The invisibility of racial minorities in the public realm of appearances
During the strike that preceded the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the sanitation workers of Memphis and their African-American supporters paraded with posters that read, "I AM A MAN." This was not only a labor dispute in which the right of public employees to strike against a city was in question, but it was also, given the historical context and especially the racial identity of most of the sanitation workers, immediately recognized as an important chapter in the Civil Rights Movement. There were signs that read "JOBS JOBS JOBS," "UNIONIZATION FOR THE SANITATION WORKERS," and "JUSTICE AND EQUALITY FOR ALL MEN." But most signs read simply "I AM A MAN," and the photographs of scores of Black protesters holding these signs provide the abiding image of the strike. They wanted economic justice and recognition of their union, but contemporary accounts record that more than anything else they wanted to be "recognized" for themselves.1
Bernasconi, R. (2000)., The invisibility of racial minorities in the public realm of appearances, in K. Thompson & L. Embree (eds.), Phenomenology of the political, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 169-187.
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