What Being the Whitest Black Guy REALLY Means in the Heartland; Checking in- 50 Years after “The Dream” By- Aimee Fant
Photo: Associated Press, USA- August 24th 2013
How very easy it is to underestimate the significance of a great or small thing, when we don’t have a dog in that fight. That’s not to say that third-person victories or stunning losses are without weight, but in the absence of personal reward or suffered consequences of any given thing, how easily it is to forget or to be dismissive of another’s plight. It is as though it never happened. A story only has the chance to live by act of telling it. Otherwise, it simply dies. That’s 10-fold if we turn the other cheek. There are things humanity cannot ignore. There are great injustices perpetrated against others who may not look like we do or do not share our ethnic, religious, and cultural origins, every day. And yet we balk at stopping these injustices, perhaps out of self-preservation, perhaps out of apathy, even perhaps out of perceived righteous condemnation.
Even groups that share the same ethnic lineage can be found trying to destroy one another. As with many regions within the Middle East, in war-torn Syria this very thing is happening. Injustice is not an Instrument of the Just One small ethnic/religious minority in Syria, the Alawites-the central key player in Syrian civil war (and is an off-shoot of Islamic Shiites) have complete rule over the Syrian people, which of course includes the religious/ethnic moderate majority-the Sunnis (as well as other religious groups, Christians, Assyrians, Kurds). Out of fear of the Alawites’ demise and through efforts to maintain this power, Bashar Al-Assad’s Syrian government regime is murdering women and children within the opposition through chemical weapons of mass destruction.
Despite indisputable physical evidence that the Syrian government/regime has carried out these crimes and other crimes against humanity, Assad has taken to falsely accusing the Syrian rebels of killing their own to purposely provoke an American attack on the Syrian government. Assad who has made war with his own Syrian people to silence the Syrian moderate uprising (that began as peaceful protests) called President Obama “weak” and said “A strong leader doesn’t make war, he prevents it.” Key leaders within the Senate on both political sides support a strike to diminish Assad’s military resources, as there is overwhelming evidence that Assad broke century-old Geneva Convention chemical weapons ban. “Some American Arabs (of Middle-Eastern origin) side with Assad. Many American Arabs believe fighting Israel is more important than bringing democracy to the Arab world.” Ray Hanania, explains. Creators.com, Sept. 5th, 2013. Russia and Iran-(who is furnishing weapons) support Assad as well. Some members within the American leadership are unwilling to take action against Assad’s atrocities. Senator Rand Paul cited that Assad has been “friendly to Christians” as one of the reasons not to take action against the regime in an interview on Meet the Press, September 1st, 2013. While it is true that Assad (the Alawites-11% of Syria’s population) have an understanding with Syrian Christians (who also make up another 11% of Syria’s population) upon closer inspection, it is not out of good will. It is a transparent attempt to shield from any hostility or scrutiny from the West. Assad is using Syria’s Christian population as a strategic “human shield” against opposition from the West, as if to say: “Look. I am protecting your Christians. Pay no attention to what I am doing to my own people, who oppose me. It doesn’t concern you.” (Hitler strategically appealed to the religious sensibilities of the Christian West and Anti-Semites much the same way during World War II-which is perhaps why it took years for Americans to intervene and liberate a Jewish population, for which they could not identify with-ethnically or religiously at that time.) It must be noted, however that among the moderate Syrian rebels fighting for a free and democratic Syria, there are members of Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood attempting to infiltrate, as the Syrian Free Army is desperate for resources, and these radical groups are eager to help to supply men and weapons. The moderates are also fighting with Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood for control. And recently, a heavily-circulated video of barbaric punishment carried out by a rogue Syrian free-army solider of soldier of Assad’s regime for raping and torturing Sunni Syrians. (Glenn Beck’s compelling coverage of this event, that happened in April of 2012, NOT in 2013 as he suggested, conveniently edits out that the slain solider’s phone contained video footage of him raping and torturing Syrian Sunnis) Assad’s 11-year old son articulates his father’s defiance for international law that he, himself has soaked up like a sponge in the following facebook post, a message with a threatening and unapologetic undertone, suggesting that the Syrian government’s soliders with have their way with all who oppose them.
Not a message indicative of a government falsely accused of war crimes. Perhaps the message the world needs to send to Assad is “Real leaders don’t commit great injustices against their own people.”
While deplorable and much larger in scale than many may be willing to admit, Assad is trying to protect “his own” as every other dictator has done since the beginning of civilization by either dominating or doing away with a perceived threat, using inhumanity and injustice as a tool to do so. As every rogue “protector” has done to exact revenge or to teach a perceived “them” a lesson, for being in the way, for being in the wrong place at the wrong time; to protect “his kind” from one of “them”. It is astounding what a unified people are capable of- for better or worse, through good will or malice, in the quest for dominance, or in defense it. There is an undeniable propensity of people to align themselves with those most similar to themselves-who share the same ethnicity, ideology, or religious beliefs- with their “own” regardless if the cause is just. Many become blind to the injustices suffered by others at the hands of their own, over a give and take exchange with those they are taught to perceive as their enemy, or with whom they are taught to be “less” deserving. In whichever battles and wars we find ourselves fighting, the truth is that injustice is not an instrument of the just. If Assad’s cause was just, why must he use moral atrocity and injustice to carry it out? While many seek the truth in questioning motivation, the truth always finds its way eventually through action. A small stone of truth creates ripples, made infinitely large by the current and weather it finds along the way; a sentiment borrowed from Robert Kennedy’s famous and inspiring civil rights speech-in South Africa.
Aside from what may be happening on the other side of the world, here in the United States- an important date has just come to pass: August 28th, 2013- marked the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington and the articulation of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream; To peacefully end segregation, the dream that everyone would have a voice that is heard at the ballot box, and the dream that the opportunities of the Promiseland, the United States of America, would one day be made available to everyone, regardless of skin color.
Some have begun to doubt the furtherance of that dream, today.
Some say it has simply stalled.
Much is continuing to transpire as the fallout from the Sanford, Florida jury’s decision to acquit George Zimmerman on 2nd Degree Murder charges surrounding the death of 17 year-old Trayvon Martin, continues to settle. Disgrace has shown up all corners of the opportunistic media, among social media users, and within our private conversations and whispers. It is among the whispered remarks we find the reality of race relations in the United States, specifically right here in Muncie, Indiana- which has proven to be downright ugly and regressive at times, but if you look carefully enough you, will find that the truth is quiet and beautiful and it should not go unnoticed. On an unusually mild summer night outside the Delaware County building in downtown Muncie, Indiana; July 21st, 2013- citizens gathered quietly from all walks of life from every hue to the sound of hand-drums, without out fanfare or the presence of any other formal press outlets to discuss how they want their community to be; Different, they say- than a community just under 1,000 miles away, Sanford, Florida- in which they say an injustice has happened and for which they could not turn the other cheek.
Photograph: Aimee Fant, Muncie Voice; July 21st- Muncie, Indiana; 2013-Mother and son, in prayer. Candlelight Vigil in Memory of Trayvon Martin
Among the modest-sized crowd, speakers began to emerge. One by one, they did not discuss revenge, they discussed peace. They did not discuss taking matters into their own hands, as some say Mr. Zimmerman did that rainy and ill-fated night in Sanford, Florida, they discussed simple solutions to complex prejudices. The discussed stopping individual injustices before they had a chance to begin. They did not discuss further division, they discussed unity. Most of all, they discussed reaching out to those who are different, to discover all the things we need to know, but are too afraid to ask. They did not discuss bitter injustice; “Injustice” (The Horseman)- though it may have found them too in one form or another too in some of their lives outside this community. What they say found them, instead in Muncie, Indiana- is a sense of community. “ Injustice is not welcome here” They say. They peacefully and gracefully reject the new covert Jim Crow that is silently seeping into other communities. .
Photograph: Aimee Fant; Muncie Voice- Hazakyah Hardy-Dia , July 21st, 2013- speaking to Muncie’s Trayvon Martin vigil attendees.
Hazakyah Hardy-Dia- A Ball State English (teaching) Master’s graduate, musician, activist, and of proud Jewish-African American descent, says this of race relations in Muncie and within the rest of the world: “It is clear that the USA, like in so many other countries on the planet, racism is still very much alive and well. The solution to racism, as well as most of the other of the world’s ills, will not be found in protest but in sincere self-reflection. The Muncie I witnessed at the Trayvon Martin vigil is vastly different from the Muncie I knew as a grad student! The easy mix of people (races) is new (and very inspiring) for me!”
*Photograph: Aimee Fant, Muncie Voice- Steve Robert, Muncie, IN- July 21st- 2013- speaking to vigil crowd. Steve Robert, Muncie resident, musician and community activist says: “Really look at the other people you encounter during your day – no one really has it easy – each person has their own struggles – their own issues. Give them a nod – or a wave- or a smile. Reach out your hand and ask “How are you today?” Practice caring about others – even others you don’t even know. Especially - if they happen to look a little different from you.”
*Photograph: Aimee Fant; Muncie Voice, Dr. George Wolfe- July 21st, 2013- Lights a candle among other Muncie residents in remembrance of Trayvon Martin. Dr. George Wolfe, (pictured above) Muncie resident and Ball State University professor reminded the crowd to “Stand your ground against the Stand your ground laws” indicating that Indiana policy is identical to that of Florida and though in theory these policies are means of self-defense, in practice sometimes they are used as a Wild, Wild West means to shoot an individual at will without any legal ramifications. A list of over 200 Fatal Stand Your Ground Cases in Florida alone, are here is a list of 6 other Stand Your Ground cases with eerie similarities to the acquittal of George Zimmerman. Dr. Wolfe also recommended a book entitled: “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander.
*Photograph: Aimee Fant; Muncie Voice- July 21st, 2013- Sue Errington praises the efforts of all the speakers and energizes the crowd. State congresswoman Sue Errington focused upon policy, voting rights and new restrictions, having pointed out that Indiana provided the model for the new unprecedented voter restriction laws in North Carolina and praised the youngest among all the speakers, 9-year old Destiny Donati.
Photograph; Aimee Fant, Muncie Voice; July 21st, 2013-Marwin Strong speaks passionately to the vigil crowd. Marwin Strong, a Ball State Criminal Justice graduate, Muncie Community youth-advocate, public educator and Ivy Tech instructor, reminds us that “We all bleed the same red blood. And we are all one race. We are the human race.”
Photograph: Aimee Fant; Muncie Voice- Destiny Donati speaks to the vigil crowd with the support her father Jason Donati and brother (pictured) 9 year-old Destiny Donati courageously asked to be heard; “For all the kids to be heard and for the grown-ups to stop arguing and listen to them”.
Though the folks in attendance of the vigil gathered to find common ground, not in protest, but in peace, there is still discord within Muncie and elsewhere as the events surrounding Trayvon Martin’s death have unfolded. But first, let’s start at the start; A streamlined and chronologically ordered timeline.
Since the “Not guilty” verdict was read, a number of other things have happened. Mr. Zimmerman’s wife Shellie, has filed for divorce, citing that Zimmerman is “Selfish, feels invincible (he has been issued 3 speeding tickets since he has been aquitted) and has left her to fix all that he has broken.”. Both George and Shellie Zimmerman were charged with perjury for falsifying financial resources and transferring funds in an effort to hide their financial assets-upon George Zimmerman’s request. She pleaded guilty. George Zimmerman was nowhere to be seen at her court appearance. George Zimmerman is also suing the state of Florida to re-coop the personal costs of his trial and is suing NBC for defamation. It was also reported he saved a family from a car (that appeared to be on fire) shortly after his acquittal. The Martin family appears to be moving forward with a wrongful death civil suit against George Zimmerman, though this will not be decided for some time. Whichever camp individuals proclaim to belong, some of the events that have transpired since the acquittal, could be interpreted as very telling of the racial gridlock , further injustice and legal incompetence surrounding this case, or represent the view that Mr. Zimmerman is a victim, himself of the “race card” war, as Floridian protesters angrily point out.
“You’re the whitest black guy I know.”
Though not present at the vigil, Everett Keys, a former resident of Florida now living in Indiana, who is a substitute teacher and also works as a server at Bob Evans (in Muncie) had this to say of his experience in Muncie as a young black male: “Growing up around here, in Yorktown, many of my friends would say to me: “You’re the whitest black guy I know.” Keys also said both his black and white friends made remarks like this to him. Black friends, told him he was “selling out” (as he spoke articulately) and his white friends assumed they were paying him some sort of compliment; As though a young, articulate and polite African American male was such an impossible anomaly. It was like they were saying that being articulate and educated were only “white” attributes. Then Keys reflected upon the verdict acquitting Zimmerman of any wrong-doing: “No one I work with besides the only other black male at work will talk about it…..to us. I know that it was talked about, the phrase “race card” came up, but it was all very hushed. The only difference I experienced between here and the Southern states is that down there, you know where you stand. I am angered by the outcome of the case. I’m not surprised. Racial profiling has not stopped and will not stop anytime soon. It’s sad. But the African American is conditioned to things like these. Therefore we are angry, but no, we are not surprised.” Florida’s Dangerous and Historic Racial Teeter-Totter of Passivity and Hostility Former Jacksonville, FL resident, now Ball State graduate, Assistant Manager of McSports, entrepreneur (CEO of e-commerce College|etc.) and Muncie resident, Chris Rosier lost a family member, Antonio Costin in Florida, much the same way Martin family lost Trayvon. Costin, age 24, who was an unarmed young black male and was fatally shot in the chest when seeking assistance for his broken-down car early in the morning on July 5th 2005. Anticipating the suspicion that those he’d ask for help would think he was just probably trying to steal the car (his girlfriend’s car), he carried registration papers with him as he sought assistance from 42 year old, Caucasian George Lawrence, the man who shot him for coming onto his property. Having just become a father, Antonio died 2 hours after he was shot at the same hospital from which his girlfriend and newborn son were to be released later that morning. The Florida prosecuting attorney never filed charges, as Lawrence cited the same “Stand Your Ground” defense that Zimmerman would later use, successfully; To shoot first, ask questions later.
More recently, July 28th, 2013-another unarmed African American Florida resident, Roy Middleton, age 60, was shot 15 times in his own driveway as he was smoking a cigarette by police who claimed to have “followed protocol” responding to a possible theft in the area. Middleton survived to tell his story. Trayvon Martin did not.
Though veiled discriminatory profiling practices prove to be just as far-reaching and as equal opportunity in other parts of the country; Floridians are in good company, as persons of color through-out the country are finding themselves profiled and having to defend themselves, in essence, for the crimes they look likely to commit. Kasiem Walters, an African-American 17-year male, a senior in high school, discusses being frisked countless times from the age of 13, since the “Stop and Frisk”- policies went into effect, In New York. The New Shape-Shifting Underbelly of Hate and Prejudice Racial tension and racism are shape-shifters. Aug. 27th, 2013- Bloomington, IN- a group of four men, all white supremacists, who claim to be affiliated with the Trad Youth Network marched through Indiana University campus; lamented and protested the presence of “third world” dark-skinned immigrants and openly admitted to being racists. They heckled and provoked the crowds that gathered around them. There appears to be a resurgence of white supremacist groups since the election of president Obama in 2008 and those groups are swimming upstream to the northern Midwestern regions of the United States. The Southern Poverty Law Center has provided an interactive map of the locations of known hate groups through-out the United States.
Data extrapolated from social media giant-Twitter, suggests the geographically upward trend in racist sentiments as well. The groups with hate and racist origins look much different than those of the past which of course are the up front and center sort- involving hooded white sheets and burning crosses. The old KKK has been replaced with a kinder, “gentler” form of white supremacy and brand new anti-government militias that were spawned as a result of President Obama’s election in 2008. These groups have had to evolve over time to survive. The words “Patriot” attract hard right white supremacists, though let it be known not all militias that exist have been borne from white supremacy fears. However an important distinction needs to be made between the motivations of militia groups and what they are actually rising up against. There appears to be a common fear and need to protect themselves from foreigners or foreign terrorists, and the “new” government (versus the old government controlled by white men) An updated list of domestic terrorism attacks, however, indicates that 95% of the acts of domestic terror and brutality were not carried out by dark-skinned individuals or foreigners, but instead were Caucasian men.
So why all the militia groups?
Graph and data: Southern Poverty Law Center- 2012
First Amendment Rights in 2013 suggests: Same as it ever was.
Through-out the 2012 election and immediately following it, multiple displays through-out the south, in Louisiana, Florida, Texas; Life-sized images of President Obama hanging from a noose, set on fire and lynched. Please google keywords “President Obama lynching noose” “President Obama hanging empty chair photos” there are hundreds of images floating around. In late 2012, an effigy lynching display of President Obama circulated through South-based Shell gas stations.
Jacksonville, Florida- 2012- www.13wmag.com
The Secret Service recently paid an urgent visit to the museum to investigate the complaints that the following artwork, an image of the famous Clintwood-esque empty chair hanging from a tree (to depict a lynching) in the Fenimore Art Museum in New York. The artist who symbolically communicated a hypothetical lynching of President Obama has since destroyed the artwork, and wishes to remain anonymous, in an effort to not draw more attention to himself and create further havoc.
Fenimore Art Museum, New York-2013 The origin of the following artwork depicting
President Obama in yet another lynching remains unknown
Aside from veiled homicidal threats of lynching, some other folks are threatening to secede with from the Union with “We, the People” petitions, upon learning of President Obama’s re-election. Petitions to leave the USA were reported to have surfaced as a direct result of President Obama’s re-election . Not since the Civil War, has there been such a visceral response to the outcome of an election. These petitions mostly originated within the southern states, much as they did in response to the Federal government’s January 1st, 1863′s Emancipation Proclamation, abolishing of slavery, bringing about the Civil War. Louisiana and Texas lead this charge (without Gov. Perry’s support, it should be known). Here’s a 2012 Presidential Electorate Results Map vs. Pre-Civil War
Since President Obama was elected in 2008, there has been a nearly 800% increase in extremist “patriot” groups: “It was all part of the election season’s bluster cycle, and while partisan hot air is typical, 2012’s squabbling was “palpably ugly,” even if most of it is just talk, said Jerrold Post, director of George Washington University’s political psychology program and author of “Political Paranoia: The Psychopolitics of Hatred.” “That’s always been the case: more extreme talk than actions,” he said. “You can entertain any idea you want to, but there’s a difference between having an idea and acting on an idea.” “But,” Post added, “throw enough ugly ideas into a pot and something is going to boil over.” *CNN Politics- November 8th, 2012. Daily Kos, Nov. 25th, 2012: “Since the President took office in 2008, the rate of threats against the president has increased 400%. Some threats to the President have been publicized, including the well-known alleged plot by white supremacists in Tennessee to rob a gun store, shoot 88 black people, decapitate another 14 and then assassinate the first black president in American history. Most however, are kept under wraps because the Secret Service fears that revealing details of them would only increase the number of copycat attempts.” Pictured below are known and well-organized hate groups in Indiana. (Groups having at least 100 members) This of course does not include secret organizations.
Image: Southern Poverty Law Center, 2012
Indiana was a “Yankee” state during the civil war, but it historically defects to the south, socially and politically with the exception of the 2008 Presidential election (It went blue!). “You wouldn’t know that Indiana was ever a “Yankee” state, with all the rebel flag bumper stickers, rebel flags waving in residents’ yards, especially here in Muncie.” says anonymous Muncie resident. The Race Riots of 1967, some remember, decades ago- racial tension in Muncie, reached a fever pitch. One of Muncie’s own high schools, Southside, at its inception named after (Confederacy) Rebels. Now Southside is simply the “Rebels”- proud home to a diverse student population; A present-day victory over the spectres of racial divisions that have yet to be conquered in other regions of the country, perhaps. The following is the MOST descriptive, detailed map of segregation through-out the United States. Click on the link to zoom into individual cities. Pay close attention to Detriot- the North/South split divisions on 8 Mile Road.
There is a reason an African-American male might be on defense……
American Progress has compiled data from the American prison system, has extrapolated inferences a list of the 10 most important facts pertaining to the criminal-justice system’s impact on communities of color, and the likelihood of being incarcerated.
1. “ While people of color make up about 30 percent of the United States’ population, they account for 60 percent of those imprisoned. The prison population grew by 700 percent from 1970 to 2005, a rate that is outpacing crime and population rates. The incarceration rates disproportionately impact men of color: 1 in every 15 African American men and 1 in every 36 Hispanic men are incarcerated in comparison to 1 in every 106 white men.”
2. “According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one in three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime. Individuals of color have a disproportionate number of encounters with law enforcement, indicating that racial profiling continues to be a problem. A report by the Department of Justice found that blacks and Hispanics were approximately three times more likely to be searched during a traffic stop than white motorists. African Americans were twice as likely to be arrested and almost four times as likely to experience the use of force during encounters with the police.”
3. “Students of color face harsher punishments in school than their white peers, leading to a higher number of youth of color incarcerated. Black and Hispanic students represent more than 70 percent of those involved in school-related arrests or referrals to law enforcement. Currently, African Americans make up two-fifths and Hispanics one-fifth of confined youth today.”
4. “According to recent data by the Department of Education, African American students are arrested far more often than their white classmates. The data showed that 96,000 students were arrested and 242,000 referred to law enforcement by schools during the 2009-10 school year. Of those students, black and Hispanic students made up more than 70 percent of arrested or referred students. Harsh school punishments, from suspensions to arrests, have led to high numbers of youth of color coming into contact with the juvenile-justice system and at an earlier age.”
5. “African American youth have higher rates of juvenile incarceration and are more likely to be sentenced to adult prison. According to the Sentencing Project, even though African American juvenile youth are about 16 percent of the youth population, 37 percent of their cases are moved to criminal court and 58 percent of African American youth are sent to adult prisons.”
6. “As the number of women incarcerated has increased by 800 percent over the last three decades, women of color have been disproportionately represented. While the number of women incarcerated is relatively low, the racial and ethnic disparities are startling. African American women are three times more likely than white women to be incarcerated, while Hispanic women are 69 percent more likely than white women to be incarcerated.”
7. “The war on drugs has been waged primarily in communities of color where people of color are more likely to receive higher offenses. According to the Human Rights Watch, people of color are no more likely to use or sell illegal drugs than whites, but they have higher rate of arrests. African Americans comprise 14 percent of regular drug users but are 37 percent of those arrested for drug offenses. From 1980 to 2007 about one in three of the 25.4 million adults arrested for drugs was African American.”
8. “Once convicted, black offenders receive longer sentences compared to white offenders. The U.S. Sentencing Commission stated that in the federal system black offenders receive sentences that are 10 percent longer than white offenders for the same crimes. The Sentencing Project reports that African Americans are 21 percent more likely to receive mandatory-minimum sentences than white defendants and are 20 percent more like to be sentenced to prison.”
9. “Voter laws that prohibit people with felony convictions to vote disproportionately impact men of color. An estimated 5.3 million Americans are denied the right to vote based on a past felony conviction. Felony disenfranchisement is exaggerated by racial disparities in the criminal-justice system, ultimately denying 13 percent of African American men the right to vote. Felony-disenfranchisement policies have led to 11 states denying the right to vote to more than 10 percent of their African American population.”
10. “Studies have shown that people of color face disparities in wage trajectory following release from prison. Evidence shows that spending time in prison affects wage trajectories with a disproportionate impact on black men and women. The results show no evidence of racial divergence in wages prior to incarceration; however, following release from prison, wages grow at a 21 percent slower rate for black former inmates compared to white ex-convicts. A number of states have bans on people with certain convictions working in domestic health-service industries such as nursing, child care, and home health care—areas in which many poor women and women of color are disproportionately concentrated.” –www.Americanprogress.org
“Tell them about the dream, Martin. Tell them about the dream.”
The following interview was provided and conducted by: Nola.com; Author: Dave Walker
Clarence Jones, a witness among 300,000 others who attended Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech and former adviser and attorney, Jones recalls this famous day:
“He (King) was just reading (from a prepared and written speech) and from the crowd: ‘Tell them about the dream, Martin. Tell them about the dream.” Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, shouted. Clarence Jones continues: “Standing about 50 feet behind him, to the right and to the rear, and I watched him — this is all happening in real time — just take the text of his speech and move it to the left side of the lectern, grab the lectern and looked out.” “One of the world’s greatest gospel singers shouting out to one of the world’s greatest Baptist preachers. She may have ignored the fact that there were almost 300,000 other people there, and she just shouted out to Martin, “Tell them about the dream.” Anybody else who would yell at him, he probably would’ve ignored it. “I said to somebody standing next to me, ‘These people don’t know it, but they’re about ready to go to church.”
The events that took place in honor the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington August 24th-28th 2013- were met with dismissals from conservative radio talk show host Laura Ingraham; which included assertions that the liberal civil rights leaders such as Rep. John Lewis (a legendary civil rights hero who worked side-by-side with MLK and was brutally beaten several times by police through-out protests, the worst being on “Bloody Sunday”) of today are co-opting MLK “out of turn” and without premise.
Lewis has this to say: “Was the election of Obama the fulfillment of King’s dream? No. It was just a downpayment.”
It is well-known Dr. Martin Luther King was a liberal who fought long and hard to uproot conservative stronghold on legislation opposing equality. It is fair to say that MLK would still continue to oppose oppressive economic and social measures standing in the way of equality. Ingraham began to replay Lewis’ Aug. 28th speech on her radio program, then cut him off, with a gunshot. (To impose an “ironic” symbolic assassination) Ingraham is not alone. Laura Ingraham is among many political zealots in the hard-right media, today, who have attempted to damage MLK’s image and his tarnish the message those who proceed him try to keep alive. It must be asked: Why would anyone aim to discredit Dr. Martin Luther King’s message of civil and social equality unless they intend to invalidate it?
In the following Q and A, which is an editor’s note from a portion of an interview via Alternet/Salon’s Alyssa Figueora with Gary Younge, author of “The Speech: The Story Behind Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream.”
AF: Through history then, what made it such a great speech? You write that a great speech is “timely and timeless.” What made King’s speech timely and timeless?
GY: The thing that made it timely was he’s speaking to a multiracial crowd — about 20 percent white, 80 percent black — at a pivotal moment. That year begins with George Wallace in Alabama saying, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” And it ends with Kennedy’s assassination. Just a couple weeks later, four little girls are killed in Birmingham. So the speech comes at this pivotal moment. And it does manage to articulate both the utopian hopes and the dystopian reality of that time. People are being whacked to death. People are being tortured, and I mean literally tortured and murdered. And he manages to capture all of that, and he manages to capture and say that there’s a better world out there for us. And to that extent it’s very timely.
AF: You write that the right has distorted the speech for their own purposes. Can you talk a little bit about this?
GY: In 1966, twice as many people have an unfavorable view of King than a favorable one. When he dies, he’s politically polarizing and marginalized person. And the right tries its best to forget him but they can’t. They can’t denigrate him. As of 1983, Ronald Reagan was suggesting that he might be a Communist. Jesse Helms is disparaging his record. But King wins through. Only Mother Theresa is a more popular figure in the 20th century. And so the right has to remember him, though they viciously opposed everything he did.But they remember him by distorting his record in general and his speech in particular, and they remember him through his speech. They take one line: “I have a dream that my 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.” And they take that to represent an entire philosophy. As though the dream speech and King’s agenda was an appeal to color blindness. And the legacy of racism is ignored, as if to say, ‘Okay we’re done now, segregation is over that means racism is finished and to take race into account would be itself racist.’ So even though he was a proponent of affirmative action, they use it to suggest that he wasn’t. And they bring it up every time they want to say, ‘Let’s not take race into account, we’re all the same.’ Of course, it wasn’t an appeal to ignore racism, it was an appeal to address it. What he was saying was ‘I dream about a day when this is possible,’ but we’re not there yet. Not by a long shot.”
Chasing “The Dream”
Through-out the country, specifically in North Carolina, conservative-sponsored legislation has passed restricting the voting rights of districts that are hold a large number of minority voters and college students, which are largely democratic. Colin Powell warns against this practice and is very disappointed that the Voting Rights Act seems nullified by these legislative decisions. It appears Martin Luther King’s dream, 50 years later, remains elusive. But there is always hope.
King’s “Thursday’s Child” dream may still have a long way to go, but is still far from this
Noting the similarly-stacked circumstances to “To Kill a Mockingbird” (though in the following case, justice did not prevail) a buried story of injustice brought to light in Gilbert King’s non-fiction novel: “Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys and the Dawn of a New America.” The Groveland Four, young, black men who were falsely accused of raping a young white teenage girl, in 1948 (Florida) met their fates separately and tragically for crimes they did not commit, pre-dating the civil rights movement. This is just of many miscarriages of justice in the South, specifically, in Florida. Savage lynchings happened everywhere. Even in the North. In 1930, a savage mob in Marion, IN dragged Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith from the Marion County jail to the Courthouse (in which they were being held, falsely accused of murder and rape) beat them, then hanged them, as a crowd watched. Shipp’s and Smith’s bodies remained, hanging through-out the night.
Muncie police were called to help regain control of the mob that continued to grow through the night.
Photo: Cover-”A Lynching in the Heartland; Race and Memory in America”- James H. Madison
James Cameron, 16-escaped being lynched, as one of the police came to his defense mentioning that there was no way he had anything to do with it.
But the most savage example of hatred, prejudice, and inhumanity toward African-Americans is the lynching of Mary Turner.
Mid-May, 1918: Valdosta, Georgia- Imagine a woman, 8 and 1/2 months pregnant, whose husband has just been falsely accused of murdering his boss (Both she and her husband had been repeatedly and savagely beaten by this man). Imagine her husband being lynched, then hanged as he denied the accusations. Imagine she defends her husband’s honor and speaks out against his lynching. Imagine she flees to hide, only to be hunted down by the same mob that lynched her husband. Imagine her being hanged upside down, doused with gasoline and motor oil, her womb cut open, her unborn, full-term baby falling out onto the ground. Imagine the baby crying. Imagine the mob setting her on fire as they stomp on and crush her baby.
Now consider the landscape and timeline of American History. We are a young country. Racial equality, broad-based equalities of every kind (religious freedom, gender inequality, same-sex marriage rights) are a still just a baby. Within the past 100 years, we have seen, in the first 2/3′s of the 20th century, lynching after lynching, assassinations, murdering of the innocent, persecutions, condemnation for ALL who were subjects of or stood against racial and human inequality and injustice. Those who have upheld these ideals of one race’s privilege and their predecessors are still among us, but they are soon to be out numbered. The ghosts of the past, the inhumanity in lynching after lynching, pictured here in graphic detail, will not let us forget.
Let us remember one ethnic group systematically and virtually wiped out its opposition, the Native Americans, in the process of becoming the United States. There are tribes of Native Americans that were wiped from the face of the Earth. This “privileged group” conquered an entire ethnic group’s land, took it away from them, and yet enslaved another ethnic group- those of African descent. For its own righteous reasons; reasons rooted in Biblical origins, that affiliated dark-skinned Canannites to Satan, twisted and convoluted to rationalize the brutality of the “savages” in its way.
Whether we are willing to admit it or not, equality is still brand new in this country, and many say is not yet truly realized. Those things still weigh heavy upon our backs as we fight an uphill battle, complete with falling boulders, and landslides. What is not new are the thousand-years wars between religious and ethnic groups in the Middle East. While it is easy to identify injustices in other parts of the world: Darfur, Somalia, the humanitarian crisis and civil war in Syria, the bloodshed in Egypt the upon Gaza strip, etc. and can clearly see countries’ horrific treatment of their citizens, the insight to see we have not escaped injustice toward entire ethnic groups within our own country. Should you find yourself among a minority that was lynched and oppressed in the recent past or racially profiled, and see the look of fear in others’ eyes as you pass on the street or enter the elevator, as communicated so painfully and eloquently by the Roots’ Questlove’s facebook post, and President Obama’s own account of what was like to be a young black male, especially not.
Ask them what is like to be portrayed as the scary villain in the American media. Ask them what it is like for others to assume they are not educated before they even speak. Ask them how it feels to be called “The whitest black guy” simply on the basis that they speak articulately.
Ask them what it is like to know that someone who looks just like them was killed, for looking…..just ”like” them; One of “those” boys.
Ask them if they are “over it”.
Understand that many are not, but they are trying to be. And they don’t need those in majority to tell them to “Get over it”.
If you want to make an “angry black man” angrier, tell him he has nothing to be angry about. Tell him it’s all in his head. Tell him racism doesn’t exist anymore, because some radio talk-show host told you that it doesn’t, Ask him if he needs a hero. He will probably tell you that he just wants for you to stop seeing him as the villain.
What can we do? We ask. Some say that’s just the way it is. An old Bruce Hornsby “The Way it is” song tells the story of an observation of apathy for racial inequality. Others say: “I do not belong to a group that is being discriminated against or being persecuted. These issues don’t affect me.” “Racial inequality and racism doesn’t exist anymore.” Some say.
If you find yourself in the current majority, in an unchallenged “privileged” group, it is important to know that according the United States census bureau, Caucasians are likely to become the minority racial group in the United States by 2042
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” Mark Twain
Don’t forget humankind is capable of empathy; should it ever be in short supply, we have only ourselves to blame. Don’t get too comfortable. As seen in Syria, the moderate Sunni majority has been oppressed by a minority population that lacks empathy for them. The thing about adversity and oppression is that has this tendency to make its subjects faster, stronger, kinder, (or meaner) and more capable, out of necessity as a natural consequence of having to work harder and fight to survive. One day those who were counted out will out-grow the inhumanity in others who work against them. One day that selective inhumanity, and all who show it, in this generation or in generations to come, will be obsolete; in this life or the next.
What will YOU DO when Injustice, the Horseman, who looks just like you, walks and talks just like you, comes knocking upon your door and asks you to turn your back to others who aren’t just like you?
A note from the Author: This article is dedicated to my students; many of whom express to me the obstacles both they and their families face- day to day, for which I was not fully aware until I began seeing them with my own two eyes. My message to them is: Be as patient and as graceful as you can be, even when others are not. Work hard and be proud, but not fatally bitter with old ghosts. You will never be able to control the actions and words of others, though we all have complete control over our own. You are your own powerful navigator. When you define yourself by the anger you allow others to build within you, you hand over your power to them-to be used against you. And they will, but only if you let them. - Mrs. Fant