Is class the new race?

8/30/13
 
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by John D. Sutter,

from CNN,
8/30/13:

Let’s play a little game.

Which of the following signs did protestors hold at the March on Washington, 50 years ago this week, and which were held up this year by fast-food workers:

1. “WE MARCH FOR HIGHER MINIMUM WAGES COVERAGE FOR ALL WORKERS NOW!”

2. “WE ARE WORTH MORE”

3. “I AM A MAN”

4. “WE MARCH FOR JOBS FOR ALL – A DECENT PAY NOW!”

The exclamation points, which apparently were more popular in the 1960s (despite what Twitter would have you believe!!!), are your best clue.

Signs one and four are from 1963. Two and three are from 2013.

Fifty years later, it’s easy to forget that the full name of the 1963 “March on Washington” was actually “The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.”

But flip through some pictures from that rally, where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have A Dream” speech and where civil rights leaders, to borrow his words, bent the arc of history towards justice and greater equality, and you’ll see protest signs that put the economy as a front-and-center issue, just as it is now.

“CIVIL RIGHTS + PLUS FULL EMPLOYMENT = EQUALS FREEDOM.”

President Obama, in commemorating the 50th anniversary of that march this week, smartly picked up on the theme that economic equality is “the great unfinished business” of King’s vision for a just and fair America.

“…[A]s we mark this anniversary, we must remind ourselves that the measure of progress for those who marched 50 years ago was not merely how many blacks had joined the ranks of millionaires; it was whether this country would admit all people who were willing to work hard, regardless of race, into the ranks of a middle-class life,” Obama said Wednesday. “The test was not and never has been whether the doors of opportunity are cracked a bit wider for a few. It was whether our economic system provides a fair shot for the many, for the black custodian and the white steelworker, the immigrant dishwasher and the Native American veteran.”

The subtext of his argument: Class may be the new race.

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