I watched an old episode of Meet the Press in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, January 18. In the clip, King was grilled by a panelist about whether his student sit-ins at segregated lunch counters might be "doing the negro race more harm than good," because "private business has its own rights and can do what it wants."
King said that statement "serve[d] to aid and abet the violent forces of the South.
"I do not think this movement is making us enemies," he continued, adding that it had an educational value that would transform all of American society, in the long run.
Earlier in the day, I had the privilege of interviewing three of the 500—count 'em—500 volunteers who had turned out to go canvassing in Portland for the yes on Measure 66 and 67 campaign. Henry Kraemer, Mollie Ruskin, and Mariana Lindsay happened to park their car opposite the Mercury newsroom and I called to them through the hastily opened window.
"I think it's great and really inspiring that so many people would come out to support the measures on their day off," Lindsay, 22, told me. The conversation was exciting. It felt like being part of history.
Kraemer, political director for the Oregon Bus Project, chimed in that his organization will be running nonpartisan get-out-the-vote phone banks every night (except Saturday) from now until January 26. Phone banking starts at 6 pm at the Bus headquarters (333 SE 2nd), and you can join in, if you like.
Voter turnout really will make all the difference in this election. If you've read our endorsement interview from last week ["Stop the Chicken," News, Jan 14], you'll know that young people are the most likely to support modest tax hikes on corporations and the rich to pay for basic services. They're also the least likely to vote, sadly.
Overcoming racial segregation is, of course, a completely different ballgame from what's going on with Measures 66 and 67—but there is certainly something eerie about the quote about "private business" having "its own rights" and being able to "do what it wants," from that interview.
The no on 66 and 67 campaign is being backed by big businesses and corporate lobbyists who think they can do what they want. While the election may be controversial now, I think Dr. King would have been proud to vote yes for Oregon. And looking back, so will you.