It is a "cruel hoax" to compare the plight of blacks in America today with the situation of European immigrant groups of the past, George D. Kelsey, professor emeritus of divinity at Drew University, said last night at the Science Center.
Kelsey's talk was the first part of a lecture series commemorating the tenth anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Today the black middle class is making economic and social advances, but "the black masses have neither participated in nor benefited from the civil rights movement," Kelsey said.
Just the Crumbs
"Until recently blacks received only the crumbs from the banquet table of American life--but the table was so big that many were fed anyway," Kelsey said.
Kelsey was one of king's teachers when the civil rights leader studied at Morehouse College, and is the author of "Racism and the Christian Understanding of Man."
"The situation of blacks in America today is analogous not to that of the European immigrant groups but to that of the imperialized nations of Asia and Africa," Kelsey said.
European immigrants advanced in America at a time when industrialization was creating a need for more laborers, Kelsey said. Today blacks are competing against the automation of industry instead, he added.
Another factor that distinguishes blacks today from European immigrant groups in the past is urban renewal, which is forcing blacks into smaller and more overcrowded areas, Kelsey said.
The lecture series commemorating King's assassination will attempt to make "a major scholarly examination of the field of non-violent action," Nancy Randolph, special assistant to the president, said yesterday.
Speakers at the next two lectures will be Hersehelle Challenor, African sub-committee staff director of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Gene E. Sharp, research associate at the Center for International Affairs.
The sponsors of the series hope to obtain funding to publish the lectures, Randolph said.
The remaining lectures in the series will be given April 11 and 18 at 7:30 p.m. in Science Center B.
Sponsors of the series are the Department of Afro-American Studies, the Center for International Affairs, the Divinity School, and the W.E.B. DuBois Institute.