Tag Archives: civil rights

Thank You Mr. Lewis

Thank You, Mr. Lewis

I wanted to take this opportunity on the day we lay John Lewis to rest to say thank you, Mr. Lewis, Thank You for your life dedicated to causing GOOD TROUBLE to see that America lives up to the words upon which it was created, that all men are created equal.
In 1961 at the tender age of twenty-one, he was one of the original 13 Freedom Riders. Mobs of racists beat Mr. Lewis, but that did not deter John Lewis. He would not let others’ hatred and violence stop him from fighting against the evils of segregation.

A little over a year before I was born, on March 7, 1965, a twenty-five-year-old John Lewis led the Selma to Montgomery across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, a bridge named after a confederate general and KKK grand wizard, on a day that would come to be known as Bloody Sunday because of the brutal attack foisted upon Mr. Lewis and the other marchers. The actions of Mr. Lewis and those protestors led President Johnson to promise to send a voting rights bill to Congress that week. He was issuing an immediate statement “deploring the brutality with which a number of Negro citizens of Alabama were treated” On March 15, the president convened a joint session of Congress, outlined his new voting rights bill, and demanded that they pass it. In a historic presentation carried nationally on live television, making use of the most extensive media network, Johnson praised African-American activists’ courage. He called Selma “a turning point in man’s unending search for freedom” on a par with the Battle of Appomattox in the American Civil War. Johnson added that his entire Great Society program, not only the voting rights bill, was part of the Civil Rights Movement. He adopted language associated with Dr. King, declaring that “it is not just Negroes, but it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome. The bill was passed that summer and signed by Johnson as the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965. This is widely considered a watershed moment in the Civil Rights movement.

In 1988, the year after he was sworn into Congress, Lewis introduced a bill to create a national African American museum in Washington. The bill failed, and for 15 years, he continued to introduce it with each new Congress. Still, each time it was blocked in the Senate until finally, in 2003, President George W. Bush signed the bill to establish the museum. The National Museum of African American History and Culture held its opening ceremony on September 25, 2016.

Today as an African American, every time I freely walk-in the voting booth without the fear of being turned away because of my skin color, I owe it to the actions of Mr. Lewis.

Every time as an African American, I travel to the south without using a separate bathroom or being turned away from a restaurant because of the skin color. I owe it to the actions of John Lewis.

Every time I travel with a white friend in the south as an African American, we can ride next to each other I owe it to John Lewis.

To the day he was taken from us to his eternal life with the Lord, Mr. Lewis remained faithful to the cause, his mission, to give a voice to those who had no voice, to fight for racial equality, to cause as much GOOD TROUBLE that was needed to ensure America never forgets that all men are created equal.
Thank You, Mr. Lewis

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I May Not Get There With You

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I may not get there with you.

Just seven of the four thousand one hundred and seventy-one words in Martin Luther King’s Jr. I’ve Been to the Mountaintop speech. That speech would be the last one he ever delivered as he was assassinated the very next day at the young age of 39. There are so many speeches and quotes uttered by Dr. King that have personally motivated and inspired me to be a better person. But those seven words, above all others, have always had a special meaning to me.

Dr.King delivered those words in a speech to support a strike by 1,300 sanitation workers, mostly African-American men, who were protesting the horrendous working conditions, poverty-level wages, and the city’s refusal to recognize their union, sadly issues that are still prevalent today. With those seven words, Dr. King told the world he was aware his own life might very well be cut short because of his crusade to force America to abide by the words on which it was founded. That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. But he was not afraid to die. Not because he embraced death, not because he wanted to die. Because, as he said in his own words, our lives begin to end when we stay silent about things that matter. So on that night, he refused to keep silent; he told everyone in Memphis, Tennessee that night that now was not the time to turn back out of fear. Now was the time to press on down the path of righteousness even if that path was fraught with inherent dangers. That they could not sit quietly in fear and accept the injustices they were being subjected to, it would be unconscionable to do so. Today we celebrate his birthday, and I ponder what humanity could accomplish, what heights we could reach, where we may already be if each of us had even a fraction of the resolve and courage that Dr.King had to do what was right despite what it may cost us personally. I may not get there with you – just seven words but seven words that still resonate loudly today.

We Are The Coalition Of The Righteous

GOP politicians are lining up to defend Trump’s racist tweets some going as far as too call them patriotic and informing us that we should just move on from this and get back to the business of governing. 

REALLY? Just move on from it? So now You’re going to tell US what is racist and what isn’t. Is this the same logic you used when you told us Slavery wasn’t racist, segregation wasn’t fine as long as it was separate but “equal”, red lining wasn’t racist. the shooting of unarmed black men of color were justified. 

No we can not simply move on from it.

Now more than ever we have a difficult time ahead of us. But we must shed our fear of it.

Why?

Because we are not here because of the path that lies before us but because of the path that lies behind us. Four hundred years we have endured slavery, racism, sexism, homophobia and the denial of basic human rights and with each step forward we take, with each of our achievement we accomplish it produces fear among those among who still preach hate, who look to divide, do not believe in the brotherhood of all but would rather hold onto the old ways of subjugation and bondage.

But we are rising up now, together as one, race, color, religion, creed, gender and national origin .  We are a coalition of the righteous and we are gathering momentum each and every day. We are going to create a world where color, gender, religious belief and country of origin doesn’t matter. A world without conflicts and killings. A world without borders and boundaries. A world united not divided, ruled by love not hate. A world where anything is possible.

Today we send a message to those who still cling to the past, those who still preach hatred, those who still wish to divide this great nation not on the content of our character but on the the color of our skin. Today we take OUR country back from the racist and bigoted. Today we tremble these amber waves of grain and purple mountain majesties from sea to shining sea. Today we remember, this is America where we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and all women regardless of color are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of happiness.

Today we make them remember we are still here

We’ve come a long way…We’ve got a long way to go.

It is not an intrinsic part of human nature to be intolerant to another human because they differ in some way from you. Intolerance is taught as has been pointed out many times before if you watch two children of different ethnic groups play with each other you will see no sign of racism. These children do not see color and have no preconceived notion of who or what the other one represents other than a playmate. However as the children grow and their minds begin to expand they begin to both consciously and subconsciously pick up on the seemingly human culture of sticking with their own race because it’s comfortable, it’s familiar, Neighborhoods become ‘unintentionally” segregated, as children age their circle of friends becomes more and more homogenous. Job offers are made by identifying a person’s skin color, ethnic group, gender, religion, etc. rather than a person skill set. Intolerance leads to many things, the overwhelming majority bad, from workplace and housing discrimination, pay inequality, segregation, to an irrational fear of the unknown qualities of someone who shares the same basic human DNA structure but simply looks different, has a different belief system or was born on the opposite side of a man made line in the earth defining one country from another.

As we prepare to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. this upcoming Monday one can only contemplate that he would no doubt be pleased with the many strides this country has made since his passing. The election of President Barack Obama a fulfillment of his dream that his four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. But as far as we have come as a nation we are still a long way from achieving the America that Dr. King gave his life for.

  • Income disparities have become so pronounced that America’s top 10 percent now average more than nine times as much income as the bottom 90 percent. Americans in the top 1 percent tower stunningly higher. They average over 40 times more income than the bottom 90 percent.
  •  According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Annual Homeless Assessment Report, as of 2017 there were around 554,000 homeless people in the United States on a given night.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. In 2017, an estimated 1 in 8 Americans were food insecure, equating to 40 million Americans including more than 12 million children.
  • African-American unemployment remains about twice as high as white unemployment. In 2018, black unemployment averaged 7.4 percent, compared to an average of 3.7 percent for whites.
  • In every age group, current trends and policies are widening the ownership gap between African Americans and other groups. This gap reflects two fundamental factors: First, African American homeownership was particularly battered in the housing crisis, sharply reducing household wealth among African American families and dramatically lowering the long-term prospects for recovery for black homeownership at all ages. Second, African Americans continue to lag other races and ethnicities in employment, wages and income.
  •  According to FiveThirtyEight police officers are indicted in fewer than 1% of killings, but the indictment rate for civilians involved in a killing is 90%.
  • According to the Guardian people who are African-American/Black are twice as likely to be killed by a police officer while being unarmed compared to a Caucasian/White individual.
  • According to Mapping Police Violence 69% of the victims of police brutality in the United States who are African-American/Black were suspected of a non-violent crime and were unarmed.

Sadly in 2019 a member Steven King a representative of Congress told the New York Times “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” and King is unfortunately not alone in his ideas. When asked to comment on King’s comments President Trump did not denounce them instead saying he hasn’t been following the story. As Dr. King so eloquently put it: “He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” But this should come as no surprise as the President has consistently defended white nationalists; sought to exploit the census to dilute the political power of minority voters; described immigration as an infestation, warning that it was “changing the culture of Europe”; derided black and Latino immigrants as coming from “shithole countries,” while expressing a preference for immigrants from places like “Norway”; and generally portrayed nonwhite immigrants as little more than rapists, drug dealers, and murderers at every opportunity. All this to pander to a base in America that believes to “Make America Great” we need to harken back to a time before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Was even a thought in his parent’s minds.

However I remain hopeful. As I’ve said before I believe this country is headed in the right direction, ever so slowly. It is up to us as a people to raise our voices as one and drown out those who would have Dr. King’s dream become just that a dream and never a reality. We’ve come a long way but still have a long way to go. Let us not lose sight of the finish line and march to it together in brotherhood.

 

The War on Civil Rights has already begun

I discussed with a friend today about the escalating war of words between Washington and Pyongyang. I told him while interested I take it, like most of what is coming out of Washington these days, as fodder for my amusement more than anything else. Now don’t get me wrong, I fully understand the angst the citizens of a country like South Korea might be experiencing. However, if you were to believe some news stories having lived with Kim Jong Un’s constant threat, they don’t take much of what he says seriously at all. Of course, any threat of launching nuclear weapons, whether that threat comes from a mad man with a bad hair cut or a mad man with bad skin, is nothing to laugh at. But the reality is that this threat of a nuclear conflict between the US and North Korea seems to be nothing but white noise to fill out your 24-hour cable news feed than reality.

The reality is Trump won’t call for a strike, and neither will Kim Jong Un, crazy as they both appear to be. Because as Business Insider pointed out, both men will get acceptable outcomes without firing a shot. As Business Insider documented this week, North Korea wants regime security and national power for its propaganda machines to celebrate. North Korea has maintained a formidable concentration of artillery pointed at the 26 million or so residents of Seoul, South Korea, for decades, and it’s deterred the US and provided the security they seek.

The US’s real goal is to bolster South Korean defenses and act as a tripwire force to ensure the North never invades the South.

The North Korean conflict’s final resting point is a fully nuclear-capable Kim regime being deterred by superior US power. Just like Russia and China are deterred from attacking the US despite differences.

So while any threat of nuclear war should not be taken lightly, this dust-up between Trump and Kim Jong Un remains more amusing for me, like watching two overgrown boys trying to convince the other they have the bigger penis without actually having to pull it out and show it, than a real threat to America or South Korea.

I am concerned about something that I wish was only fodder for my amusement, and that is the very real dismantling of civil rights going on right now in a country with a proven history of suppressing civil liberties. As Democracy Now stated in their August 10th interview with Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice in the Obama administration. In the last six months under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Justice Department has reinstituted the use of private prisons, reignited the so-called war on drugs, and indicated it would no longer address systemic police abuses. The department has also obstructed the enforcement of federal voting rights laws and, just this week, sided with Ohio’s voter purge program. And it has defended President Trump’s Muslim travel ban and supported Trump’s attacks on sanctuary cities. Most recently, The New York Times reported the Justice Department is now laying the groundwork to undermine affirmative action policies.

Looking at this through the eyes of a man of color, this attempted systematic deconstruction of civil right protections, protections that were fought for and won in many cases through the loss of life, Is a painful reminder that while we have come a long way as a country, we have so much further to go.

Now let’s get on the same page before you read any further. While an unabashed liberal, I am not a liberal who believes that all of the issues that confront people of color in this country have been imposed upon them by the “man,” nor am I of the belief that the only way for us to overcome is by waiting for the “man” to save us through entitlements. Instead, I am more a disciple of Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950), who said

“If the negro in the ghetto must eternally be fed by the hand that pushes him into the ghetto, he will never become strong enough to get out of the ghetto.”

But it would be naive of me or anyone to think that through the imposition of systems of racism and discrimination, centuries-long many of them, systems that the adoption of many civil right laws was meant to address, people of color did not play with and have not continued to have to play with a significantly inferior hand. A hand that has resulted in generation after generation falling behind both economically and educationally, the resulting subset of problems from emotional inferiority complex to broken marriages to families torn apart has left an indelible scar on the African-American heart experience in America. One so pronounced that centuries from now, it would not be surprising to see universities offer courses on how the African American not only survived but went on to thrive in America. But I digress, it would also be naive to believe that without the protections afforded us by the Department of Justice that the abuses seen on the local level as it relates to police brutality, hate crimes, voter suppression, and housing discrimination, to name just a few would not be more widespread. Yet here we are in the 21st century with a Department of Justice that appears to not only not want to continue to move forward in the areas of civil rights but is actively taking steps to turn the clock back.

So here we are, facing a crossroads that, to be honest, many of us felt we would never have to face or, for some of us, face again. This Administration’s focus on making America great again focuses on but a small slice of Americana, at the exclusion of many people based on color, gender, religion, and sexual orientation. People who have always been here and were just as vital as making America great in the first place. As we stare at this crossroad, we can choose to take the road of outrage without a voice, and by that, I mean not voting with our ballots or with our wallets, or we can walk the road of meaningful outrage. We can let our politicians on the Federal, State, and local level know we will not be pushed aside again; we will not allow the hands of time to be turned back on us. We remember the blood spilled to ensure we are given what is rightfully ours, a fair and equitable way the same way no different than afforded others before us. Make them remember that we will be there at the next election, and our voices will count. Let their corporate donors remember we have a choice on where to spend our dollars.

Nuclear war may not be at hand, but the war on civil rights has already begun. We can not chuckle at that; it’s not being fought for our amusement; it is being fought for the soul of America, and it’s time we take notice and begin to fight back.