on how needed structural change is slowed by cities

By Alan Hirsch  

This year's Davis city-sponsored King celebration is on Peace Activism. It will take place on Monday at 10 am at the Veterans Memorial Center.

This 53-second viral YouTube video of Stokely Carmichael/Kwame Ture discussing peace and justice provides the context in which King was working.

I believe local cities, especially progressive  Davis can best honor King by learning from him about how change happens- what it feels like when you are in the middle of the story.  We can learn by analogy what it looks like when a local community is grappling with deep structural change—and how local civic leaders respond when they recognize the need for a change in the traditional way of doing things.

King’s goal in 1960’s was to reform the structural evil of Jim Crow, deeply ingrained in the culture of Southern cities.

Today, we are in the middle of a story of how to deal with the climate crisis -  a  society dependent on burning fossil fuels creating a crisis for long-term survival.

For Dr. King the obstacle to change was not Washington but local government. The Supreme Court had just equipped local governments with tools through rulings like Brown vs. Board of Education. The Eisenhower and Kennedy Administrations were sympathetic, yet in the 1960s South, it was local  businesses  & governments that resisted. They sought to first maintain peace, of the status quo, fearing that change would be disruptive, leading to divisiveness and disorder.

Similarly, in addressing climate change, the State of California has established strong goals and policies. It has provided local governments with tools under the environmental impact process to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. 

Local leaders are aware of what is at stake for climate.. During a discussion of the I-80 freeway widening January 9th Davis Councilmember Will Arnold shared what he learned when he was a Caltrans employee.  He read from Caltrans HQ policy states freeway widening does not fix congestion for long  and also undermines the state climate change plan.... local caltrans district need to stop advancing these projects.  Arnold summed it up dramatically:
   "We know this," widening freeways is "insanity."

We have forgotten that King's famous "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" was not addressed to segregationists nor the KKK, but rather to moderates, seven pastors, and one liberal rabbi in town who wanted to end segregation—but were gradualists.

These moderate Southern integrationists published a letter in the newspaper urging the Black community to ignore King when he came to Birmingham. Their letter was titled "Law, Order, and Common Sense." The Birmingham Black newspaper and most Black religious leaders were also wary of King’s confrontational approach to the status quo to speed change- even though they lived the reality the Jim Crow status quo was wrong.

Similarly, our local civic leaders all believe in climate change but are challenged to act with the urgency required of a crisis.  For the I-80 widening project  they are afraid of contradicting the powerful local Caltrans District 3—an institution whose existence is defined by a tradition of widening freeways, not building transit. Afraid of turning down federal down payment money for project that continues the “insanity”.

King's 1963 famous “Letter” called out the moderates for telling the Black man, "We believe in equality, just not yet."

In the end the Davis City Council took a similar “not yet” stance despite Will Arnold's plea. Great statements of principle were made on climate change and agreeing that freeway widening won’t work by four of the five members of the council, but in the end, they failed to make a council statement advocating investing in transit and against local Caltrans freeway plans.  Two abstentions killed it: "I don't know enough yet," said one.  The other has said she prioritizes a good relationship with Caltrans.

The result is the continuation of the status quo tradition—to keep the peace and avoid conflict.

Sign The Petition to make is clear we are in a climate crisis and need to make the Structural Changes

End what Mayor Will Arnold  called “the definition of insanity” of a transportation system that has only freeways- but no quality public transit.

Comments

Ron O

Similarly, our local civic leaders all believe in climate change but are challenged to act with the urgency required of a crisis.

If they believed in that, they wouldn't have supported DISC. (I believe that applies for you as well, Alan H.)

Planting a few trees on the site makes no difference.

Ron O

By the way, I doubt that MLK would have been very happy with the "Davis-connected buyer's program", at WDAAC.

The fact that this proposal was approved probably tells you all you need to know about Davis (at large). Something about a "dark underbelly"? Either that, or "old-people housing" is popular.

Ron O

I was curious as to what MLK thought of homosexuality, and found this:

The type of feeling that you have toward boys is probably not an innate tendency, but something that has been culturally acquired. Your reasons for adopting this habit have now been consciously suppressed or unconsciously repressed. Therefore, it is necessary to deal with this problem by getting back to some of the experiences and circumstances that lead to the habit. In order to do this I would suggest that you see a good psychiatrist who can assist you in bringing to the forefront of conscience all of those experiences and circumstances that lead to the habit. You are already on the right road toward a solution, since you honestly recognize the problem and have a desire to solve it.

https://dgardner.substack.com/p/should-we-cancel-martin-luther-king?utm_source=profile&utm_medium=reader2

One can only imagine what he might have to say about transgenderism, if he was alive today.

K Smith

"I was curious as to what MLK thought of homosexuality..."

What he thought in 1958? Give me a break. You are basing what you think he might think about transgenderism now based on what he thought in *1958* about homosexuality (when most people back then thought it was "wrong" and "unnatural" but since have overwhelmingly evolved in their views?)

People in 1958 also thought there were raving "commies" behind every bush, but what they thought and believed didn't make it true on any level.

And you engage in this bit of "what if" speculation for what reason? To troll and to have a gratuitous go at transgendered humans. For no other reason, it would seem.

Show us on the doll, Ron, where a transgendered human being hurt you.

What a blog. Bashing transgendered people and whining about David Greenwald.

Pathetic.

Roberta L. Millstein

K Smith: Comments reflect the views of the commenter only -- same goes for authored articles. Ron O has no association with this blog.

I agree with you that it is extremely like that MLK would have dramatically changed his views on homosexuality and trans* people if he were still alive today. (He would have turned 95 today).

K Smith

"Comments reflect the views of the commenter only -- same goes for authored articles. Ron O has no association with this blog."

While this may be true on paper, when pretty much all you have is the same core group of middle aged or senior men whining about another blog, carrying on about trans people, and carrying water for the Moms for Liberty, that is going to be the takeaway from readers that that's what your blog is about.

And that's likely why overwhelmingly only these same 4 or 5 middle aged or senior men circle jerk each other on the regular in the comments here.

They really are like the Pick a Little ladies from "The Music Man." More gossip from this lot than I remember as a middle schooler.

Pick a little talk a little, cheep cheep cheep! (Talk a lot, pick a little more).

Roberta L. Millstein

It is a common phenomenon on a blog that the same group of folks comment so often and so unpleasantly that other commenters are driven away. That is exactly what has happened to the Vanguard, and I have the documented personal attacks and doxing that were made against me on that site, which I am willing to share to anyone who asks, along with David Greenwald's empty and failed promises to do something about it. (Note that these personal attacks were made against me for having the temerity to have an opinion on a project in front of the City -- Nishi, if I recall correctly).

I don't like it either but there are not a lot of good alternatives. Readers can decide for themselves if it is worth their time to come here.

Ron O

Ron O has no association with this blog.

Roberta: Are you claiming that you have an "association" with this blog in some special manner? In what way, other than to act as moderator?

Ron O

And that's likely why overwhelmingly only these same 4 or 5 middle aged or senior men circle jerk each other on the regular in the comments here.

What a sick, hateful, ageist and sexist comment.

K Smith

"That is exactly what has happened to the Vanguard, and I have the documented personal attacks and doxing that were made against me on that site"

I am sincerely sorry that happened to you. :(

Roberta L. Millstein

Roberta: Are you claiming that you have an "association" with this blog in some special manner? In what way, other than to act as moderator?

Let's see. I was one of the two people who decided to go forward with the blog, the other being Colin Walsh. I created the Typepad account, and I am technically the "owner." I pay the bills to Typepad as well as the associated emails that go out for new posts. So, that is my "association."

Roberta L. Millstein

I am sincerely sorry that happened to you. :(

Thank you. It's why I no longer comment on that site, why I no longer donate to the Vanguard (yes, I used to do that), and why I sought to create a blog where posts would be moderated ahead of time. Not everyone likes the moderation, but at least insults don't hang around until someone maybe -- or maybe not -- gets around to deleting them.

K Smith

"What a sick, hateful, ageist and sexist comment."

Nope. Correctly labeling a thing is no more "hateful, ageist and sexist" than correctly labeling my dog as a canine.

Boo hoo fucking hoo, guy.

Ron O

So, I'll repeat my comment below.

Kendra: And that's likely why overwhelmingly only these same 4 or 5 middle aged or senior men circle jerk each other on the regular in the comments here.

Yeah, I'd definitely call that a sick, hateful, ageist and sexist comment. I'd be embarrassed to say such a thing on a public blog, nor would I allow it.

K Smith

"Yeah, I'd definitely call that a sick, hateful, ageist and sexist comment. I'd be embarrassed to say such a thing on a public blog, nor would I allow it."

I'd be more ashamed of the sick, hateful, transphobic and sexist comments I see *you* make.

Again, boo hoo fucking hoo. I am very unconcerned with your hurt fee fees after the crap I see you blather out on here on the regular.

Go find a safe room somewhere, guy.

Ron O

I did respond to each one of Kendra's initial points, but Roberta apparently had a problem with it. Unfortunately, I did not save the comment, so I'll post a simplified version below. And this time, I'll save it.

I don't hate trans people, and I don't know why Kendra claims that I (or anyone else) does. (This seems to be a political tactic, to make such claims against anyone who expresses concerns regarding the impact of systems which "normalize" transgenderism.)

I do have some concerns with systems which "normalize" it, primarily as it relates to medical interventions and financial incentives. This is mostly an individual's (private) concern, but it also can be a societal concern.

As far as MLK is concerned, my point is that he was a human being, subject to influence from the same type of societal views as anyone else.

This is the problem with "hero worship", whether it's MLK, John Lennon, or anyone else.

Roberta L. Millstein

This is far off the topic of the OP and will only head in a personal direction, so I am shutting this down now. Please stick to the topic of the OP or the comments will not be posted.

Ron O

I signed Alan H's petition the other day, by the way. :-)

Not that I think anything will come of it, but appreciate the effort.

Ron O

And perhaps more-relevant (regarding Alan H's "connection" between MLK and climate change), I'm not sure that MLK would be concerned with that, either. For all we know, he would have taken the "Vanguard's" side, regarding that. (In other words, "sprawl for social justice").

It's all speculation.

I can tell you that I was once assigned a book during my earlier days in College, which implied that black people were "entitled" to make-up for their lack of ability to pollute the air as much as white people. I noticed this right-away in my assigned "book report", and I did not receive good grade in that (environmentally-oriented) class as a result. This is not something I will forget, as I knew that I had written a relevant, on-topic book report. The title of the book is "Ecotopia".

Ultimately, environmentalism and social justice are not necessarily the "same issue". And sometimes, they're in conflict with each other. The Sierra Club has been divided regarding this issue for decades, but the social justice warrior largely won that battle. (This is also the reason that the club refuses to discuss population, and is related to their "mission" regarding affordable housing.)

The "environment" does not care about affordable housing. (Actually, I'm not sure that the "environment" (or the earth itself) cares about anything. See George Carlin, regarding that.) There's a video in which he notes that the planet itself will be just fine, without us.

This is also perhaps related to the reason that some social justice warriors now embrace sprawl, which I (of course) think is misguided. In other words, they're willing to sacrifice the environment, in the name of social justice.

And that includes freeways, as well. Especially if only "rich white people" can afford the "Lexus lanes" (toll lanes).

Personally, I generally favor the "environment", over social justice. At least, when a choice has to be made.

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