Category: Human Rights

Martin Luther King Day, 2018

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By , January 14, 2018 2:32 pm
If you can't fly, then run. If you can't run, then walk. If you can't walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward. - Martin Luther King, Jr.

If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

He was one of my heroes, and meeting him, even though only for a moment in time, overwhelmed me. There were others at that rally in 1965, too – famous civil rights leaders whose names you would likely know if you know anything about the civil rights movement, but I’d be lying if I could tell you that I can remember anything specific they said that night. For me, it was all about being in Martin Luther King’s presence and being inspired by him.

So I stared at the protective detail around King as he made his way across the floor.  As a volunteer helping out at the rally, I had been assigned a spot up front near the speakers’ platform, and somehow, I seemed to be right in his path. I think his detail expected me to move or get out of the way as they made their way toward the platform, but I was so stunned that I just stood there. And that’s how I wound up face to face with my hero.

“Reverend King, Reverend King,” I said.

“What is it, my child?” he asked me kindly.

And I couldn’t find any words. I just cried. In a moment, he moved on.

I wish I had found the words in time to tell him how much he meant to me, but I hope he knew. I’d like to believe he did.

We were a weird and glorious mix at that rally – black and white together – the poor and the middle class – old and young – those who were genuinely committed to activism and those who were just playing at it because it was politically correct to be liberal. But there was an electricity in the air at the arena – an electricity and energy that he radiated and nurtured. It was the power of his words and his moral clarity that enabled me – and so many others – to stay nonviolent in our protests.

One of the first posts I ever wrote for this blog was about Martin Luther King.  I wrote it in April, 2006, and a lot of what I was describing is as true today as it was then.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

As we celebrate Martin Luther King Day on Monday, I have no doubt that had King lived, he never would have let President Trump’s “shithole” remark go unchallenged. And he would not have waffled or tried to excuse the president’s egregious conduct by saying it was only “racially ignorant” or “racially uninformed.”

Martin Luther King would have elevated the conversation to talking about human dignity and how we treat each other.  In doing so, he would make the president look like the very small man he is, but that wouldn’t be his goal. His goal would be to help us become better people and to create a better and more equitable society for all.

So please, cable news folks: stop trying to prompt people to express anger or disgust with Trump’s comments. No person of good moral character could ever condone what he said, and if your point is to highlight the cowardice of members of Congress to stand up for what’s right, well, that’s already too painfully obvious. Raise your sights and raise the level of the conversation.

In any event, if you never heard jazz drummer Max Roach do solo accompaniment to King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, watch and listen, and get inspired by the message:

 

What will you do on this day in history?

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By , November 8, 2016 9:48 am

Nov. 8, 2016 –

One day, my grandchildren, if I am fortunate enough to have any, may ask “How did Granny and Grandpa vote in the election of 2016?”

So to future generations:

Today, for the first time in more than 35 years, we went to the polls together. Our votes often tend to cancel each other out if we both vote, as we tend to disagree on a lot of issues. But today – today – we both went to vote together because we are both convinced that Donald Trump is despicable and a threat to our country.

And I hope that the GOP will take note: when you have one independent and one ultra-ultra-Conservative both firmly rejecting your candidate for the highest office in this land and both see your candidate as a threat to democracy, you’ve screwed up. While we despise Clinton, too, she was absolutely correct when she said Trump is “unhinged” and “temperamentally unfit” to be President.

In fact, both major parties should take note: we’re tired of voting for the lesser of evils: give us a candidate of good ethical character who loves – and understands – the Constitution and rule of law, and who has some knowledge of both domestic and foreign affairs and will work towards a better world while keeping America strong. Surely you can find someone who meets those criteria, no?

My grandparents came to this country to escape persecution and for the dream of a better life.  Two of them came over with their mothers and siblings after their fathers had come ahead to find a place to live and a job to support them. Two of them came over by themselves, as their siblings sent for them after saving money for their trip. But they all came with a dream. And whenever I see the Statue of Liberty, I am thankful that they had that opportunity. And I am proud that America was the country that took in people and was a “melting pot.” Yes, our country has a long history of discrimination to overcome, but there has been progress, and it needs to continue, not be reversed.

Donald Trump’s vision of America is not my vision. I refuse to be afraid of people who have different religions or come from different cultures. I do not want to live in a country that judges people based on the color of their skin, their religion, or their country of origin. And I refuse to turn my back on those who are fleeing persecution or war-torn countries or who came here to find a better life.

We are better than that, America.

Tonight, I will find out what we, the people, have done to our future. I just hope that we make a decision that future generations will appreciate and that today, we do not create a more dangerous world for them.

On this day in history, I voted. Have you?

Update: Nov. 9.

 

How could it be that Darren Wilson did nothing wrong in killing Michael Brown?

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By , August 19, 2014 6:03 pm

The last time I posted on this blog was back in February, and it was about the pervasive racism in our country that results in the killing of black youth with some impunity:

My heart goes out to the families of  black youth who were and will be killed because they are black. I could not and likely would not have said what Jordan Davis’s mother said after the jury verdict yesterday.  Her comments may have prevented riots, but Jordan Davis did not get justice yesterday. And nor will the next black teen unless there is a tectonic shift in our country.

There has been no tectonic shift since then, and now Ferguson, Missouri is dealing with yet another senseless death of a teenager – this one at the hands of a police officer who was sworn to protect and serve.

There are those who argue that since Mike Brown was unarmed, there’s no excuse and the officer, Darren Wilson, should be arrested and charged. There are those who argue that Wilson’s actions were justified. In what rational universe can the killing of an unarmed teen following a stop for walking in the street ever be considered justified? Would that we were living in a rational universe.

Yesterday, I took Baden’s preliminary autopsy results diagram to a cop I know. I won’t name him, but will just describe him as a black cop in New York City who’s almost exactly the same size as Michael Brown. And I said to him, “Show me how police can explain or justify this pattern of gun shots and this killing when Michael Brown was unarmed. How can this possibly be a justifiable killing?” The cop, who hadn’t followed the latest developments in the case glanced at the autopsy diagram and then said, “It’s easy. I’ll show you exactly how it probably went down.” And then he proceeded to demonstrate it for me, placing us about 30 feet apart.

He said from the gun shot pattern, Mike Brown probably charged the officer or kept coming towards him and wouldn’t stop.

“The kid has to get down on his knees when told to,” he said. “If he keeps moving towards the cop, the cop will fear for his own safety and will shoot.” In other words, the kid has to cooperate with the cop – or else. His words were echoed today in an OpEd headlined I’m a cop. If you don’t want to get hurt, don’t challenge me..

“How long do you think it will take me to get to you from here to where you are?” he asked me from 30+ feet away. I looked at the distance and calculated that with his long stride, it would take less than 2 seconds to cover the distance if he charged me, longer if he just walked towards me.

“At what point do you start shooting at me if I won’t drop to the ground with hands up?” he asked me. “You can’t wait until I’m 5 feet away to start shooting because even a shot to the chest isn’t going to bring me down or stop me. You have to start shooting when I’m further away to bring me down.”

And so he demonstrated the scenario the autopsy results suggested to him, and I stood in Darren Wilson’s place and felt the fear of a huge man coming towards me and not stopping.

Would I have shot in that situation if there was already some scuffle or problem between us, as has been suggested by some witness reports? Most likely, yes.  And yes, I know Officer Wilson is younger than me, bigger than me, in better shape, and is trained and had a gun and Mike Brown was unarmed, but in that moment with a huge man coming at me and not stopping, I could understand fear – if that’s what happened.

But is that what actually happened when Mike Brown was killed? I don’t know. Some witness reports say that Wilson opened fire on Brown before Brown moved towards him. All I do know is that the police keep leaking information to bias the public against Mike Brown. But even if Brown had robbed a convenience store and even if he had smoked pot, neither justifies a cop killing an unarmed man. Nor does contempt of cop justify the killing. Perhaps the only defense for Darren Wilson is that he feared for his own life in that encounter.

But then why not get back in his car and call for backup? Why pursue Brown and force the issue? How did it get to that point of no return? 

There are those, like my friend in the police department, who may pragmatically say that Mike Brown’s killing was avoidable if only Brown had dropped to his knees with hands up.  That may be true at that point, but how Officer Wilson handled the encounter at the very outset likely led to what became the fatal interaction. Did Wilson harass Brown or was he disrespectful to him? Would the fatal shooting have occurred if Wilson had handled things differently at the beginning? Probably not.

In considering Officer Wilson’s responsibility for the killing of Mike Brown, we should not overlook or downplay the decisions he made at the outset and the way he approached Brown and Brown’s friend at the beginning of the incident because when all is said and done, Wilson killed Brown. If you want to excuse or rationalize it by decisions Brown made in responding to the situation, then you must also consider decisions Wilson made at every stage of the interaction. Despite his huge size, Brown was just an 18-year old kid. The officer was the one with the training and duty to handle this better.

But I’m still struck by how my friend, an experienced police officer, immediately understood how this could all happen and be considered  justifiable  in the police’s eyes.

Yes, I know what some of you are likely thinking now. “Well, he’s a cop, so of course he’ll just try to justify this or see it this way or lie to cover up wrongdoing by Wilson. Even though he’s black, he’s blue.”

And nine out of 10 times, you’d probably be right, except that my friend actually hates cops and only became a cop to get them to stop harassing him. But more on that in my next post.

Racism excuses murder? Again?

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By , February 16, 2014 10:04 am

Words fail. To those who said the justice system worked when George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin, what say you all now that Michael Dunn’s jury hung on the charge he murdered Jordan Davis?  Will you stand there and tell me that our justice system worked because the jurors didn’t have enough evidence to warrant a conviction?

Or will you, at long last, be honest and acknowledge that in our country, racism is so pervasive and runs so deep that all a white person needs to claim is “I was afraid of that black person” and a jury will relate to that and see reasonable doubt for a murder charge?

Three words. “I was afraid.” That’s all it takes, it seems, to justify deadly force against an unarmed black youth who was just playing music loud.

And if we spend our lives in isolation and perpetuate the myths and racism, we can then use that as an excuse to kill black youth?

I feel sick inside today.

There are many commentaries all over the Internet, but Ta-Nehisi Coates’ column reduces me to tears.

At long last, have we made no progress in this country?  Was electing a black president a sign of progress, or did we just put an “oreo” in the White House so we could tell ourselves and the world that America is not a deeply racist country?

My heart goes out to the families of  black youth who were and will be killed because they are black. I could not and likely would not have said what Jordan Davis’s mother said after the jury verdict yesterday.  Her comments may have prevented riots, but Jordan Davis did not get justice yesterday. And nor will the next black teen unless there is a tectonic shift in our country.

 

 

What do you teach your children?

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By , July 4, 2013 12:34 pm

When my children were younger, I used to read them books for children about American history. I took them to Lexington, Concord, Boston, Gettysburg, and other historical areas. I wanted them to appreciate some of the great things our country had done and the sacrifices made for democracy and equality.

But it’s been too many Fourth of July’s since I have felt any pride in America. What would I teach my children now? What do you teach your children now?

And how will you answer your young children when they grow up and ask, “Why didn’t you do something to stop the government from turning this country into a surveillance state? Why didn’t you do something to stop the government from taking away women’s rights to control their bodies? What kind of country did you leave me?”

It would be too simplistic – and ineffective – to simply say “Oust the Republicans from Congress,” because there are too many Democrats who agree with them.

We need a more fundamental shift in our country to get us back on course. Will you be part of it?

#Restorethe4th is not a total solution, but it’s an important part. Get behind it and take action.

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