Editor’s note: Regina Mason, president of the Monterey County NAACP, was asked to speak about the relevance of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Monterey County Board of Supervisors’ meeting on Tuesday. She chose to discuss a relatively obscure speech by King, which he called “The Three Evils of Society.” The following are her remarks:
By Regina Mason
As our country celebrates the birthdate of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I would like to share a few words with you about Dr. King’s dream.
I will share excerpts from one of his speeches entitled “The Three Evils of Society.” An almost lost Dr. King speech, this speech was given at the first and only national conference for new politics in 1967. It is in amazing speech which looks at Americas three deadliest evils.
Dr. King identified the three evils as being racism, materialism, and militarism.
These three evils of society resonate with us today.
As spokesperson for the 2018 Board of Supervisors, Supervisor Luis Alejo and the Board of Supervisors will have the opportunity work in partnership with the Monterey County branch NAACP on our goals to ensure fairness and justice happens for the underserved people of Monterey county.
Martin Luther King Junior fought for the right to vote so that Black and poor people could put people in office who would represent them and their interests. The Board of Supervisors and all elected bodies have the responsibility of working to accomplish that goal.
We realize that the dream of Dr. King has not been fully realized when we see that racism, materialism, and militarism all of which work against the development of the kind of society were all people are seen as equals and that human needs are placed as a priority above profit – still exists today! Elected bodies such as the board of supervisors are charged with the task a working to assure that such things as equitable distribution of resources and fairness for all people are codified into law as well as practice.
As an African American woman representing your branch of the nations oldest civil rights organization in the country, here are excerpts from Dr. King’s speech.
“I wish that I could say that this is just a passing phase in the cycle of our nations life; certainly, times of war, times of reaction throughout the society but I suspect that we are now experiencing the coming to the surface of a triple prong sickness that has been lurking within our body politic from its very beginning. That is the sickness of racism, Excessive materialism and militarism. Not only is this our nations dilemma it is the plague of Western civilization. As early as 1906 W. E. B. Dubois prophesied that the problem of the 20th century would be the problem of the color line, now as we stand two-thirds into this crucial period of history we know full well that racism is still that hound of hell which dogs the tracks of our civilization. Ever since the birth of our nation, white America has had a schizophrenic personality on the question race, she has been torn between selves. A self in which she proudly professes the great principle of democracy and a self in which she madly practiced the antithesis of democracy. This tragic duality has produced a strange indecisiveness and ambivalence toward the Negro, causing America to take a step backwards simultaneously with every step forward on the question of racial justice; to be at once attracted to the negro and repelled by him, to love and to hate him. There has never been a solid, unified and determined thrust to make justice a reality for African Americans. The step backwards has a new name today, it is called the white backlash, but the white backlash is nothing new. It is the servicing of all prejudices, hostilities and ambivalences that have always been there. It was caused neither by the cry of black power nor by the unfortunate recent wave of riots in our cities. The white backlash of today is rooted in the same problem that has characterized America since ever since the black man landed in chains on the shores of this nation.
‘This does not imply that all white Americans are racist, far from it. Many white people have, through a deep more compulsion fought long and hard for racial justice nor does it mean that America has made no progress in her attempt to cure the body politic of the disease of racism or that the dogma of racism has been considerably modified in recent years. However, for the good of America, it is necessary to refute the idea that the dominant ideology in our country, even today, is freedom and equality while racism is just an occasional departure from the norm on the part of a few bigoted extremists.
“Racism can well be, that corrosive evil that will bring down the curtain on western civilization.
“Arnold J. Toynbee has said some 26 civilizations have risen upon the face of the earth, almost all of them have descended into the junk heap of destruction. The decline and fall of these civilizations according to Toynbee, was not caused by external invasion but by internal decay. They failed to respond creatively to the challenges impingent upon them. If America does not respond creatively to the challenge to banish racism, some future historian will have to say, that a great civilization died because it lacked the soul and commitment to make justice a-reality for all men.
“The second aspect of our afflicted society is extreme materialism, an Asian writer has portrayed our dilemma in a candid term, he says, “you call your thousand material devices labor saving machinery, yet you are forever busy. With the multiplying of your machinery you grow increasingly fatigued, anxious, nervous, dissatisfied. Whatever you have, you want more and wherever you are, you want to go somewhere else. Your devices are neither time saving nor soul saving machinery. They are so many sharp spurs which urge you on to invent more machinery and to do more business.“ This tells us something about our civilization that cannot be cast aside as a prejudiced charge by an eastern thinker who is jealous of western prosperity. We cannot escape the indictment. This does not mean that we must turn back the clock of scientific progress. No one can overlook the wonders that science has wrought for our lives. The automobile will not abdicate in favor of the horse and buggy or the train in favor of the stage coach or the tractor in favor of the hand plow or the Scientific method in favor of ignorance and superstition. But our moral lag must be redeemed; when scientific power outruns moral power, we end up with guided missiles and miss guided men. When we foolishly maximize the minimum and minimize the maximum we sign the warrant for our own day of doom.
“It is this moral lag in our thing-oriented society that blinds us to the human reality around us and encourages us in the greed and exploitation which creates the factor of poverty in the midst of wealth. Again, we have diluted ourselves into believing the myth that capitalism Grew and prospered out of the protestant ethic of hard work and sacrifice, the fact is that capitalism was built on the exploitation and suffering of Black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor – both black and white, both here and abroad. If Negro and poor whites do not participate in the free flow of wealth within our economy, they will forever be poor, giving their energies, their talents and their limited funds to the consumer market but reaping few benefits and services in return.
“The way to end poverty is to end the exploitation of the poor, ensure them a fair share of the Government services and the nations resources. Nothing is more socially inexcusable than unemployment in this age.
“The time has come for America to face the inevitable choice between materialism and humanism. We must devote at least as much to our children’s education and the health of the poor as we do to the care of our automobiles and the building of beautiful impressive hotels.
“We must also realize that the problems of racial injustice and economic injustice cannot be solved without a radical redistribution of political and economic power. We must further recognize that the ghetto is a domestic colony. Black people must develop programs that will aid in the transfer of power and wealth into the hands of residence of the ghetto so that they may in reality control their own destiny – this is the meaning of new politics. People of will in the larger community, must support the black man in this effort.
“The final phase of our national sickness is the disease of militarism. We can see that this disease continues by the resources our government is allocating to militarism and the decline in resources to the poor.
“Somewhere we must see that justice is indivisible, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
In closing I would like to leave you with this thought:
You are the voice of the voiceless. You have the ability to eradicate some of these evils that Dr. King talked about over 50 years ago.
You have the ability to insure the fair and equitable distribution of our county’s resources are based on need instead of numbers.
The Monterey County branch NAACP looks forward to working with each of you, individually and collectively.
We congratulate Supervisor Alejo on his appointment as chair of the board of supervisors for Monterey County for 2018 and congratulate each of you for a productive year.
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