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Blog Post: Ten Steps Forward, Nine Steps Back (9/28)

The advancement of any marginalized group relies on the willingness of the majority to support this mission. Historically, this relationship in America has been between African Americans and white moderates. That said, this relationship is plagued by the reluctance of white moderates to affect change, creating a stagnant system that activists were forced to operate in. Phillis Wheatley, for example, was forced to hide much of her pro-abolition rhetoric behind the guise of religion in order to be published. When calls for abolition were growing in the 1850s, it became clear that the federal government “would end slavery only under conditions controlled by whites, and only when required by the political and economic needs of the business elite of the North” (Zinn 3926). This expectation was warranted given the short-lived Reconstruction Era, which was soon replaced with voter disenfranchisement, Black Codes, and vagrancy laws, replacing slavery with a new racial caste system.

This relationship continues to abate attempts at civil rights improvements. In Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” he criticizes the performative improvements made by white moderates: “Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue” (King). Even today, white moderates hide behind social media posts about justice and police brutality, refusing to take actionable steps in order to address the systemic racism that has plagued our nation since slavery.

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2 Comments

  1. Thomas Bennett Thomas Bennett

    It has been a tragic reality throughout American history that in order for change in favor of racial equality to occur, the black population has to convince the white population that a problem exists. This connects to the unfortunate reality that minority groups need to appeal to majority groups to incite change. As such, they need to convince a group of people completely unfamiliar with their suffering that a problem exists, which,as shown throughout history,is not easy at all. This dynamic has rapidly slowed the rate at which positive and necessary change has been able to occur, as the groups that hold the power have rarely wanted to relinquish it, or, in a less malicious sense, have not been able to see outside their own perspective to recognize that change needs to occur.

  2. Alexander Dimedio Alexander Dimedio

    I completely agree with the analysis you made in the first paragraph. It is difficult to create change without widespread support, and this support must have a voice from all different types of people. People of different races, religions, and cultures must have a voice in the shaping of the government they all coexist in. I really like the connection and quote you brought into this conversation about Martin Luther King, because of its historical relevance to this topic.

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