Posts Tagged ‘Racism

20
Jan
20

remembering martin luther king jr. – january 20, 2020

Remembering Martin Luther King Jr. – January 20, 2020

“For years now, I have heard the word ‘wait’ … this ‘wait’ has almost always meant ‘never.’ We must come to see that ‘justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

To understand Dr. King is to know the record of his work. “King: A Filmed Record … Montgomery to Memphis” was released in 1970. It carried the raw pain of his terrible loss a mere two years before along with a clear understanding of the arc and breadth of his work for civil rights and social justice — fights we engage in today with a renewed urgency for action to overcome the ills of racism, intolerance, fascism, anti-immigrant fervor, anti-semitism, the denial of LGBTQ rights, climate change denial, and on and on.  Now as then we are called upon to witness and fight against justice denied.

21
Jan
19

Remembering martin luther king jr. – january 22, 2019

Remembering Martin Luther King Jr. – January 22, 2019

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life’s work was to right the wrongs of injustice wherever he found them. In so doing he became the conscience of a nation. On October 26,1967, six months before his assassination, Dr. King was in Philadelphia where he delivered a speech to the students at Barratt Junior High School. The speech was entitled “What Is Your Life’s Blueprint?” and in our current body politic, Dr. King’s words resonate as never before.

25
Mar
18

If not now when?

Draylon Mason, a 17-year-old musician killed by a package bomb at his home in Austin, Texas on March 12, 2018

I have felt terribly whipsawed of late by the constant flow of news that hits my consciousness through one channel or another. I’ve even turned off all of the alerts that used to bombard my smart phone, but shutting down the input doesn’t mean the stories aren’t there, from the latest hate-filled invective of the our current president on through the latest senseless death.

On the day the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida spearheaded a remarkable worldwide outpouring of support for sensible gun-laws and a deeper look at how our prejudices and bigoted assumptions skew our reaction to gun violence, I caught hold of the following story out of Austin, Texas: Austin bombing victim accepted at Oberlin before death.

The “bombing victim” referred to was Draylon Mason. He was a talented double-bassist who was one of 130 students accepted into the Oberlin Conservatory of Music out of a pool of 1,500 applicants. It seems he’d been accepted into the school prior to his horrific death when a package bomb exploded and killed him. The bombing on March 12, 2018 also caused extensive injuries to his mother. It was the second bomb that had exploded in what became a serial bombing case. The bomber, Mark Anthony Conditt, a 23-year-old a white Christian, was not labeled a terrorist and in the days that followed, it was revealed he had left behind a cell phone recording, described by a law enforcement official as “the outcry of a very challenged young man.”

I do not dispute that a “lone wolf” bomber is likely “very challenged.” No more than any of the other whackos that grab weapons of mass destruction to gun down students and concert goers and crowds of shoppers and so on.

What I feel broken by is how we as a society continue to discount the lives of people of color. Where were the stories about Draylon Mason’s life? Where was the compassion for his parents and family and friends about his death? Where are the ribbons on the trees near his house and the candles and vigils?

All of this leaves me with the query: if not now when?

We cannot have another senseless death on our hands without really looking deeply at who we have become as a society. Our children have shown us a path for dialogue–and now it is up to all of us to heed their call to actually do something about it. Enough is enough.

 

 

24
Feb
18

Strange times …

Protesters rally against gun violence in front of the old Florida Capital in Tallahassee, Florida, February 21, 2018. Photo credit: Mark Wallheiser, AP

As anyone who has read this blog for a while knows, I am no spring chicken.  Not that I am ready for the grave, but as a post-war baby boomer born in the mid-1950s, I’ve lived through extraordinary social and political change. And yes, by post-war I mean the “big one,” WW2.  I bring up WW2 because so much of the promise of America that led to notions of American exceptionalism in the 1950s was built on an ideology of American hegemony as not only beneficent, but as the savior of the world.  Scratch that surface, of course, and one tells a different story of McCarthyism, “lavender” scares, Jim Crow segregation, overt sexism and a host of other social and political ills. One can also argue, however, that the precise forces that led to American prosperity and might, created an atmosphere that laid the groundwork for the great movements of the late 1950s through the 1970s. Movements that brought us civil rights, the end to the Viet Nam War, gender and gay rights, open immigration, and a buy-in to notions American fairness and equality were finally bringing the promise of the American Declaration of Independence to the fore.

New York City subway, 1946. Photo credit: Stanley Kubrick

So fast forward decades, with all of our prosperity, and here we are as Americans in the era of ultimate free choice. We can chose to narcotize ourselves with any drug we wish for hours at a time, and by narcotize, I’m not even talking about actual drugs, but the hours we spend “binge watching” shows on our “smart devices,” from phones to electronic pads to computers and so on.  Sit on a subway these days and I defy you to find someone reading an actual book or a newspaper. Instead of carefully following the ritual of the New York Times fold while precariously hanging on to the “strap,” with our legs slightly bent at the knees to keep us upright as we lurch forward, one leans wherever possible with a snarly pout (thereby hogging the poll), while dexterously clicking through a myriad of games, Instagram posts, YouTube videos, or one binge watchable show or another. Not that reading a newspaper was any more social vis-a-vis that special New York City ethos of never engaging with a stranger, but the act of reading from an actual newspaper added a kind of kinesthetic experience, including what to do about the newsprint, that seems more active than todays “thumbing.”

New York City subway station, May 11, 2016, Photo credit: Jewel Samad, AFP, Getty Images

It also seems that a New York City subway these days is about as egalitarian as it gets–on the one hand the pride of the promise of America, but on the other, symptomatic of how down our rabbit hole of self-interest we have become, not to mention the crowding and inherent depersonalization of our post-modern life. That all aside, our current politic of retrograde-everything–that questions the heart of what Americanism truly is, has led to a clarion call that feels very much like the activism of by-gone eras in America.

Whether the Black Lives Matter movement born of one too many police shootings of people of color, the rise in women filing to run for office because their sick of ongoing sexism, the rise of #MeToo and #TimesUp, the burgeoning movement of teenager survivors of the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida who’ve taken their case for gun control to the Florida State house, reengagement with the idea of nuclear disarmament, the pressing need to work to mitigate climate change, and so on, not to mention the rise in the concept of #Resistance born of Donald Trump’s election to the presidency; we are on the precipice of change and an awakened consciousness of our many problems and of the opportunity they bring for solutions.

Rather than the retrograde notion of making American “white” again — whatever that means given we were never that — or making America “America” again, i.e., non-immigrant, again something we never were; we are seeing in the rising of articulate and well-reasoned arguments, groups of people who are refusing to remain in their rabbit-holes of reality television, game shows and the latest binge-watchable series, to face up to speak truth to power. At the same time, commercial endeavors, such at the newly released Marvel spectacular, Black Panther, are provoking us to ask questions on a grander scale that not only call into question the idea of American hegemony, but the continuing damage of colonialism as a whole, and the larger hegemony of “western civilization” that is the root of American Exceptionalism.

And yes, I will not fail to mention, that were actual female warriors in the African Kingdom of Dahomey who fought bravely for centuries against all enemies, including the French Foreign Legion until they were finally defeated and disbanded once the nation came under Colonial thumb of the French.

What does this all mean in the end?

To my thinking it is time to wake up, get off our collective complacency, and begin to do the work of making this nation a country of real fairness and equity. That means doing the very hard work of facing our truths and in doing so, find our way forward to real solutions to our myriad problems. I fear if we do not, we shall meander into a further downward spiral that will find us further from the true prize of human progress.

Time will tell.

This speech given by Dr. King, delivered shortly before his death is prophetic, if painful to hear, but hear it you must.

Dr. Martin Luther King, “Remaining Awake Through A Great Revolution” delivered on, March 31, 1968.

 

11
Feb
18

Truth and lies

Nelson Mandela was released from Victor Verster Prison on February 11, 1990. He went on to be inaugurated President of South Africa on May 10, 1994.

At the end of the apartheid era in South Africa in 1994, one of the most brilliant decisions made early on was the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It was based on an act passed in 1995 (Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act) on the belief that “a commission is a necessary exercise to enable South Africans to come to terms with their past on a morally accepted basis and to advance the cause of reconciliation.” It was an opportunity for victims and perpetrators to tell their stories and seek assistance in some cases and amnesty in others–and for the men and women of South Africa to rebuild their nation freed of the burdens of the apartheid era.

I know that I am simplifying a complex process that continues to the this day–but the lessons learned are instructive and cautionary as we continue to grapple with truth and lies in our body politic and in our personal lives.

No, it is never okay to abuse someone–whether physically, mentally, sexually, or emotionally. Just as it is never okay to perpetrate abuses against classes of persons whether they be ethnic, religious, sexual or otherwise. More to the point in what feels like a veritable war on sanity and justice–perhaps we all owe it to ourselves to confront our own truths and lies and an adage I take to heart, which is that cheating at solitaire serves no purpose, except perhaps to “kick the can” down the road as sooner or later truth wins out.

In the case of Rob Porter the current poster child for cheating at solitaire–here we have by all reports a brilliant person, who just happens to be an abusive sod. His behavior was abhorrent in not one, but two marriages, all known and discussed, ad infinitum it would seem, to include discussions with clergy and others as it was all playing out, not once, but twice. Fast forward lots of years and here he is begging his wives to downplay his abusive behavior so that he can get his FBI clearance–with nary a thought to what would happen to them if they perjured themselves. Not to mention the current President of the United States whose twitter rants read like alternative fiction when it comes to taking responsibility for ones actions.

I’ve lived long enough to observe and experience the ebb and flow of progressive politics, gender wars, civil rights fights and the inevitable backlash. I’ve also seen the lip service paid to affording people “equal” rights–while hearing damnable prejudice, sexism and everything else one can think of flung about quite openly.

In a recent conversation at Gleason’s Gym, someone was speaking of his Jewish grandmother who’d left Poland in the early 1900s. He had asked her one day if she’d ever go back and she said, “Never. I have no good memories there. My brother and my cousin were both killed for nothing. Why would I go back?”

We mulled that over for a minute or two, and then he said, “Can you imagine that? That’s why America was like gold to her and her generation.”

After a moment I said, “For her perhaps, but that was life for Black folks: people killed for nothing. Was it gold for them?”

And that, I believe is the crux of things for us. We refuse to see our own truths for what they are: we ignore the truths of our lives as victims and as perpetrators, and in so doing we perpetuate these actions as normative. Think of the parent who insists they are setting their kid straight when language spews out that belittles and diminishes their child, or think of the actions of a President who calls out an entire ethnic group as rapists and criminals.

It really is up to us to say enough as enough, and if not in the formal setting of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission–at the very least in the conduct of our daily lives and in how we hold our elected leaders accountable.

15
Jan
18

remembering Martin Luther King Jr. – january 15, 2018

Remembering Martin Luther King Jr. – january 15, 2018

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., ZUMA Press/Newscom/File

Today would have marked Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 89th birthday. This image of Dr. King flanked by the American flag is particularly poignant–since his sacrifice to the greater good of the United States resonates so powerfully in our polity today. We should not forget that the America of his dream continues to fight to shout out his teachings with full pride of place–no matter the obstacles.

On September 12, 1962, Dr. King gave a speech at New York City’s Park Sheraton Hotel commemorating the 100th anniversary of what was known as the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln. The speech was thought to have been lost for decades until a young intern discovered an audio copy of it in the New York State Museum in Albany.  As noted by WBAI in their commentary on the speech: At the end of the speech, Dr. King quotes a preacher (former slave) who he says “didn’t quite have his grammar right but uttered words of great symbolic profundity.”

“Lord, we ain’t what we oughta be. We ain’t what we want to be. We ain’t what we gonna be. But, thank God, we ain’t what we was.”

 

 

 

16
Jan
17

Remembering Martin Luther King Jr. – January 16, 2017

Remember Martin Luther King Jr. – January 16, 2017

martinlutherking

“We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. And that will be a day not of the white man, not of the black man. That will be the day of man as man.

Dr. Martin Luther King,  March 25, 1965, Montgomery, Alabama

The freedom march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in the cause of African-American voting rights was pivotal to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Selma demonstrations and marches totaled 18 days. Begun on March 7, 1965, the first march was led by Congressman John Lewis, then head of SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee). When the initial group of approximately 600 marchers reached the Edmund Pettus Bridge and crossed into Dallas County, the were met by state troopers who proceeded to beat them back ost brutally. That first “Bloody Sunday” was the beginning of other horrific confrontations leading to the death of civil rights activist James Reeb. The third march, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, began on March 21st and culminated on the steps of the State Capital Building in Montgomery, Alabama on March 25th, 1965.

Selma speeches

 

The following is a rarely shown documentary of the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965. It is stark and brief and filled with sights, sounds and music.

Selma – Montgomery March 1965, brief documentary by Stefan Sharff

 




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© Malissa Smith and Girlboxing, 2010-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Malissa Smith and Girlboxing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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