Monday, August 25, 2014

I am Trayvon Martin and I am Michael Brown

When Trayvon Martin was killed I called "Make it Plain" progressive talk hosted by Mark Thompson, the African American talk show host, and iterated as caller after caller did that "I am Trayvon Martin." I did this because I truly believed and still do the slaying of Trayvon was unjust, affected all of us and that the acquittal of Zimmerman, a violent man, that followed was and remains one of the most enraging verdicts in our long national nightmare of racial injustice.

Again we are faced with a very similar circumstance -- an African American man was gunned down, in my opinion, unjustly this time not by a vigilante-police-wanna-be thug but by a constitutionally legal white police officer.  Constitutional police officers are imbued with power by the state the rest of us do not have.  There can be no doubt their job is a difficult one but they signed up for it.  It is, therefore, especially incumbent upon police to use lethal force as a last resort when other means are available to arrest an unarmed man.  Yes, the decisions must be made quickly.  I understand that but I believe Michael Brown was an unarmed man running away from an officer whom Mr. Brown knew possessed a firearm that could and we know did ultimately kill him.

Reality speaks: we are a nation divided by race and a nation divided by class.  The divisions are stark and they are written indelibly on the tapestry that is the American soul.  If one is honest, and I do believe I am, one cannot deny the racist reflection one sees in the American mirror.  Racism has been here when the first slave ship transported in chains and against one's will the first African American and pressed him into involuntary servitude.  Racism has been here since the Missouri Compromise, it has been here since the Kansas-Nebraska Act, it has been here since the Dred Scott decision and it has been here during many racist slave-holding presidents of these United States.  It has been here through the Jim Crow laws of segregated drinking fountains, schools, movie theaters and more.  It has been here since the abrogation of the black vote through literacy tests and grandfather’s clauses of Reconstruction and by other means of minority voter suppression today. And it has been here through the cross burnings of the KKK.

It has been here, too, through the assassination of the hope of Lincoln and through the assassination of the arc of justice, Martin Luther King. It has been here since the Alabama bus boycott and Rosa Parks. It has been here through the entering of the University of Mississippi by the first black man, James Meredith.  It has been here through the vicious racists of Bull Connor, George Wallace, and the white noxious hypocrite Mississippi Senator John Stennis who voted against rights for African Americans while he fathered a black child.  It has been here since the brutal slaying of Emmett Till because he had the perceived temerity to look at a white woman, it has been here through the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist church in Alabama and the killing of four innocent young black girls Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Denise McNair in it.  It has been here since the slaying of three civil rights workers -- Goodwin, Cheney and Schwerner, and it has been here through the hundreds of hangings of black men memorialized in Billy Holiday's lachrymose rendition of "Strange fruit hanging from the Poplar trees " (YouTube below.)

Why should white people and why should ALL people care about the homicide of a boy, Michael Brown, whom most never knew?  What does it mean to me, a white Jewish woman if an unarmed Michael Brown was shot dead by a white police officer?  It means something because we know the truth and we who know the truth must tell it. Burt Lancaster in his role as a Nazi jurist on trial at Nuremberg for war crimes in the great film "Judgment at Nuremberg" in pertinent part said in his soliloquy:

What about those of us who knew better, we who knew the words were lies and worse than lies? Why did we sit silent? Why did we take part? Because we loved our country. ... What difference does it make if a few racial minorities lose their rights?

And then one day, we looked around and found that we were in an even more terrible danger. The ritual begun in this courtroom swept over the land like a raging, roaring disease. What was going to be a 'passing phase' had become the way of life. Your Honor, I was content to sit silent during this trial. I was content to tend my roses. I was even content to let counsel try to save my name.  Until I realized that in order to save it, he would have to raise the specter again. You have seen him [defense counsel] do it. He has done it here in this courtroom. He has suggested that the Third Reich worked for the benefit of people. He has suggested that we sterilized men for the welfare of the country. He has suggested that perhaps the old Jew did sleep with the 16 year-old girl after all. Once more, it is being done for love of country. It is not easy to tell the truth. But if there is to be any salvation for Germany, we who know our guilt must admit it, whatever the pain and humiliation.

And so, I say that as it applies to this nation, to us and yet again to admit the hard truths of my nation's sins with respect to its citizens of color.  I do iterate yet again another name to add to Trayvon's "I am Michael Brown" and it is in the interest of what is fair and what is just that I do.

There can be NO doubt what we of good conscience must do.  Yes, voting matters so GET OUT THE MINORITY VOTE EVERYWHERE AND ELECT DEMOCRATS EVERYWHERE INCLUDING IN STATE LEGISLATURES.  TAKE BACK THE HOUSE, KEEP THE SENATE AND IN 2016 KEEP THE PRESIDENCY IN DEMOCRATIC HANDS.  It is only then that we can receive the justice we so richly deserve!  Ferguson was 67% black and that should be reflected in the police, in the schools and in all positions of power.  The only way one can get that is through the vote and YOU must ensure that we get that vote!

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