Marking 50 Years...

Fifty years ago, only two months before Dr. Martin Luther King was gunned down by an assassin’s bullets, he gave a sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church in which he condemned racism, economic exploitation, and militarism as the interrelated triple evils that face all contemporary seekers of justice. Dr. King knew that in order to eliminate one of these evils, it was necessary to eliminate them all. This is why, as we mark the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s untimely death, I’m writing to you on behalf of War Resisters League. 

Most of the time I am thankful to have been born a Black female in the Jim Crow South. Of course, it has taken me a long time to appreciate this fact and even now—given the persistence of racism and sexism in our world—I still feel sad to have to experience the prejudices that come to a person born Black and female in this, the twenty-first century. Instead of investing in solutions that meet the needs of communities of color, every year, a larger percent of the U.S. tax share is pulled from people in lower income tax brackets. While services and benefits to those bearing a greater tax burden are stripped away, more and more money pays for war and militarism. In fiscal year 2019, 48% of all income tax will fund war, a fact camouflaged by the government and hidden from the public. Thanks to WRL’s widely distributed Where Your Income Tax Money Really Goes pie chart flyer, we have a tool to educate our communities about just how much of the money that could fund public education, universal healthcare, or affordable housing, pays for war instead. 

This year, giant military contractors like Northrop Grumman and Boeing will see big dollars added to their bottom line, with $75 billion allocated for the research and development of missiles, tanks, and aircraft. A whopping $69 billion will go to the endless “War on Terror,” and while 122 nations voted to outlaw nuclear weapons, the U.S. just budgeted $24 billion for more. Not to mention $1.6 billion for only 65 miles of the infamous border wall, and $3.5 billion for more armed border patrol agents, ICE officers, and 52,000 detention beds. From the facts cited above, we can see that Dr. King’s statement that the United States is the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world” has become more prophetic than ever. When the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee issued a statement against the Vietnam War in 1966, Black students saw our own struggle for equality as an “integral part of the worldwide movement of all oppressed people.” We knew the war our government was waging to “liberate” the Vietnamese people was a farce; so long as Black communities were oppressed in the U.S., our government could not be a liberator in the rest of the world. Most importantly, we knew our struggle to end King’s three evils would require solidarity with our Black, brown, poor, and oppressed brothers and sisters everywhere. 

As I’ve grown older, I have come to truly appreciate not only the gains but the methodology of the civil rights movement. During the era of violent overthrows of governments, a minority group that had been racially oppressed and stigmatized for centuries was able to change racist, sexist, anti-people policies and institutions in a region of the country steeped in prejudice, ignorance, tyranny, and violence. I want to point out the positives that grew from our historic struggle, because there are many positives in my own life and in the collective life of the nation that are a direct result of the Civil Rights Movement. We must hold onto these realities even as we confront the many negatives in our world today, which threaten us individually and collectively. 

As we face these issues, WRL’s bold antimilitarist organizing is part of the solution. Please support their work and consider making a contribution in memory of Dr. King’s vision today.

In solidarity, Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons, Ph.D