Much more rarely do we see endogenous shifts in political and normative consciousness of a community whose expression is the strong point of a system with democratic features. This, however, is what happened in Harrisonburg. The street renaming was an example of activity at the municipal level that led to an emergence of ideas within the community and discovery by a community of its power. A frequent refrain leading up to the unexpected success was the privately confided 'this is what I think, but they don't care about what I think.' People with such feelings found that they were not alone in their sentiment, that they were part of broad agreement -their feelings and ideas moved in conversations from one person to the next until they were known among people who had never met. They found that they were heard, and that those who heard were persuaded and united with them. Finally, the building voice put forward a narrative that could not be politically resisted. In parallel, the opposition that was taken to be monolithic and massive proved to be the position that was actually isolated, small, and when aired out found to be flawed and unpersuasive.
The moment in Harrisonburg was one of establishing common knowledge that shifted a community's political consciousness and thus transformed the political power and the political landscape.
The renaming idea's origin in the African American community and the association of Martin Luther King street renamings with African American communities was significant for Harrisonburg. While Harrisonburg's African American community is historic and strong, it is small. Its reach as the initiator and leader was far beyond its numbers, and the structure of the effort showed the leadership to be at a spiritual level rather than the more limited traditional direct and hierarchical relations usually associated with the term. The meaning of this renaming thus ran deep, challenging white supremacy and the system of hierarchy and domination underlying the discrimination based on color that more superficial reading takes as an endpoint. Thus, while a conservative reading of the 'I Have a Dream' speech is glad to stop at having a Black president and blame the nearly 1,000,000 Black men behind bars for their own lot, a deeper appreciation sees Dr. King's vision subverted by difference that makes no difference.
The renaming struggle illuminated the deepest roots of the resistance to a decent society and shows the way toward a national effort in the direction that has seen fits and starts beginning with reconstruction and reaching its greatest potential with the effort of Dr. King that started to be eroded after his assassination.
The Harrisonburg story undermines the narrative of austerity: the narrative Congressman Goodlate used to justify resistance to comprehensive immigration reform, the narrative that blocked a fast and effective response to the economic crisis that could have spared working people, the narrative that has dropped Greece from the league of developed countries, the narrative that is an antithesis to Dr. King's dream.
I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Council or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.
Have we spent enough time studying what Dr. King actually said so we can critically examine his relevance?
Am I racist?
See a review of top contender for this year's Oscar winner. What is the appeal? We are at a time of awakening when the people who have been the putative beneficiaries of white supremacy are for the first time realizing that they live in a system that was built on slavery and which bears the same logic, even though its expression has been checked by over 150 years of resistance. These people, facing job insecurity and economic crisis, now identify with the Black man. They are the audience that will drive the success of this film.
The myth of economic austerity and the network of prison vs. the network of employment.
Harrisonburg's vibrant and resourceful African American community had historic connections all along Cantrell and Main (Irish) Streets. See for example, Rockingham Memorial Hospital
Why is this on a site about lawns?
R4 redevelopment sources.
Shenandoah Valley Black History Project.
See the leaflet on Modern Monetary Theory and CantrellAvenue.com for more. See a blog post celebrating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom for a direct connection. See Levy Institute Working Paper 668 for much more detail and another direct connection to Dr. King's work.
Microeconomics based on these theories bases the worth of a person on producing things in a system of property rights and profit motives, where a machine is valued the same way as a person. This is pleasing to people with wealth and power whose rewards are justified and who are affirmed as superior human beings by the theories of these schools.
Macroeconomics based on these theories treats the modern US federal budget like a houshold budget. This allows politicians to claim that certain pollicies cannot be carried out because of the budget, getting them out of taking responsibility for tough political choices. This is pleasing to most politicians.
Making the economy too small and then blaming poor people is like giving two treats to three cats: one third will always go hungry, no mater what. Expecting anything else is what Dr. King called the 'bootstrap philosophy' in which African Americans who find themselves in 'an island of poverty' are expected to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps when they have no boots.
"a revolution in values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies."
"we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered."Some sensible wealthy people like the economist John Maynard Keynes (though he did not particularly love the poor) realized what Dr. King pointed out, that
"I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be."But most feel more secure continuing the tradition of the old south, of running the society by the chain (credit scores, criminal records, and incarceration --replacing traditional racism), the whip (undemocratic workplaces with constant fear of unemployment-- a consequence of extreme materialism), and the sword (constant war and a war economy-- militarism). Overcoming this calls upon moral force, but also moral arguments to defeat the false economic arguments that protect the system of hierarchy and domination as did the false concept of race that was invented to try to rationalize slavery.
Cantrell Naming History
Martin Luther King Way Naming History
The Significance of Renaming