The story of soft drinks and the black community–the entanglement of race, commerce, law, and freedom in today’s New York Times by op-ed contributor Grace Elizabeth Hale is honest, thorough–and fascinating. It’s as tasty as Atlanta’s Dr. King being slandered on the Senate floor by the demagogue, North Carolina senator, Jesse Helms for associating with known Communists (Helm’s filibuster was cut off by Senate pro tempore, South Carolina Strom Thurmond!). Dr. King, the erstwhile communist, was embraced as a Republican in last year’s twitter feeds!
Dr. King moved from being a communist to being embraced as a Republican (both overactive exaggerations!) while the current President, Barack Obama, once labeled a socialist, is now–a week after being sworn in and winning with 62.5 million votes many states tried to openly suppress–being called a dictator who is thinking of a political conquest. Conquest? The Speaker of the House publicly makes eliminating the legal right of women to choose their path of reproduction his number one priority as record numbers of Americans suffer from being out of work!
“Race” struggled with defining humanity for slaves, than freedom and citizenship. The first civil rights struggle lost to segregation; race demanded a social and economic code of place and class. Race engaged civil rights again, and fought the idea of contentment with status quo and the limits on opportunity.
The NAACP law suit brought against New York City seeks to overturn the Mayor-supported limits on sofa drink sizes as harmful to small minority retail business. The lawsuit is also potentially benefits Coca-Cola, a major corporate supporter of the NAACP. With the suit and with the President’s reelection and agenda, and with Tim Scott’s (R-SC) appointment to the Senate, “race” enters a new phrase: it no longer reflects a conversation mainly about bias or discrimination–or even opportunity. Now the discussions about race are about power, and new alliances that support, leverage, or oppose that power.
A Slide Show Depicting the Relationship of North Carolina Rural Black Communities With Coca-Cola, circa 1939. All Photographs Previously Unpublished, by America’s Founding Documentary Photographer, Dorothea Lange.