This article was written by Charles Landis.
On August 28, 1963, I was invited by black friends to walk down to the Lincoln Memorial to hear Martin Luther King speak at the conclusion of his March on Washington. Media had reported hundreds of thousands of blacks were marching on Washington and predicted here would be much rioting and looting. Nearly all businesses were closed and most government workers and commuters stayed home. I lived in Georgetown, it was an easy walk to the Mall, and as a southern boy, had no concern there would be rioting. All was peaceful and as I expected.
At that time I was a liberal Democrat, had worked on President Kennedy’s’ inaugural committee, belonged to DC Young Democrats, and proudly wore Kennedy’s New Frontier pin when working in a very conservative bank where the chairman was treasurer of the Republican National Committee. I was a member of the most liberal church in Washington, All Souls Unitarian, where the assistant minister, a good friend, was assassinated on a Freedom Ride to Selma, Alabama two weeks before he was to perform the service at my wedding. Racial violence became closer and more real but no one thought serious problems would happen in Washington.
Then, on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King was assassinated and riots that lasted 4 days began at 14th and U St,. NW. A few weeks after things had calmed down, a very successful black man, who was chairman of the DC Republican Committee, asked me if my bank would loan the money to build a restaurant on 14th street . across from Clifton Terrace where the riots began. There were no restaurants left in the rea. The loan committee unanimously agreed. My friend and I thought this would be a good beginning in rebuilding.
It was too dangerous for me to visit the 14th St. site by myself, so my friend and two very big tough looking guys drove me there. Nearly every building was either burned down, bombed, or looted and reminded me of Dresden after Allied firebombing. When the restaurant was completed, I was invited there for lunch. Above the door was a sign. Which read “ Soul Food. Built by a Black Man for Benefit of Black People.” I commented that this would not sit well with those who put up the money and wanted to move forward. The response was that the sign would have to remain there for many years before he could take it down. He was right, it was over 10 years before the area began to be restored and the sign could be taken down.
After Marion Berry became Mayor (c.1979), he asked the banks to donate $2 million to his activist organization, Black Pride, to buy trash cans to set around the city. The banks agreed and from that day on, the business community and Berry got along, he kept a lid on things and there were no more riots. The trash cans remained a little known symbolic secret.
Lyndon Johnson was president during the riots and he began his Great Society which declared his War on Poverty. $22 trillion later we are where we are today. It was at this time I began to question liberalism of the Democrat Party. They believed the answer to the problems was to throw a lot of money at the problems and they would be solved. I also withdrew my nomination to be a trustee of my church and left because it had become more of a left wing political organization than a place of worship.
Certain of policies in the War on Poverty are emblematic of what endures today. Welfare payments were denied to women if an able bodied man lived in the home. Men moved out but the babies kept coming …,out of wedlock. A friend of mine, a minister who ran the Florence Crittenden Home for un wed mothers and prostitutes in distress, told me he was closing their doors. While the number of unwed mothers and prostitutes were increasing, there was no longer any stigma in the community and the welfare system provided the safety net. Today, in Washington, 75% of black births are out of wedlock and 45% of white. Nothing has done more to destroy the institution of marriage and responsibilities of a father in the home.
When there was slavery, the plantation mentality of slave owners believed slavery was a positive good because black people could not manage their lives by themselves. After the Civil War, reconstruction, and, beginning with Jim Crow, the Democrat party reasserted the plantation mentality of dependency of blacks. Not much had changed.
The Great Society made the blacks, and many whites, greatly dependent on a new plantation mentality.. government control, greater than ever before. Today, The Socialist Democrat Party promises everything from cradle to grave , they get 90% of black vote ,but it will be back to the plantation. with a new name.
On that day in in August, 1963, an important part of Martin Luther King’s Dream was jobs and equal economic opportunity. Today, after more than a half century after Johnson began his Great Society, and $22 trillion spent on the War on Poverty, we hear the demands of the social justice warriors for cradle to grave government…the new plantation mentality.
Trump and his policies to Make America Great again offer a new promise. Since inauguration his policies have resulted in significant reductions in unemployment and, increases in income for all minorities, and greater opportunities. Unfortunately, the Covid 19 virus and the riots have caused a pause, but unlike 1968 and the Great Society, MAGA offers the real promise and not paternalism…