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Posts Tagged ‘Martin Luther King Jr.’

As I write this, the U.S. is commemorating the birthday and works of the civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr. A Baptist minister and advocate of peaceful protests, he drove a generation of positive change toward the betterment of all.

He was assassinated on April 4, 1968 while standing on the balcony of his hotel room in Memphis, Tennessee.

Thinking of Dr. King’s legacy and how it has affected my life led me into the rabbit hole that is my mind, and reminded me of others who have fought for civil rights. Each of them has impacted me in some way, mostly indirectly, but I’m grateful for their work none-the-less.

 

Mohandas Gandhi led the march toward India’s independence from Britain. He was arguably the originator of large-scale nonviolent civil disobedience, a primary tactic of civil rights protests since his time. He campaigned for women’s rights, easing poverty, and ending the caste known as untouchables, among his other causes.

He was assassinated on January 30, 1948 on his way to a prayer meeting.

The first openly gay person to be elected in California, Harvey Milk became the face of the LGTBQ movement in the state and beyond. As a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, he spearheaded the passage of a stringent gay rights ordinance for the city. He also advocated for better child-care facilities, free public transportation, and a civilian commission to oversee police.

He was assassinated, along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, at City Hall on November 27, 1978.

In a world where children, minorities, and women often have no voice, Malala Yousafzai has shown us all what confident grace can really look like. An advocate for universal education and women’s rights, she began a blog about her life under the Taliban when she was a pre-teen.

On October 9, 2012 at the age of 15 she was on her school bus when it was boarded by gunmen. She was shot in the head. Miraculously she survived, and spurred on an international movement for her causes, in addition to becoming the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize recipient.

All of these people have peacefully campaigned for civil rights issues. They have led by example, maintained positive messages, and promoted the best ideals humanity has to offer. And they all were shot.

What’s wrong with this picture?

 

 

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 “Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

            Alfred Pennyworth, The Dark Knight, 2008

 

Ferguson, MO.

Michael Brown, black teenager, deceased.

Darren Wilson, white cop, resigned.

Yup, another shooting. More outrage. Protests that turned into riots. People injured. Businesses looted. Buildings damaged. Cop cars burned. Fingers pointing every which way but where it really matters. Seems like I just wrote about something like this.

Oh, yeah, my article about the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin situation, just about a year and a half ago (“Why?”). Just substitute the names as you see fit and you’ll get the gist of what I was going to write for this article, before I remembered that I’d already written it.

You see, the real problem is we don’t learn. The plague of confirmation bias that has eaten through nearly every aspect of our lives leaves people on all sides of the problem unwilling to do anything to change. They are convinced they already have all the right answers, if the world would just listen to them. I have several very intelligent, very educated friends who are so sure of their stance on one side of the argument (“Wilson is a murdering nutbar.”) or the other (“Brown was just another thug who deserved what he got.”), they have defriended people on their Facebook accounts for even broaching the idea of a different opinion. That kind of attitude just leaves us talking to the mirror.

Sorry, folks. It’s just not that simple. It’s another case of the complete truth only being known by two people, and one of them, sadly, is dead. That’s why we have to depend on the evidence to tell his side of the story. In looking over the documents released by the grand jury on the case, the preponderance of the evidence sides with Wilson’s account of the incident. You can’t convict someone just because you believe he’s guilty, no more than believing in creationism makes it true. This is why we have the system we do, because too much damage was done under other versions (Salem Witch Trials, anyone?).

And, of course, it’s a huge racial issue, on top of the militaristic cops versus poor people scenario. Is there still racism in the US? You betcha. Discrimination of all forms is alive and kicking, in oh so many subliminal ways. I’ve experienced it as a woman, as a fat person and as a witch. Just because I have big boobs doesn’t mean I’m stupid, just because I’m fat doesn’t mean I’m lazy, and just because I’m not Christian doesn’t mean I sacrifice babies and worship Satan. But it sure seems that a lot of society out there thinks so, and just won’t be told otherwise.

I’ve also seen the discrimination blacks suffer – from their own families. I had a co-worker years ago who was articulate, educated, professional and well mannered. She had worked hard to get to that point and was working equally hard to make sure her children were the same. She told me how her family accused her of selling out, of “not being real” and trying to be “white.” They teased her mercilessly about her good diction, her professional attire, and her desire to continue her education. The fact that she made good money, and was on her way up professionally only served to prove to them how she had abandoned her heritage.

Since when did being educated, articulate, professional and courteous become bad? Why is it when a person of color wants to accomplish something for themselves and their family they are accused of being ashamed of who they are, by their own peers? Does this mean people like Martin Luther King, Jr., Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice aren’t really black? It seems to me that the whole racism issue isn’t just in the hands of whites. We all need to stop pointing out and dwelling on the superficial differences and start talking about the common ground every living human shares.

Toni Morrison, a Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning novelist, made some very poignant comments about race during her recent appearance on The Colbert Report. She does not want to be referred to as an African American author, but just simply an American author. She goes on to state there is no black race or white race, only the human race and the concept of racism is an artificial construct. You can check out that video here.

Another moving statement comes from Prince Ea, an award winning rapper and activist who has lived in St. Louis his whole (young) life. He is wise beyond his years, and his answer to some of the issues surrounding Ferguson can be seen here.

And Dr. King’s niece, Dr. Alveda King, has condemned the rioting in Ferguson, supporting my own belief that rioting is not protesting, and only undermines the legacy of peaceful change for which MLK and others worked so hard.

Yeah, I’m a middle-aged white woman, with my own issues and biases. I’ll never be able to fully understand what non-whites go through just to live in this country. But I hope I can keep learning and improving myself in this regard. I hope to be able to help erase all those special designations we keep attaching to ourselves, so one day we can all look at the facts of a situation – and only the facts – while leaving all those hyphenates that carry so much baggage behind.

I hope. But the real tragedy here isn’t that a young man is dead. The real tragedy is that – after all the hew and cry and hand-wringing and finger-pointing and emotion wrapped up in a racially-socially-economically, cop vs. civilian, white vs. black raw nerve of an issue – we’ll still do nothing to actually change things.

 

© 2014   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

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There seems to be a lot of anger in the world these days. And it’s not just the “war on terror,” or riots in (name of country in the news today), or drug lords. It’s ordinary people. It’s drivers on the freeways throwing drinks at each other. It’s kids “hazing” other kids by sexually assaulting them. It’s mothers driving their daughters to the house of a perceived rival and encouraging them to beat the shit out of each other. It’s flipping the bird and cussing out service people and elbowing ahead in line and shouting at whoever is on the other end of the cellphone in the middle of a crowded store. It’s everywhere, and it’s our fault.

Here in the US, the anger levels are reaching fever pitch. The people are mad and want the system fixed but our Federal government seems to be more concerned with blame and finger pointing than with actually doing anything. As a governing body, it has been at a useless standstill for years now. The old white men want women back under their thumbs in the kitchen and out of sight, while the young minorities and women want to hand over the farm to everybody with a hand out. Neither approach is doing jack to help our country. It’s only dividing us even more.

Now, normally I try to avoid politics on this page. I was always told there are two things you just don’t discuss with friends, politics being one and religion being the other. We each have our own unique and passionately held beliefs on both that probably should just be kept to ourselves. So I won’t do the rant I had initially planned. I like you all and just like with my husband, we’ll just have to agree to disagree on some things and move along.

“We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.”

Benjamin Franklin

But what I will do is tell you to pull your collective heads out of the sand and pay attention to what’s going on in the world, in your country, in your region, in your town. Don’t just blindly follow along with whatever the talking heads tell you. That’s where so much of the anger comes from. The “news” isn’t about reporting anything anymore; it’s about ratings, which means it’s really about money. So each side stirs their respective pots to get the beans really rolling around, and then pits one against the other. It’s like mixing matter and anti-matter. And the only people getting the benefit of all that energy are the corporations. We are only so much fodder in the great money machine.

It’s time for us to break out of that. It’s time for us to stop being sheep led about by the nose and fed the dead carcasses of our fellows in the form of a “protein rich” Soylent Green. It’s time for us to pay attention. No, I mean REALLY pay attention. Get off your ass and be part of the solution, because otherwise you’re just part of the problem.

Do your own research. If a particularly controversial law is being proposed, read the actual text of the law. Don’t depend on the pundits to translate it for you because they will put their own spin on it. Yes, that means reading all 1100 pages of the Affordable Care Act, and delving into the depths of the Patriot Act. It’s the only way you’ll really understand what’s happening to us, and the only way we have to try and fix what we think is broken. Knowledge is power and to get that knowledge you have to educate yourself, because no one’s going to do it for you.

Find out where your representatives stand on the issues and make sure they know where you stand. You can contact the US House of Representatives here, the US Senate here, and the White House here. The theory is, they work for us. It hasn’t been that in actual practice for a long time now, and it’s long overdue for taking that power back. Don’t like the job they’re doing? Fire them. It’s called voting.

Advocate for what you believe in. Attend the relevant public hearings, write letters to the editor, picket in front of city hall. Whatever it is, DO SOMETHING. Don’t just sit there like some self-important little potentate who expects everything to be done for him. I’m not your servant and I’ll be damned if I waste all my hard work on a slug.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Edmund Burke

That’s probably what’s irked me most about all this anger flinging about: lots of rhetoric, not a lot of actual work. Don’t be angry just because someone else is, or because you were told to be. Be angry because YOU decided you didn’t like how things were being done, then go out and do something about them.

But I’m just one voice, you’re probably whining. What does it matter what I have to say, you’re probably sniveling. Gandhi was just one voice. Mandela was just one voice. Martin Luther King, Jr. was just one voice.

Trust me, it matters.

© 2013   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

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