Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Racial and Racist Code Words, Symbols, Stereotypes, & Myths

by Ron Powell

(This is a revision of a post which was first published on Open Salon in 2009.)

Code words, symbols, stereotypes, & myths are the means by which institutions and individuals transmit, maintain and reinforce racial prejudice and racial discrimination between groups and from generation to generation.                                                 
During the presidential campaign, in referring to Barack Obama, Kentucky Rep. Geoff Davis stated: “I’m going to tell you something: That boy’s finger does not need to be on the button.”  Yes, Rep. Geoff Davis—you couldn’t make this stuff up. 
I won’t go into a long historical dissertation of how the word “boy” has been employed.  Suffice to say that it was a signal to any “uppity” black during Jim Crow to not challenge the white power structure or suffer dire consequences.  The word was/is also a signal to whites reminding them of and reinforcing their role in maintaining the power structure.
I won't yield to the temptation of reciting a litany of what the code words, symbols, stereotypes, and myths are, becasuse, I believe, that most of us know what they are, or at least understand that they exist. This is about being able to talk openly about what we do in our lives, our daily discourse, to address those things that tear at the fabric of our society, and diminish the value and the quality of life for others. 
During one of his recent radio rants Rush Limbaugh said of President Obama's economic policies: "The objective is more food-stamp benefits. The objective is more unemployment benefits. The objective is an expanding welfare state. And the objective is to take the nation's wealth and return to it to the nation's, quote, 'rightful owners.' Think reparations. Think forced reparations here if you want to understand what actually is going on." Clearly, Limbaugh is attempting to use the politics of racial fear to appeal to the lowest common denominator of racial anxiety in this country. The terms welfare, food stamps, and reparations are all CODE for "undeserving black people."
In politics, symbols matter, and in a nation with a history of racialized chattel slavery, government sanctioned discrimination, and an anti-black racialist and racist culture, political symbols of racial progress matter tremendously.
 It is in this context where the effusive praise of the ascendancy of Senator Barack Obama to the Presidency of the United States must be understood. By winning, Senator Obama stands as a potent symbol of progress for the American experiment with democracy that continues to be plagued by its racial past that is still very much a part of its present.
To equate the symbolic dimension of Barack Obama’s becoming president with the substantive standing and status of all black people, or of all racial minorities, in American political, social, economic, and cultural life is to commit a serious error.
When we critically examine this moment in American political and social development, we should pause in light of several deep and disturbing trends that have become prominent since the decline of the Black Freedom struggles of the 1960s.  Since Barack Obama has won and  assumed the office of President, we are at the intersection of symbol and substance where we should confront the problem of racial justice and racial equlity in America.
We are at a juncture in the political and social history of the country where we can either create and perpetrate a new myth based on the symbolism of the Obama Presidency, or use the fact of his winning the election and taking office, as the basis for attacking and dispelling old ones.  Although the Obama presidency represents yet another first in American political life, it is far from being a fundamental transformative event in the core of the political, economic, and social institutions and  structures in America.  That is why these conversations, discussions, and debates about race in America will continue to be important for some time to come.
The late George Carlin, provides a narrative which illustrates my point, to a degree:
"There's a condition in combat - most people know it by now. It occurs when a soldier's nervous system has reached the breaking point. In World War I it was called shell shock. Simple, honest, direct language. That was 1917. A generation passed. Then, during the Second World War, the very same combat condition was called battle fatigue. Four syllables now. It takes a little longer to say, stretches it out. The words don't seem to hurt as much. And fatigue is a softer word than shock. Shell Shock. Battle Fatigue. The condition was being euphemized.
"More time passed and we got to Korea, 1950. By that time, Madison Avenue had learned well how to manipulate the language, and the same combat condition became operational exhaustion. It had been stretched out to eight syllables. It took longer to say, so the impact was reduced, and the humanity was completely squeezed out of the term. It was now absolutely sterile: operational exhaustion. It sounded like something that might happen to your car.
"And then, finally, we got to Vietnam. Given the dishonesty surrounding that war, I guess it's not surprising that, at the time, the very same condition was renamed post-traumatic stress disorder. It was still eight syllables, but a hyphen had been added, and, at last, the pain had been completely buried under psycho-jargon. Post-traumatic stress disorder.
I'd be willing to bet anything that if we were still calling it Shell Shock, Vietnam veterans might have received the attention they needed, at the time they needed it. But it didn't happen, and I'm convinced one of the reasons is the softer language we now prefer: The New Language. The language that takes the life out of life. " --- George Carlin (1937-2008)
That's what happens when we euphemize the hurtful, harmful, damaging, or destructive  code words or symbols.  We terminate our capacity to effectively and properly deal with the consequences or impact. 
We engage in the sterilization of the language of racial predjudice, and racial discrimination, without addressing the underlying causes of bigotry and hatred and then wonder why racism persists even in a world where Barack Obama can become President of the United States.  
Television is the most powerful instrument of mass communication yet developed.  The internet has increased our ability to communicate without doing much in the way of improving our communicative skills. The capacity of those who control the airwaves, or access to the internet,  to produce and then manipulate the code words and symbols that affect how and what people think and feel, is beyond description and the subject of yet another dialogue.
It is one thing for advertisers, sports franchises, corporate entities and the like to attempt to influence our thoughts and emotions when in competition with one another for our attention and our dollars.  It is quite another when when the government or other powerful sepcial interest entity, such as a political party,  attempts to do so by manipulating code words and symbols, which evoke stereotypes and myths that produce certain reactions and behaviors that result in people becoming distrustful or hateful or even violent toward each other at the group or individual level.
Suffice to say here that, we must be ever diligent in identifying the potential for misuse and abuse of the power that is being concentrated in the hands of a relatively small number of people. This can be done primarily by each of us becoming aware of how and when attempts are being made to manipulate or influence our thoughts and emotions with code words and symbols. We must have the courage to stand up and say no to the off color joke or remark, even when there is no "victim" present.  Becasue to let it go is to become both the perpetrator and the victim. 
We do this by listening to one another. For it is in hearing the complaint of the adversely affected, or the victim of the slight, slur or the epithet that we develop the sensitivity needed to understand how to effectively deal with the impact that it has on our collective selves.
We must speak up and speak out against the harmful language and the perpetrator whenever and where ever it is necessary to do so. It won't be easy, it never is, but it cannot be avoided if we are truly to protect and maintain the freedom of thought and expression we so deeply cherish.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. January 15, 1929 - April 4, 1968

by Ron Powell

Martin Luther King, Jr., was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on January 15, 1929. He was the oldest son of the Reverend and Mrs. Martin Luther King. He was named Michael Luther after his father, but later the Reverend King changed both their names to Martin Luther in honor of the great church leader.
Unhappily racial experiences made a deep and lasting impression on young Martin. One day his father took him to buy new shoes. When they sat down in the store, the clerk asked them to move to the back of the store. Dr. King took Martin by the hand and left the store rather than take that kind of treatment. Another time, the parents of boys Martin played with told him that they could no longer come out to play with him because they were white and he was black. Martin's feelings were hurt. His mother tried to explain about prejudice. She told him that blacks were no longer slaves, but they were not really free.
Martin liked sports. He played baseball, basketball and wrestling. But he especially liked reading. He liked reading about famous people in black history. He found out what it took for them to overcome difficulties and become successful. He liked to learn new words and use them.
He was fascinated by watching his father, Martin Luther King, Sr., Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, and other ministers control audiences with skillfully chosen words. He longed to follow in their footsteps.
He made words central to his life--weapons of defense and offense. His mother said that she could not recall a time when he was not intrigued by the sound and power of words. He once told her, "I'm going to get me some big words like that." . When he got to high school, his ability to use words enabled him to win an oratorical contest.
In September 1944, when he was only 15 years old, King entered Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. It was a black college, and his father and grandfather had gone there. He knew that his father would like him to become a minister, but at first Martin was not sure that was what he wanted to do. At first, he was undecided as to his course of study. However, his experiences at Morehouse shaped his direction for life. After meeting and talking with Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, the college president, and Professor George Kelsey, head of the religion department, he made up his mind. King was enormously impressed. He saw in Mays what he wanted "a real minister to be"--a rational man whose sermons were both spiritually and intellectually stimulating, a moral man who was socially involved. Thanks largely to Mays, King realized that the ministry could be a respectable force for ideas, even for social protest. And so at seventeen King elected to become a Baptist minister, like his father and grandfather. At eighteen he was ordained a minister. The next year he graduated from Morehouse College with a degree in sociology.
Martin was an excellent student and was the class valedictorian when he graduated in 1951 with a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Crozer. While at Crozer, King attended a lecture by Dr. Mordecai W. Johnson, who was the president of Howard University in Washington, DC. Dr. Johnson "explained how Gandhi had forged Soul Force--the power of love or truth--into a mighty vehicle for social change." He "argued that the moral power of Gandhian nonviolence could improve race relations in America, too." King was mesmerized by Gandhi's concepts, and began reading profusely about his life and philosophy.
In 1951, King graduated from Crozer as valedictorian. He also received the Peral Plafkner Award for scholarship, $1,200, and the Lewis Crozer Fellowship to continue his studies. While at Boston University, Martin met Coretta Scott. Coretta, a beautiful young lady from Marion, Alabama, a graduate of Antioch College in Ohio, was studying voice at the New England Conservatory of Music. She and Martin were married in June, 1953. His father performed the ceremony at her home in Alabama.
Coretta had grown up with segregation too. She shared Martin's dream of a time when everyone everywhere could enjoy equal rights. On June 5, 1955, when he had completed his Ph.D. in Systematic Theology, the couple decided that they could make the greatest contribution by going back down South to work. Martin was installed by his father as pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, in October of 1954. Just a little more that a year later, Yolanda,
the first of the Kings' four children was born.
In December of 1955, Mrs. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus. Mrs. Parks was later tried in Montgomery City Court, charged with and found guilty of violating a state law mandating segregation. She was fined $10. Her attorney appealed the conviction. Coincident with Mrs. Parks' trial a one-day boycott of the buses by many members of Montgomery's Black community, was planned. Dr. King was asked to help, as was his friend, the Reverend Ralph Abernathy. As a result of this, an organization was established, the "Montgomery Improvement
Association," (MIA) to orchestrate a complete and ongoing response to Montgomery's segregation. Dr. King was chosen president. Blacks walked to work or took cars or taxis, but they did not ride the buses. The one-day boycott stretched out to 382 days. Finally, after more than a year of protest, on November 13, 1956, the United States Supreme Court ruled that segregation on buses was against the law.
Martin Luther King, Jr., knew that even though that battle against bus discrimination had been won in Montgomery, there was more that needed doing. As a result, on January 10-11, 1957, 60 Black leaders from 10 Southern states met at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and founded the Southern Conference on Transportation and Non-violent Integration. Its original agenda concerned "segregation in transportation facilities and voter registration."
In February 1957, the organization elected Dr. King as President and changed its name to the Southern Leadership Conference (SLC), organized to fight "Jim Crow" laws that discrimination against blacks. Offices for the new group were in Atlanta, and the Kings moved there. Martin became assistant pastor at his father's church, the Ebenezer Baptist Church. He spent much time traveling. He spoke all over the country, urging nonviolent ways of gaining civil rights. He and Mrs. King visited Europe and Africa. They went to India to study Mahatma Gandhi's nonviolent ways of fighting for freedom.
King spoke of how a Pilgrimage would be an appeal to the nation, and the Congress, to pass a civil rights bill that would give the Justice Department the power to file law suits against discriminatory registration and voting practices anywhere in the South. On August 28, 1963, at least 250,000 people descended on Washington in the "largest single demonstration in movement history." Dr. King captured the day.
Following the march, the organizers were invited to a reception at the White House, where President John F. Kennedy "was bubbling over the success of the event."
Perhaps the ultimate recognition of Dr. King's crusade to secure equal rights for all came on December 10, 1964, when, at age 35, he was the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
In 1966, he and his family moved to Chicago. People in the slums of big cities had problems that were as serious as the discrimination they faced in the South. King planned a Poor People's March on Washington, D.C. Shortly before the march, Dr. King went to Memphis, Tennessee, where garbage workers were on strike for better working conditions. He led marchers through the streets in support of the strike. Violence broke out, and a young man was killed.
On April 4, King stood on the balcony of his hotel in Memphis, talking with men who had been with him in his many civil rights efforts....

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

If This Shut-Down Shit Works

by Ron Powell

Well, they've gone and done it... The Republican nut jobs have shown that they're willing to destroy the country before they'll let a black man appear to be effective or successful as President of the United States...
This entire debacle is a manifestation of race based politics at the highest possible level. If you think that racism doesn't represent a danger to our society, you haven't been paying attention...
If this shut-down shit works as intended by the racist extremists who seem to be in control of the Republican Party, the country is in grave danger of falling into a kind of semi-controlled anarchy in which nothing gets done and the 'government' is nearly non-existent....
If this shut-down shit works everything that we understand to be a consequence of civil rights legislation and legislation that is currently in place to assist the poor and the indigent will be at risk.... The threat of a government shut down will be at the heart of every attempt on the part of these right-wing, racist, mental cases to undo Supreme Court decisions like Roe v. Wade, Brown v. Board of Education, Gideon v. Wainright, and on and on and on....
The desire to see America become a plutocratic oligarchy, based in part on a renewal or return to apartheid and segregation, has clearly trumped common sense and common decency for most of the Republicans in the House and Senate...
If this shut-down shit works, the movement toward political, social, and economic equality, and justice for all Americans will come to a halt and the American dream and the dream of most Americans will die...And we shall all suffer the consequences and be much the worse off for it...
As painful as it might be and as ugly as this has become, the only recourse the President and the Democrats have is a full throated, full throttled resistance to this racially motivated attempt at usurpation and coup....
They've left you no choice Mr. President. You must stand your ground. Because if this shut-down shit works the America we know and love even with all of her flaws and imperfections will be no more...
These do-nothing, know-nothing, racist, obstructionists must not win... You now must do what Lincoln was called on to do in order to preserve the Union and the very idea of a free and just America. You must stand your ground....

Thursday, September 19, 2013

White Flight From Planet Marred by Diversity of Passenger List

by Ron Powell

White flight is a term that originated in the United States, starting in the mid-20th century, and applied to the large-scale migration of whites of various European ancestries from racially mixed urban regions to more racially homogeneous suburban or exurban regions.
Now the term may well be applied to a significant number of white people who expressed the desire to leave the big blue marble and take a one-way trip to the angry red planet....
The Mars One venture says more than 200,000 people registered their interest in taking a one-way trip to the Red Planet, but only a fraction of those are officially in the running for the trip.
To be precise, 2,782 people have paid their registration fee and submitted public videos in which they make their case for going to Mars in 2023 — with no guarantee that they'll ever come back.
Mars One plays off the fact that it's far easier logistically to send astronauts on a one-way trip to Mars than to make a round trip. The concept of the 55,000,000 km trip, which could take up to 300 days, has been compared to the way Europeans settled the Americas centuries ago: The first settlers didn't expect to come back home, but instead created a new home in the New World.
In a news release announcing the end of the first five-month recruitment..., Mars One said 202,586 people registered their interest in the trip. Registrations came from more than 140 countries, with Americans making up the biggest contingent (24 percent). The other countries in the top eight included India (10 percent), China (6 percent), Brazil (5 percent) and Great Britain, Canada, Russia and Mexico (each representing 4 percent).
The passenger list for the first flight to Mars has the potential of being racially diverse to the point of placing white passengers in a numerical minority.  A disappointment for those who may well have signed up to get away from people of color...
A word of advice to those who are looking to 'escape' from the planet they helped to fuck up environmentally and socially:
Be careful of what you wish for, you could find yourself longing for the good old days of global warming and a black president...

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

White Privilege and The Silent Majority

by Ron Powell
 The notion or concept of the "silent majority" was devised in order to provide the average white person a way to identify with the vast majority of white people who weren't actively and openly engaged in the protests and civil disobedience that occurred during the Civil Rights Movement...The idea being, that if you were white and not actively involved in the protests, then you were assumed to be against the protesters and marchers and for "law and order".
Hence, remaining silent meant that people could assume you were for maintaining the status quo and against any kind of change that might result in greater exercise of freedom on the part of black people.
As a result, people who are passively and quietly sympathetic to the notion of "liberty and justice for all" must have the courage to come out and declare themselves and in so doing risk being shunned or ostracized by family, friends, and neighbors and possibly even  penalized by employers...
Unwitting, unconscious, sub-conscious racists must acknowledge that racism is a predominant and determining factor in our society and that they have benefitted from this fact of American life.... 

Silent non-racists  must be willing to openly engage people who express themselves in ways that are clear indications of their racist mind set and attitudes and must become anti-racism activists...

The current rash of anti-black application of the law is steeped in a long-standing tradition and history in this country. What's 'new' is the seemingly clever ways racists have hidden their agenda and motives.

White folks are being duped big time by those who have pushed the narrative and dynamic re race and racism in a direction that requires the self-declared 'non-racist' to actively "opt out" of racism rather than simply remaining silent while sitting on the sidelines and wondering what all the 'fuss' is about...

The failure of "good" folks to speak up and speak out will be the undoing of the "progress" that has been made in the last 50/60 years.....

If people who sympathizes with the rhetoric of hatred and violence are not confronted  by people of good will the tragic truth is that they will prevail  and we will have lost the opportunity to turn the page and turn the corner.....

All the progress we have made can be lost in a split second...We have and obligation to protect the progress we have made while at the same time not being complacent...We have come a great distance but we have a great distance yet to go before we can rest......

Monday, August 26, 2013

Martin Luther King's Speech: 'I Have a Dream' - The Full Text and Video

Fifty years ago, on August 28, 1963, the greatest speech given in the 20th Century was delivered at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington,  DC....Ten days earlier I celebrated my 17th birthday...The following year I was headed to Washington, DC to begin my college education at Howard University...

Wednesday, will be the 50th anniversary of the occasion of that event. I'm offering the full text of the speech here in the hope that you will read the speech as well as listen to it again as, I'm sure,  many of you will....I'm also providing a video of the full speech....However, reading the words that were so powerfully and eloquently delivered will give you a perspective and even some insight that can only be had from the process of reading and contemplating the words as you progress through the text. I am pleased to present:

The Full Text of the Famous Speech by America's Greatest Civil Rights Icon


Aug. 28, 1963—
Martin Luther King, Jr.: Information from Answers.com
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity.
But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition.
In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four 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.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."
And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
Black people have had to endure, survive, and navigate the black/slave codes of the colonial and post revolutionary period, and the "Jim Crow" /segregation Laws of the post Civil War period...All of which were composed, enacted and enforced as reflective of the firmly held attitudes and beliefs of whites regarding the relationship between whites and black people and black people and the government...
Currently we are being required to endure, survive, and navigate "stand your ground", "stop and frisk", disproportionate sentencing, gerrymandering of our districts, and voter ID legislation that is reflective of the same attitudes and beliefs that were the genesis of an anti-black legal and governmental system that was/is predicated on racism...
Much has taken place in the fifty years since that speech was given. However, we can change the legal, governmental, and political system, but if we don't change the underlying attitudes and beliefs which have been embedded in the institutions, policies, and procedures that are the basis for the organization and management of our society, nothing but the language will have been changed. The functional outcome(s) will continue and remain as a cancer on our society....

Thanks for reading and watching,

Ron Powell

Sunday, July 14, 2013

no rights which the white man was bound to respect

by Ron Powell
Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393 (1857), was a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in which the Court held that African Americans, whether slave or free, could not be American citizens and therefore had no standing to sue in federal court....
Writing for the (7-2) majority, Chief Justice, Roger B. Taney, said, "the authors of the Constitution had viewed all blacks as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they "had no rights which the white man was bound to respect."
However, when Judge Debra S. Nelson, decided to bar any reference to race or racial profiling in the trial of George Zimmerman, she was most assuredly concurring in a ruling, rendered nearly 160 years ago, which, now, is widely regarded as the worst decision ever made by the Supreme Court.
When the jury of six Sanford women, who, in my view, are the visceral benefactors of racism, rendered their "not guilty" verdict, as a matter of logic and, to a great extent law, they were simultaneously rendering a judgment against Trayvon Martin...
For in order to find Zimmerman "not guilty" they must of necessity have determined Martin to be "guilty", albeit posthumously, of assault with deadly force...This is the conclusion that must be reached while deciding that the use of deadly force against him, in self defense, was justified...
No way that their non-racist, unbiased, and completely objective decision would be influenced by the prospect of facing the ire and wrath of the white residents of Sanford who would, no doubt, castigate, excoriate and ostracize them, should they bring in a guilty verdict, whether it be a compromise or not...
In determining that the death of Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman was an act of self defense, and therefor justifiable homicide, they not only declared Zimmerman to be "not guilty" but "innocent", which carries a different kind of moral weight...In essence, they too, were concurring in the Supreme Court opinion that insisted that black people, "had no rights which the white man was bound to respect."
Zimmerman clearly concurred in that opinion when he took it upon himself to act as police, prosecutor, judge and jury as he executed Trayvon Martin for being where he didn't belong ...He knew that in doing so, he would be treated by the Sanford law enforcement authorities as though the young black man he had shot and killed "had no rights which the white man was bound to respect." Which is why the police saw fit to release him the night of the fatal incident purely on the strength of his story of being attacked by this black kid wearing a hoodie....
In his Dred Scott opinion, Chief Justice Taney went on to list the "horrible consequences of negro citizenship" as part of his argument based on the Privileges and Immunities Clause of Article IV, stating what the Court considered to be the inevitable and undesirable effects of granting Scott's petition  for freedom:
"It would give to persons of the negro race, ...the right to enter every other State whenever they pleased, ...to sojourn there as long as they pleased, to go where they pleased ...the full liberty of speech in public and in private upon all subjects upon which its own citizens might speak; to hold public meetings upon political affairs, and to keep and carry arms wherever they went."
This sentiment, articulated well over 150 years ago, reverberates today in virtually every "all white" community, church, country club, cook-out, cocktail party, executive suite, and lunch room. It also is a dominant motivating factor in every state that is now controlled by a Republican legislative majority and/or Republican governor whose political practices and governmental policies serve little more than to concur in Justice Taney's now defunct opinion that, people of color, black people in particular, "had no rights which the white man was bound to respect."
Here's a couple of interesting and curious coincidences:
Samuel Nelson, one of six the concurring justices in the Dred Scott Decision....
Debra S. Nelson, presiding judge in the Zimmerman trial
Sanford is a name common to both cases....