Thursday, December 22, 2016

AP Stylebook: On Writing As Activism

AP Stylebook 2016 Cover
Any multi-media attack system perfected by extreme groups for the deconstruction of critical institutions, civil rights movements, and fact-based news includes a massive propaganda war that begins with the perversion of a term or phrase, or the rebranding of extremist ideas with new and unfamiliar terms and phrases meant to normalize radical concepts. The introduction of the term "alt-right" by   American Neo-nazi leadership was one such attempt. That attempt, off to a great start when journalists rushed to interview any pro-Trump supporting faction in the wake of the 2016 election slowed down significantly when the AP Stylebook defined and set firm usage standards of the term, and by doing so, slowed the attempted normalization of white supremacist propaganda machine efforts to push their own political agenda into the language of mainstream media. This literally brought equilibrium back in professional journalistic coverage of white nationalism and reminded everyone that journalism has standards that fake news and even independent opinion based content like this blog may not follow. Those differences add professionalism and depth to how fact based news is delivered to us.

The AP Stylebook tweeting about the alt-right:

Maybe readers have already noticed; the war of words is one of the most crucial wars in the fight against extremism and hatred. We have actually already capitulated certain battles by allowing extremists, and their social media troll extensions to define terms in this war because we adapted their terms as they defined them when the opposite should have been the case. This is how the term 'welfare' was made into a dirty word, and food stamps, often the only thing standing between vulnerable populations and starvation, have been firmly placed in the minds of conservatives as vehicles for fraud, waste, and abuse. Poverty has been perverted into a term implying laziness and freeloading.

People with invisible disabilities have been rebranded as scam artists. Autistic meltdowns, in particular, have been deliberately misrepresented as the result of poor parenting. Autism is even being presented as a fabricated disability, and this perversion of how autism is presented and defined has gained a foothold on social media. Autism is also being perverted into a substitute for the r-word as if they were interchangeable. No collective activist action has occurred to counter this subversion of the word autism to date.

Two other heartbreaking instances of this word perversion being successfully done are also recent.
The first is the rebranding of euthanasia at the very moment American society demanded health care for all as a human right. Rebranding hovered at "right to die" (as if dying could be denied when in fact death cannot be hindered), to 'death with dignity.'  This rebranding was accomplished by first compartmentalizing the word 'suicide.' Suicide was bad and required intensive and immediate mental health intervention unless the victim was diagnosed with a lifelong disability or terminal illness. In those two instances, suicide was not to be viewed as a symptom of clinical depression but as an act of seeking death with dignity because no legal options existed. The idea of no options existing in end-of-life decisions is a fallacy, as 'do not resuscitate' orders make clear. If a patient wishes no life support, they can create legal documents and wear jewelry that indicates these wishes. Yet the 'death with dignity' movement, by exploiting people's fear of pain and suffering and their larger fear of interdependent disability presented as a societal and financial burden is now succeeding for the first time in years of building momentum and focusing national corporate media attention on any young person who is terminally ill or disabled and suicidal. The euthanasia movement has succeeded in getting more euthanasia legislation passed in the last few years than efforts have for decades. All with the rebranding of a concept into a term disinfected from the ugly truth of its past.

It happened so quickly that there was not enough time to react. Now activists are in constant damage control mode, fighting with lesser resources against this massive campaign now backed by health insurance companies not wishing to pay to extend the lives of patients who don't want to die when they could live disabled and fulfilling lives. People are now increasingly forced to choose between accepting medications to hasten death and bankrupting trying to meet the cost of life-sustaining medical treatment without health insurance. All beginning with one rebranding of a term.

We have failed to reach enough of the public with the message that people aren't better off dead than disabled, that disabled lives have worth regardless of the degree of disability involved. The concept of family is one of interdependency, but a dependent adult who is disabled is branded a social burden.

The second term has now evolved as the go-to attack on a very successful social action vehicle: running social media campaigns for social justice. Everything from #FreeOurGirls to Arab Spring to the  #AutismSpeaks10 hashtag hijacking to #NODAPL and #BlackLivesMatter was born and sometimes lived exclusively on social media.  Social Justice Warrior, or SJW for short, was a term that appeared in the twentieth century to describe the movements led by Gandhi and MLK.  But in 2011, the term was perverted, and its use as a trolling tool in Gamergate sullied it so completely that it was accepted as a pejorative permanently. I've seen activists using it as such, and each time I do, I cringe a bit. Like other terms skewed away from their origins to be made pejoratives, I should very much like to see SJW defiantly reclaimed, because it wasn't meant to be a trolling insult against a valid form of activist action. That can only begin with all of us who generate content making reclamation efforts at using the term for its original intent rather than allowing trolls with their own agendas to dictate the language of discourse in social justice. We can't just let them continue adding to an ever increasing dictionary of pejorative terms that are actually words that belong to civil rights, human rights, LGBT rights, feminism, and disability rights.

I am already seeing content generated stating the blame for the Democrats' failure in the last election was entirely their immersion in identity politics, where the term identity politics is a bad thing because it is used to imply that white working class identity is excluded and that is patently false. Identity politics, which encompasses civil and human rights including the rights of marginalized groups, will be the new target for a makeover as a  pejorative term. This must not be allowed to happen unchallenged.

We know social media campaigns work and sometimes work on a global scale (as in the petition of a 12-year-old young woman from Standing Rock Sioux community that grew into the global #NoDAPL campaign.)  Why are we allowing this propaganda war to be won without challenging it? We let others take our lexicon, pervert it, and spew it back at us with hatred. It is happening because when our terms are kidnapped, we do nothing to rescue them.

This is where activists and academicians who are bloggers, grammarians, and instructors in English literature and rhetoric can push back. The minute we see the beginning of a term perversion for political attack purposes all of us need to take to our content generation spaces and flash blog against that usage and retain or reclaim our terms. We should definitely not be applying their definition of our terminology as insults to others on social media. That needs to end now.

That greatest war Hitler fought was the propaganda war that preceded all of his crimes against humanity. This is the war we must begin to win in the court of public opinion if we want to preserve humans rights in America. Words matter a great deal. They define public opinion and public policy. We need to let online activists know that what they do is critical to all human rights causes, and we need to act to take our words back and restore the power of terms critical to social justice reform so they work in the service of the causes they were created to serve again.

One of my New Year's resolutions is to read AP's 2016 Stylebook. Join me.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

It Isn't About HRC Losing It Is About Hatred and the KKK Winning

Dear Mr. President,

Image of the biracial  brown skinned 44th President of the United States
wearing a blue shirt with blue/white striped tie, black jacket with
US Flag lapel pin and short cropped hair. He is beginning to smile. 
I heard your speech today. Addressing the nation as one would petulant school children after a particularly brutal schoolyard brawl, you reminded us that we were all on the same team and so we must unite behind the KKK endorsed President-elect. You view our rejection of the President-elect as our not accepting Secretary Clinton losing to Trump. You must know it is not that simple an issue.

I have had the civil liberty of free speech under your Presidency for 8 years now. I will miss my right to disagree with a sitting President without being jailed or threatened with a lawsuit. Let me avail myself of that right one final time.

Respectfully Mr. President, asking me to get behind a man who gleefully accepted the endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan, the group that visited devastating harm upon my father's people and chidingly calling me a sore loser for not doing so to boot, is insensitive and wrong. My repudiation of this man isn't a sore loser's behavior, it is the shocked reaction of a woman who knows what the Klan is capable of, and who is stunned at the legitimizing of this group by using this candidate's ambition and the GOP's greed for a voting block to secure their entry into mainstream American politics. You are telling people to accept this, and accept the candidate who invited them into power with open arms. Wow.

I doubt you'll read this but at least I'll have stated how disrespectful that is to my family and generations of victims of the KKK and white supremacists groups.

You want me to get behind the man who made thousands of Americans targets for hate groups while the retired KKK Grand Dragon who endorsed him has a victory party all night. Are you okay with this?

 I appreciate your input and will miss your leadership. But you are doing  a frightened and upset nation an injustice by not speaking to the actual problem. How this candidate became President was not through hard-fought campaigning that appealed to a voter base with shared ideological identities but instead through the promotion of hatred and the promise of disenfranchising groups of which I am either a member or have friends, colleagues, or family who are members of. By the end of his campaign, he had offended nearly every group that was not white, cis, Christian identifying males.

No political leadership is demanding a public apology from this man to every group he stepped on to endear himself to his hate filled base but you are insisting we not be upset about this, cease objecting to it and "unite" behind a President-elect who promised to visit harm on and encouraged others to visit harm on, me and mine.

Isn't it bad form to pressure American citizens at risk of harm into "uniting" behind such a President simply because bullying, insults, and atrocious behavior won him the election and now he doesn't feel he needs to atone for his actions? What does this nearly two-year long tragedy tell our children if he is not willing to face those he threatened and earn their trust?

I believe he must earn the respect of the large numbers of people filling the streets who feel the real threat of a Presidency poised to deprive them of the right to free assembly and free speech, the right to speak out in dissent, and the right to personal safety of members of the Muslim American community. citizens who are disabled, elderly, LGBT community members immigrants and people of color.

The Vice-President-elect has just pledged to repeal every protection the LGBT community has fought decades to gain, placing a target on the entire community. Disabled citizens know the President elect has promised to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, something that may literally cost many their lives.

The President and Vice President elect need to do better than simply expecting the awful threats made over 15 months to be forgotten. They clearly are not going to do that. They are forging ahead with their catastrophic social plans that will bring harm to thousands of Americans.

 I guess I expected you, as you are his peer and predecessor, to remind him that he has just been elected the steward of this nation and not the dictator. Regardless of who he was in the past, or how rich he was, he is now an elected official. He serves at the pleasure of the people. And if he wants the nation to accept him he needs to apologize sincerely for his words and actions and all our elected officials need to do more than treat justifiably terrified citizens like sore losers at a grade school softball match. All of our political leaders, need to do better to calm this situation and ensure the safety of those of us the President-elect made whipping posts and targets for his angry voting block.


Mrs. Kerima Çevik
The frightened, Afro-Latina Muslim mother of a disabled son with intense support needs.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Close Encounters of the Klan Kind

I used to work as a fry cook at the SONIC. It was a brief stint, mostly working the night shift.  I was hired for night shift because no one wanted to cook for it. See, all the factories working nightshift would put in evening meal orders right at the beginning of that shift for 60 or more people at a time, and since they were the bulk of the small town business for the drive-in, you had to get each massive order right, keep everything hot and get them out quickly.

On a Friday morning,  I went to pick up my first paycheck, happy to be getting a paycheck locally instead of traveling the over 70 miles I did to get summer work in the past. I was clueless about what was going to happen; I only realize now, years later, that subsequent events may be the reason I have avoided  SONIC restaurants since repatriating to the United States nearly 15 years ago.

I had signed for and collected my paycheck and was weaving my way around the skating carhops serving their parked clients when a pickup truck drove up with one of my former high school classmates behind the wheel.

We had  a mutual enmity that began with an instant dislike for one another but unfortunately one of my best friends was his girlfriend. So when I saw him waving me over, against my better judgment I walked towards his truck, thinking something might be amiss with my girlfriend. 

It was only when I reached the passenger side door of the truck that I realized he had a rifle missing from his gun rack, it was in his hands and he was pointing it at me.

I had no idea whether anyone else could see what was happening but it was a busy day, broad daylight, and if I could smell the Jack Daniels coming out of the truck hopefully the carhop whose backdraft I felt pass just behind me could and they would call the police before I was dead. He pushed the empty whiskey bottle and several beer cans littering the car seat with the rifle and demanded I get in. I was about three weeks from my 18th birthday. I thought, "overall Lord, it's been a good life. Thank you for it," and got in the truck.

Yep. I was pretty certain I was dead.

My calmness annoyed him. He had no idea I'd grown up part of my life around Vietnam vets wth PTSD. He poked me with the rifle as he yelled at me. I told him he couldn't drive and hold the rifle at the same time. He put the rifle in his lap and floored the gas. We peeled out of the SONIC and I wondered how the traffic cops could miss this.

That began one of the longest rides of my life. 

He continued shouting at me that my friend had broken up with him because of me. He'd been drinking all night. He shouted that he was a card-carrying Klan member. He didn't see what she saw in me. Blacks were, after all, an inferior race. He struggled to remove his wallet from his back pocket and the truck veered into the opposite lane down Mainstreet. The wallet fell open and I saw the Klan symbol on a card before it rolled out of the awkward grasp of his hand and fell out of sight. He cursed. He said he knew all about my kind. We were ruining everything.  On and on he ranted while the truck weaved and the rifle shifted insanely in his lap. I quietly suggested that if he planned to shoot me, he should at least have the courtesy to not kill other people by driving drunk. That seemed to make sense to him. He decided to pull into the parking lot of the Dairy Queen. We careened to a stop there. 

Image of a gun-rack with two long guns visible through the windshield
He picked up the rifle and began waving it around as he ranted on about how much he loved her and how he was ordering me to fix it. What I answered was "no, I don't have to fix it." He poked me with the rifle, shocked.  I told him I was her friend. I wasn't required to be his friend. Friendship was a two-way agreement based on mutual respect that must be earned. I further suggested that he sober up before trying to talk to my friend again. He gaped at me in surprise. I was only 17 and figured if I was going to die anyway, at least I will have spoken my mind. I went on to say that he didn't have to be my friend to be her boyfriend. We didn't have to like one another. At all. Some people never like one another. But he did have to stop pointing loaded rifles at me and he did have to have respect for me and stop saying I was inferior to him when I was one of the smartest people in our graduating class and he knew it.

He thought about it, slack-jawed and eyes agape, upper body slightly weaving, as if the truck were still moving, the rifle weaving with him. Meanwhile, one of the people in a car backing out of the Dairy Queen parking lot somehow saw what was happening and the driver of that vehicle looked directly at me and pulled right back into the parking lot. I vaguely heard the sound of running feet. A glance made me realize that driver was running back into the DQ, I hoped to get them to call the police. I told drunk Romeo we needed to end our conversation and he needed to let me go now. He seemed to be waking from a dream. He put his rifle back on his gun rack after several tries, at one point just missing hitting my head with it, and said he was sorry. I told him to go home and sleep it off. He said I was alright, almost like a white girl, not like those other (expletive redacted) he'd learned about. I corrected him and said I was just like those other Black people. We would discuss it when he was sober. I told him to drive to the nearest place with a payphone, park the truck and call  for a ride home. He nodded and I opened the passenger side door.

When I exited the car, he drove off, and the good samaritan driver of the car who ran for help ran to me and asked if I was alright.  I couldn't answer. I didn't know. I just shook my head and asked the staff at DQ to call the SONIC, where my ride was paged to the phone and was wondered what on earth I was doing at the Dairy Queen. 

This was being alive while Black in the days before cell phones. 

I never told my mother, because she would then tell my stepfather the Green Beret and my giant uncle Bob the ex-airforce prison guard, and they would have found my friend's ex-boyfriend and my Kendall cousins would have come down from Chicago and they would have taken on the Klan again and that was not necessary. 

When he sobered up and realized what he had done, he asked to meet his ex-girlfriend to say goodbye, telling her what he'd done and that he expected to be arrested for it, because it did happen in plain sight of a great many people. Small town news travels fast. She knew before he called.

She came out to my house two days later, picking me up in her truck (yes, I was the only person in Massac County who was a teenager and didn't own a pickup truck.) She asked me where I wanted to go so I could tell her why I hadn't called the police on her ex. We went to the DQ where  it was a different shift of people but news travels fast and I got a free ice cream and lot's of Southern Illinois wisdom, like "it takes all kinds, hon." and "pray for that misguided young man. I went to high school with his brother." 

She said she'd never forgive him or get back with him because he could have killed me. I told her he was ready to turn himself into the cops, and that was a good thing. Apparently, after peeling out of the DQ parking lot and while waiting for his ride, he was arrested for a DWI.  I told her I wasn't going to press charges.

White people then didn't understand. Even drunk Romeo didn't know. It didn't matter that this all happened in front of 30 or more witnesses and one of those called the police. The word of a Black girl in that town would never have been believed back then. 

Crying, she said that he said he finally understood what it was she saw in me. He said I was a stand-up girl. Just like a good white church going country girl. That was supposed to be a compliment. I didn't even bother explaining it to him then or her later. I was out of emotional capital. 

He appointed himself my anti-Klan guardian angel until I left the continental United States. Despite the fact that he kept his sobriety, I don't believe he left the Klan, so it was in many ways more disturbing having him struggling to be my friend than hating me.

It was with great relief that I left for South Korea shortly after my birthday.

But that afternoon, two days after I thought I was going to be shot by a junior Klansman in training, I sat in his ex-girlfriend's truck, eating ice cream and thinking what a very, very, long way I had to go explaining racism to that dude, then realizing it wasn't really my job to do that. He had to make an effort to learn. 

I have no idea whether he ever did. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Digital Blackface Justified: When The Road to Hell is Paved With White Privilege Claiming Good Intentions

Add caption "PHOTO ABOVE-LEFT: Olympic Project for Human Rights button, worn 
by activist athletes in the 1968 Olympic games, originally called for a boycott
of the 1968 Olympic Games. PHOTO ABOVE-RIGHT: This iconic photo
 appears in many U.S. history textbooks, stripped of the story of the planned
 boycott and demands, creating the appearance of a solitary act of defiance".-
From "If We Knew Our History" By the Zinn Education Project 
  "Özrü kabahatinden beter" is a Turkish proverb meaning the apology is worse than the error.

I couldn't get that proverb out of my head after reading an article in the magazine "Good" about a German sports team's photograph in digital Blackface. The op-ed was a whitewashing justification for the incident, based on team assurances that this was done "in support" of their two African teammates.

Back in November of 2014, I wrote a blog post about the responsibilities of an ally against ableism for the blog The Autism Wars that included the images above. In that post, I noted that silver medalist Peter Norman joined gold medalist Tommie Smith and bronze medalist John Carlos and wore the Olympic Project For Human Rights (OPHR) badge thus stood in solidarity with them as they protested with raised fists on the podium. What is critically important about the way Norman supported the gold and bronze medalists is he demonstrated his support without appropriation or diminishing the protestors. Norman was not thoughtless enough to raise his fist in the Black Power salute. He knew this would be inappropriate. This is the way a person allies themselves with a human rights cause if they are not the oppressed group. Had Mr. Norman appeared on the podium in Blackface saying he was supporting civil rights it would have been an insulting catastrophe and an international incident of a different sort.

Europe is quite familiar with what Blackface is, why it is wrong and has expounded extensively on many faux pas involving Blackface incidents occurring in the U.S. in the European press. Europeans know when an offense has been given to others, and when that offense has racist overtones. When the 2008 Spanish Basketball team decided to pose for a blatantly racist photographic ad for a sponsor which occupied a full page in Marca just before flying to China, Asian rights groups rightly complained, to which the team responded that the photograph was being "misinterpreted." Booed by the normally respectful Chinese fans and under a barrage of protests from activists, one player finally apologized. The entire debacle became international news and was covered by the New York Times. The idea that racial gaffes and outright racist insults are only the peccadilloes of Americans, and that Europeans are intuitively better at diversity is a myth that persists despite clear evidence to the contrary.

As I read Eric Pfeiffer's op-ed "Good Idea? German Football Players Don Digital Blackface in Act of Solidarity" I realized very quickly that the author was going to whitewash the incident of German players in digital Blackface by making it about the "good intentions" of the team defending their two Sudanese refugee teammates against racist bullying. Sure enough, Mr. Pfeiffer, who has no idea what it means to be Black and see a photograph like this one in this time of extreme global polarization along racial, ethnic, and religious lines because he is white, spent the entire piece trying to justify this incredible gaffe by listing horrific mistake Hollywood and celebrities have made, adding that Ted Danson screwed up while dating Whoopi Goldberg. That comment alone shows that Mr. Pfeiffer should not be writing about critical race studies issues. Dating someone of another race doesn't make you magically immune to racist behavior.
When the show of support is worse than the insult: German Team in
Digital Blackface

I'm not surprised Pfeiffer excused this team's digital Blackface. What I'm surprised about is a magazine like Good making the decision that it was ok to publish this. Because it is not. For so many reasons. There is no circumstance when Blackface is justified. We live in the information age. In every instance where similar debacles have come up extreme backlash has been the response and with good reason. No one white should be implying that good intent means oops but it's okay because a  white writer says the guys didn't mean in a bad way. There is no good way here. If a white athlete from Austrailia, a country with such a history of hate against its own racial and indigenous minorities, knew how to support Black people without giving offense in 1968 then so should a German football team in 2016.

It has become an uncomfortable habit in recent times to do the "live a day in the life of the oppressed" displays and it isn't going well. Reporters donning hijabs, church groups grabbing camping equipment and camping on city sidewalks overnight so they can "feel what it means to be homeless." Age suits to help us "feel" what it is like to be old for a day. Well, guess what? They can't be those people by pretending to be them for a moment or a day or a month. Pretending to be, then appropriating that limited moment to run one's own agenda is wrong.

Blackface is wrong.

The entire ally concept is wrong here. Justifying this will not help the refugees on the German team who are being victimized, nor will it get their white teammates the racial and cultural sensitivity education they clearly need.

Whatever this was, it was not support of their teammates.  Mr. Pfeiffer should know this. Moreover, Good Magazine should too.

Shame on Good for publishing this.  I really have to rethink what I read from now on.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

At The Intersection of Structural Racism, Teaching Limitations, and Special Education

Guest post on structural racism in international educational environments, offering a view from the perspective of a marginalized student and a special education teacher.
Amanda Hansel, M.Ed blogs on topics in special education and race

hen I was in the first grade, I found and read a Turkish children’s book about a little talking plane. It took two children around the world, stopping at different countries and talking to locals. At one point in the story, the plane flies over Africa. Underneath the text was an illustration of a little black child, half naked, looking up at the sky. The children wanted to land, but the plane warned the children that it wouldn’t be safe to land and talk to the natives. The plane flew over as the children waved.

I reread that part a few times. I remember scratching out the word “friendly plane” and scribbling “pis uçak”—Turkish for “dirty plane”—on the next page.

That black people, like me and my mother, were thought of as dangerous, or the anger I felt about it, wasn’t new. By the time I was old enough to read, I was very familiar with a variety of racial insults, racist assumptions, and stereotypes, both in English and Turkish. Going to a Turkish public school gave me ample opportunity to review them.
Old School Turkish Children's book targeting
young girls,  where white skin and
straight hair are the idealized girl.
Title translates to Aysegul Boards a
In case you feel this was somehow state sanctioned, let me clarify. Teachers, administrators, even most of my classmates weren’t out to get me. There wasn’t some grand conspiracy to make the little brown child feel unwelcome in an all-white, all Turkish public school. Honestly, I doubt it would have even occurred to the majority of my teachers to make some sort of racial political statement through me. For most of my teachers in Turkey, I was the first, and perhaps only, black child they’d ever taught. Race wasn’t a filter teachers would have typically used to evaluate my performance, behavior, or personality.
But the daily encounters with race were part of my experience as a student, whether I was in a classroom, on the playground, or reading a book for leisure. It was in the cheap, poorly dubbed, uncensored racist Popeye and Tom & Jerry cartoons from the 1940’s played on national TV every afternoon and on weekends. It was in popular movies where black Turkish speaking actors and actresses were depicted as jolly servants, it was in the blackface on comedy shows. It was every time I left the house with my mother and someone made comments about animals we resembled, assuming we didn’t speak Turkish.
By the time I reached high school, my grades had plummeted in certain subjects. My teachers encouraged me to pursue careers outside my field of interest, steering me away from math and science. Most likely assumed I’d want to do something that would take advantage of my foreign identity and bilingual status. I eventually agreed I was incapable of math, and gave up trying to understand it, regardless of my interest in math-based careers. I struggled with depression, anxiety, and social withdrawal for the rest of my academic life, largely surrounding my self-image. For most of my adolescence, I assumed I was inherently stupider, uglier, and weaker than my peers, and that my only advantage—speaking English—came about by accident of birth.
This wasn’t solely a racial issue, of course, and at the time I doubt I would have seen it as racial at all. Nobody else around me did. This was my personal failing. Why wouldn’t it be? I had some amazing teachers in elementary school, and some terrible ones. I doubt any of them would have cited race or racism around me as any sort of deciding factor in my academics. Since I was a high performing student based on standardized tests and grades, few would have projected I’d fail in high school. Indeed, many adults at the time cited race blindness as a reason why what I was experiencing around me wasn’t racism at all, but a few unfortunate comments by the uneducated. Some indicated I was overly sensitive about the issue, and that in itself was making me anxious, depressed, and under confident.
Many years and miles later, I realize there wasn’t any reason anyone around me would have thought differently. Most—if not all—of my teachers in Turkey had only taught white identified children until they met me. And with 40 other students to teach per class, there wasn’t time, opportunity, or even reason to make exceptions for one child’s experiences over another. Many of my classmates were carrying greater burdens than ugly comments heard on TV, or nasty looks at the park.
Yet, here I am, as an adult, replaying the hundreds of little incidents I encountered every day, before, during, and after school, that eventually ate away at my confidence as a person and a student. While racism wasn’t the overriding problem, it compounded existing ones. The general policy of outright denying racism provided a platform for those problems to continue, without giving me the tools the solve them. When I did voice any concerns about my identity as a person of color, dismissal by mentors and friends didn’t eliminate my feelings of helplessness or inadequacy, but it taught me to be silent about them. Eventually, I’d come up with solutions for my problems. Most would be unhealthy and dangerous.
Hindsight can be a good thing. I can look back and see why I was so desperate to prove myself as a teenager, in all the wrong ways, and how it damaged my schooling. I can read that children’s book with a teacher’s eyes, and see exactly what a child would hate about it. I can see where and how it could do damage to children like me. And I can see where teachers have an opportunity, especially in as diverse a country as the United States, to avoid the pitfalls of denial under the guise of acceptance.
This isn’t some kind of sanctimonious social manifesto. It wasn’t and isn’t a teacher’s job to fix an entire system. I’m on the other side of the desk now—a teacher in a diverse community that still lacks teacher diversity—and I recognize we have little authority, but tremendous responsibility, for how we shape social interactions in our students. But it is our job to build relationships with our students, to understand them as they are, not as we’d like to see them. And we have a responsibility to see how our teaching approach—or lack thereof—regarding racism, racial history, racial diversity can impact a students’ social, emotional, and psychological health.
I hope to discuss some of my experiences with diversity education in the hopes of offering some alternatives to the more damaging policies of “tourism teaching” and race-blindness.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Stanford - "The other America" 1967

 A Speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
14 April 1967
Stanford University

Dean Napier, Mr. Bell; members of the faculty and members of the student body of this great institution of learning; ladies and gentlemen.

Now there are several things that one could talk about before such a large, concerned, and enlightened audience. There are so many problems facing our nation and our world, that one could just take off anywhere. But today I would like to talk mainly about the race problems since I'll have to rush right out and go to New York to talk about Vietnam tomorrow, and I've been talking about it a great deal this week and weeks before that.

But I'd like to use as a subject from which to speak this afternoon, the Other America. And I use this subject because there are literally two Americas. One America is beautiful for situation. And, in a sense, this America is overflowing with the milk of prosperity and the honey of opportunity. This America is the habitat of millions of people who have food and material necessities for their bodies; and culture and education for their minds; and freedom and human dignity for their spirits. In this Aurora Forum at Stanford University 3 15 April 2007 America, millions of people experience every day the opportunity of having life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in all of their dimensions. And in this America millions of young people grow up in the sunlight of opportunity.

But tragically and unfortunately, there is another America. This other America has a daily ugliness about it that constantly transforms the ebulliency of hope into the fatigue of despair. In this America millions of work-starved men walk the streets daily in search for jobs that do not exist. In this America millions of people find themselves living in rat-infested, vermin-filled slums. In this America people are poor by the millions. They find themselves perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.

In a sense, the greatest tragedy of this other America is what it does to little children. Little children in this other America are forced to grow up with clouds of inferiority forming every day in their little mental skies. And as we look at this other America, we see it as an arena of blasted hopes and shattered dreams. Many people of various backgrounds live in this other America. Some are Mexican-Americans, some are Puerto Ricans, some are Indians, some happen to be from other groups. Millions of them are Appalachian whites. But probably the largest group in this other America in proportion to its size in the population is the American Negro.

The American Negro finds himself living in a triple ghetto. A ghetto of race, a ghetto of poverty, a ghetto of human misery. So what we are seeking to do in the Civil Rights Movement is to deal with this problem. To deal with this problem of the two Americas. We are seeking to make America one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Now let me say that the struggle for Civil Rights and the struggle to make these two Americas one America, is much more difficult today than it was five or ten years ago. For about a decade or maybe twelve years, we've struggled all across the South in glorious struggles to get rid of legal, overt segregation and all of the humiliation that surrounded that system of segregation.

In a sense this was a struggle for decency; we could not go to a lunch counter in so many instances and get a hamburger or a cup of coffee. We could not make use of public accommodations. Public transportation was segregated, and often we had to sit in the back and within transportation-- transportation within cities -- we often had to stand over empty seats because sections were reserved for whites only. We did not have the right to vote in so many areas of the South. And the struggle was to deal with these problems.

And certainly they were difficult problems, they were humiliating conditions. By the thousands we protested these conditions. We made it clear that it was ultimately more honorable to accept jail cell experiences than to accept segregation and humiliation. By the thousands students and adults decided to sit in at segregated lunch counters to protest conditions there. When they were sitting at those lunch Aurora Forum at Stanford University 4 15 April 2007 counters they were in reality standing up for the best in the American dream and seeking to take the whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the Founding Fathers in the formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Many things were gained as a result of these years of struggle. In 1964 the Civil Rights Bill came into being after the Birmingham movement which did a great deal to subpoena the conscience of a large segment of the nation to appear before the judgment seat of morality on the whole question of Civil Rights. After the Selma movement in 1965 we were able to get a Voting Rights Bill. And all of these things represented strides.

But we must see that the struggle today is much more difficult. It's more difficult today because we are struggling now for genuine equality. And it's much easier to integrate a lunch counter than it is to guarantee a livable income and a good solid job. It's much easier to guarantee the right to vote than it is to guarantee the right to live in sanitary, decent housing conditions. It is much easier to integrate a public park than it is to make genuine, quality, integrated education a reality. And so today we are struggling for something which says we demand genuine equality.

It's not merely a struggle against extremist behavior toward Negroes. And I'm convinced that many of the very people who supported us in the struggle in the South are not willing to go all the way now. I came to see this in a very difficult and painful way in Chicago the last year where I've lived and worked. Some of the people who came quickly to march with us in Selma and Birmingham weren't active around Chicago. And I came to see that so many people who supported morally and even financially what we were doing in Birmingham and Selma, were really outraged against the extremist behavior of Bull Connor and Jim Clark toward Negroes, rather than believing in genuine equality for Negroes. And I think this is what we've gotta see now, and this is what makes the struggle much more difficult.

And so as a result of all of this, we see many problems existing today that are growing more difficult. It's something that is often overlooked, but Negroes generally live in worse slums today than 20 or 25 years ago. In the North schools are more segregated today than they were in 1954 when the Supreme Court's decision on desegregation was rendered. Economically the Negro is worse off today than he was 15 and 20 years ago. And so the unemployment rate among Whites at one time was about the same as the unemployment rate among Negroes. But today the unemployment rate among Negroes is twice that of Whites. And the average income of the Negro is today 50% less than Whites.

As we look at these problems we see them growing and developing every day. And we see the fact that the Negro economically is facing a depression in his everyday life that is more staggering than the depression of the 30's. The unemployment rate of the nation as a whole is about 4%. Statistics would say from the Labor Department that among Negroes it's about 8.4%. But these are the persons who are in the labor Aurora Forum at Stanford University 5 15 April 2007 market, who still go to employment agencies to seek jobs, and so they can be calculated. The statistics can be gotten because they are still somehow in the labor market.

But there are hundreds of thousands of Negroes who have given up. They've lost hope. They've come to feel that life is a long and desolate corridor for them with no Exit sign, and so they no longer go to look for a job. There are those who would estimate that these persons, who are called the Discouraged Persons, these 6 or 7% in the Negro community, that means that unemployment among Negroes may well be 16%. Among Negro youth in some of our larger urban areas it goes to 30 and 40%. So you can see what I mean when I say that, in the Negro community, that is a major, tragic and staggering depression that we face in our everyday lives.

Now the other thing that we've gotta come to see now that many of us didn't see too well during the last ten years -- that is that racism is still alive in American society, and much more wide-spread than we realized. And we must see racism for what it is. It is a myth of the superior and the inferior race. It is the false and tragic notion that one particular group, one particular race is responsible for all of the progress, all of the insights in the total flow of history. And the theory that another group or another race is totally depraved, innately impure, and innately inferior.

In the final analysis, racism is evil because its ultimate logic is genocide. Hitler was a sick and tragic man who carried racism to its logical conclusion. And he ended up leading a nation to the point of killing about 6 million Jews. This is the tragedy of racism because its ultimate logic is genocide. If one says that I am not good enough to live next door to him, if one says that I am not good enough to eat at a lunch counter, or to have a good, decent job, or to go to school with him merely because of my race, he is saying consciously or unconsciously that I do not deserve to exist.

To use a philosophical analogy here, racism is not based on some empirical generalization; it is based rather on an ontological affirmation. It is not the assertion that certain people are behind culturally or otherwise because of environmental conditions. It is the affirmation that the very being of a people is inferior. And this is the great tragedy of it.

I submit that however unpleasant it is we must honestly see and admit that racism is still deeply rooted all over America. It is still deeply rooted in the North, and it's still deeply rooted in the South.

And this leads me to say something about another discussion that we hear a great deal, and that is the so-called "white backlash." I would like to honestly say to you that the white backlash is merely a new name for an old phenomenon. It's not something that just came into being because shouts of Black Power, or because Negroes engaged in riots in Watts, for instance. The fact is that the state of California voted a Fair Housing bill out of existence before anybody shouted Black Power, or before anybody rioted in Watts. Aurora Forum at Stanford University 6 15 April 2007

It may well be that shouts of Black Power and riots in Watts and the Harlems and the other areas, are the consequences of the white backlash rather than the cause of them. What it is necessary to see is that there has never been a single solid monistic determined commitment on the part of the vast majority of white Americans on the whole question of Civil Rights and on the whole question of racial equality. This is something that truth impels all men of good will to admit.

It is said on the Statue of Liberty that America is a home of exiles. It doesn't take us long to realize that America has been the home of its white exiles from Europe. But it has not evinced the same kind of maternal care and concern for its black exiles from Africa. It is no wonder that in one of his sorrow songs, the Negro could sing out "Sometimes I feel like a motherless child." What great estrangement, what great sense of rejection caused a people to emerge with such a metaphor as they looked over their lives.

What I'm trying to get across is that our nation has constantly taken a positive step forward on the question of racial justice and racial equality. But over and over again at the same time, it made certain backward steps. And this has been the persistence of the so-called white backlash. In 1863 the Negro was freed from the bondage of physical slavery. But at the same time, the nation refused to give him land to make that freedom meaningful. And at that same period America was giving millions of acres of land in the West and the Midwest, which meant that America was willing to undergird its white peasants from Europe with an economic floor that would make it possible to grow and develop, and refused to give that economic floor to its black peasants, so to speak.

This is why Frederick Douglas could say that emancipation for the Negro was freedom to hunger, freedom to the winds and rains of heaven, freedom without roofs to cover their heads. He went on to say that it was freedom without bread to eat, freedom without land to cultivate. It was freedom and famine at the same time. But it does not stop there.

In 1875 the nation passed a Civil Rights Bill and refused to enforce it. In 1964 the nation passed a weaker Civil Rights Bill and even to this day, that bill has not been totally enforced in all of its dimensions. The nation heralded a new day of concern for the poor, for the poverty stricken, for the disadvantaged. And brought into being a Poverty Bill and at the same time it put such little money into the program that it was hardly, and still remains hardly, a good skirmish against poverty. White politicians in suburbs talk eloquently against open housing, and in the same breath contend that they are not racist. And all of this, and all of these things tell us that America has been backlashing on the whole question of basic constitutional and God-given rights for Negroes and other disadvantaged groups for more than 300 years.

So these conditions, existence of widespread poverty, of slums, and of tragic conditions in schools and other areas of life, all of these things have brought about a Aurora Forum at Stanford University 7 15 April 2007 great deal of despair, and a great deal of desperation. A great deal of disappointment and even bitterness in the Negro communities. And today all of our cities confront huge problems. All of our cities are potentially powder kegs as a result of the continued existence of these conditions. Many in moments of anger, many in moments of deep bitterness engage in riots.

Let me say as I've always said, and I will always continue to say, that riots are socially destructive and self-defeating. I'm still convinced that nonviolence is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom and justice. I feel that violence will only create more social problems than they will solve. That in a real sense it is impractical for the Negro to even think of mounting a violent revolution in the United States. So I will continue to condemn riots, and continue to say to my brothers and sisters that this is not the way. And continue to affirm that there is another way.

But at the same time, it is as necessary for me to be as vigorous in condemning the conditions which cause persons to feel that they must engage in riotous activities as it is for me to condemn riots. I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard.

And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation's summers of riots are caused by our nation's winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.

 Now let me go on to say that if we are to deal with all of the problems that I've talked about, and if we are to bring America to the point that we have one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all, there are certain things that we must do. The job ahead must be massive and positive. We must develop massive action programs all over the United States of America in order to deal with the problems that I have mentioned.

Now in order to develop these massive action programs we've got to get rid of one or two false notions that continue to exist in our society. One is the notion that only time can solve the problem of racial injustice. I'm sure you've heard this idea. It is the notion almost that there is something in the very flow of time that will miraculously cure all evils. And I've heard this over and over again. There are those, and they are often sincere people, who say to Negroes and their allies in the white community, that we should slow up and just be nice and patient and continue to pray, Aurora Forum at Stanford University 8 15 April 2007 and in a hundred or two hundred years the problem will work itself out because only time can solve the problem.

I think there is an answer to that myth. And it is that time is neutral. It can be used either constructively or destructively. And I'm absolutely convinced that the forces of ill-will in our nation, the extreme rightists in our nation, have often used time much more effectively than the forces of good will. And it may well be that we will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words of the bad people and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say wait on time. Somewhere we must come to see that social progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and the persistent work of dedicated individuals. And without this hard work time itself becomes an ally of the primitive forces of social stagnation. And so we must help time, and we must realize that the time is always ripe to do right.

Now there is another notion that gets out, it's around everywhere. It's in the South, it's in the North, it's in California, and all over our nation. It's the notion that legislation can't solve the problem; it can't do anything in this area. And those who project this argument contend that you've got to change the heart and that you can't change the heart through legislation.

Now I would be the first one to say that there is real need for a lot of heart-changing in our country. And I believe in changing the heart. I preach about it. I believe in the need for conversion in many instances, and regeneration, to use theological terms. And I would be the first to say that if the race problem in America is to be solved, the white person must treat the Negro right, not merely because the law says it, but because it's natural, because it's right, and because the Negro is his brother. And so I realize that if we are to have a truly integrated society, men and women will have to rise to the majestic heights of being obedient to the unenforceable.

But after saying this, let me say another thing which gives the other side, and that is that although it may be true that morality cannot be legislated, behavior can be regulated. Even though it may be true that the law cannot change the heart, it can restrain the heartless. Even though it may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, it can restrain him from lynching me. And I think that's pretty important also. And so while the law may not change the hearts of men, it can and it does change the habits of men. And when you begin to change the habits of men, pretty soon the attitudes will be changed; pretty soon the hearts will be changed. And I'm convinced that we still need strong civil rights legislation. And there is a bill before Congress right now to have a national or federal Open Housing Bill. A federal law declaring discrimination in housing unconstitutional.

And also a bill to made the administration of justice real all over our country. Now nobody can doubt the need for this. Nobody can doubt the need if he thinks about the fact that since 1963 some 50 Negroes and white civil rights workers have been Aurora Forum at Stanford University 9 15 April 2007 brutally murdered in the state of Mississippi alone, and not a single person has been convicted for these dastardly crimes. There have been some indictments but no one has been convicted. And so there is a need for a federal law dealing with the whole question of the administration of justice.

There is a need for fair housing laws all over our country. And it is tragic indeed that Congress last year allowed this bill to die. And when that bill died in Congress, a bit of democracy died, a bit of our commitment to justice died. If it happens again in this session of Congress, a greater degree of our commitment to democratic principles will die. And I can see no more dangerous trend in our country than the constant developing of predominantly Negro central cities ringed by white suburbs. This is only inviting social disaster. And the only way this problem will be solved is by the nation taking a strong stand, and by state governments taking a strong stand against housing segregation and against discrimination in all of these areas.

Now there's another thing that I'd like to mention as I talk about the massive action program and time will not permit me to go into specific programmatic action to any great degree. But it must be realized now that the Negro cannot solve the problems by himself. There again, there are those who always say to Negroes, "Why don't you do something for yourself? Why don't you lift yourselves by your own bootstraps?" And we hear this over and over again.

Now certainly there are many things that we must do for ourselves and that only we can do for ourselves. Certainly we must develop within a sense of dignity and selfrespect that nobody else can give us. A sense of manhood, a sense of personhood, a sense of not being ashamed of our heritage, not being ashamed of our color. It was wrong and tragic of the Negro ever to allow himself to be ashamed of the fact that he was black, or ashamed of the fact that his home, ancestral home was Africa. And so there is a great deal that the Negro can do to develop self-respect. There is a great deal that the Negro must do and can do to amass political and economic power within his own community and by using his own resources. And so we must do certain things for ourselves but this must not negate the fact, and cause the nation to overlook the fact, that the Negro cannot solve the problem himself.

A man was on the plane with me some weeks ago and he came and talked with me and he said, "The problem, Dr. King, that I see with what you all are doing is that every time I see you and other Negroes, you're protesting and you aren't doing anything for yourselves." And he went on to tell me that he was very poor at one time, and he was able to make it by doing something for himself. "Why don't you teach your people," he said, "to lift themselves by their own bootstraps?" And then he went on to say other groups faced disadvantages, the Irish, the Italians, and he went down the line.

And I said to him that it does not help the Negro, it only deepens his frustration, upon feeling insensitive people to say to him that other ethnic groups who migrated or were immigrants to this country less than a hundred years ago or so, have gotten beyond Aurora Forum at Stanford University 10 15 April 2007 him and he came here some 344 years ago. And I went on to remind him that the Negro came to this country involuntarily in chains, while others came voluntarily. I went on to remind him that no other racial group has been a slave on American soil. I went on to remind him that the other problem that we have faced over the years is that this society placed a stigma on the color of the Negro, on the color of his skin because he was black. Doors were closed to him that were not closed to other groups.

And I finally said to him that it's a nice thing to say to people that you oughta lift yourself by your own bootstraps, but it is a cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he oughta lift himself by his own bootstraps. And the fact is that millions of Negroes, as a result of centuries of denial and neglect, have been left bootless. And they find themselves impoverished aliens in this affluent society. And there is a great deal that the society can and must do if the Negro is to gain the economic security that he needs.

Now one of the answers it seems to me, is a guaranteed annual income, a guaranteed minimum income for all people, and for all families of our country. It seems to me that the Civil Rights Movement must now begin to organize for the guaranteed annual income. Begin to organize people all over our country, and mobilize forces so that we can bring to the attention of our nation this need, and this something which I believe will go a long long way toward dealing with the Negro's economic problem and the economic problem which many other poor people confront in our nation.

Now I said I wasn't gonna talk about Vietnam, but I can't make a speech without mentioning some of the problems that we face there because I think this war has diverted attention from civil rights. It has strengthened the forces of reaction in our country and has brought to the forefront the military industrial complex that even President Eisenhower warned us against at one time. And above all, it is destroying human lives. It's destroying the lives of thousands of the young promising men of our nation. It's destroying the lives of little boys and little girls in Vietnam.

But one of the greatest things that this war is doing to us in civil rights is that it is allowing the Great Society to be shot down on the battlefields of Vietnam every day. And I submit this afternoon that we can end poverty in the United States. Our nation has the resources to do it. The National Gross Product of America will rise to the astounding figure of some $780 billion this year. We have the resources. The question is whether our nation has the will, and I submit that if we can spend $35 billion a year to fight an ill-considered war in Vietnam, and $20 billion to put a man on the moon, our nation can spend billions of dollars to put God's children on their own two feet right here on earth.

Let me say another thing that's more in the realm of the spirit I guess, that is that if we are to go on in the days ahead and make true brotherhood a reality, it is necessary for us to realize more than ever before, that the destinies of the Negro and the white man are tied together. Now there are still a lot of people who don't realize this. The racists still don't realize this. But it is a fact now that Negroes and whites are tied Aurora Forum at Stanford University 11 15 April 2007 together, and we need each other. The Negro needs the white man to save him from his fear. The white man needs the Negro to save him from his guilt. We are tied together in so many ways; our language, our music, our cultural patterns, our material prosperity, and even our food are an amalgam of black and white.

And so there can be no separate black path to power and fulfillment that does not intersect white groups. There can be no separate white path to power and fulfillment short of social disaster. It does not recognize the need of sharing that power with black aspirations for freedom and justice. We must come to see now that integration is not merely a romantic or aesthetic something where you merely add color to a still predominantly white power structure. Integration must be seen also in political terms where there is shared power, where black men and white men share power together to build a new and a great nation.

 In a real sense, we're all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. John Donne placed it years ago in graphic terms, "No man is an island entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main." And he goes on toward the end to say, "Any man's death diminishes me because I'm involved in mankind. Therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee." And so we are all in the same situation: the salvation of the Negro will mean the salvation of the white man. And the destruction of the life and of the ongoing progress of the Negro will be the destruction of the ongoing progress of the nation.

Now let me say finally that we have difficulties ahead but I haven't despaired. Somehow I maintain hope in spite of hope. And I've talked about the difficulties and how hard the problems will be as we tackle them. But I want to close by saying this afternoon, that I still have faith in the future. And I still believe that these problems can be solved. And so I will not join anyone who will say that we still can't develop a coalition of conscience.

I realize and understand the discontent and the agony and the disappointment and even the bitterness of those who feel that whites in America cannot be trusted. And I would be the first to say that there are all too many who are still guided by the racist ethos. And I am still convinced that there are still many white persons of good will. And I'm happy to say that I see them every day in the student generation who cherish democratic principles and justice above principle, and who will stick with the cause of justice and the cause of civil rights and the cause of peace throughout the days ahead. And so I refuse to despair. I think we're gonna achieve our freedom because however much America strays away from the ideals of justice, the goal of America is freedom.

Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up in the destiny of America. Before the pilgrim fathers landed at Plymouth we were here. Before Jefferson etched across the pages of history the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence, we were here. Before the beautiful words of the Star Spangled Banner Aurora Forum at Stanford University 12 15 April 2007 were written, we were here. For more than two centuries, our forebearers labored here without wages. They made cotton king. They built the homes of their masters in the midst of the most humiliating and oppressive conditions. And yet out of a bottomless vitality, they continued to grow and develop.

And I say that if the inexpressible cruelties of slavery couldn't stop us, the opposition that we now face, including the so-called white backlash, will surely fail. We're gonna win our freedom because both the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of the Almighty God are embodied in our echoing demands.

And so I can still sing "We Shall Overcome." We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice. We shall overcome because Carlyle is right, "no lie can live forever." We shall overcome because William Cullen Bryant is right, "truth crushed to earth will rise again." We shall overcome because James Russell Lowell is right, "Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne - Yet that scaffold sways the future."

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 speed up the 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 live together as brothers and sisters, all over this great nation. That will be a great day, that will be a great tomorrow. In the words of the Scripture, to speak symbolically, that will be the day when the morning stars will sing together and the sons of God will shout for joy. Thank you. [End of film.]

Sunday, June 7, 2015

#McKinney, #MonsonMotorLodge, #AliveWhileBlack

On June 6, 2015, police were called and told there were "too many black people" at a pool party at an all white residential community in McKinney, Texas. This is what happened:

When I saw this, what I thought was, Monson Motor Lodge. 

The manager of the motel James Brock was photographed pouring muriatic acid into the pool to get the protesters out.

"Martin Luther King Jr. had planned the sit-in during the St. Augustine Movement, a part of the larger civil rights movement. "
Then the hotel owner called the police. One of whom tried to club a rabbi in the pool with his nightstick: 
Two rabbis had checked into the Monson Motor Lodge and the news media had been notified in advance that a "swim in" would occur at the pool on the afternoon of June 18, 1964. Two rabbi and five blacks were in the pool. Here an officer tries to hit one of the rabbis with his club. The demonstrators were arrested while Martin Luther King was across the street.
Then an off duty  police officer jumped in the pool to attack the protestors:
An off duty police officer jumped into the pool to fight with the rabbis 
Eventually they arrested the protestors.  I need to reiterate that the protestors were peacefully swimming in the pool. The press had been alerted and as a result, As soon as they were told they were arrested they complied with police demands.
Monson Motor Lodge happened 51 years ago. In 51 years, we still have not progressed past this Apartheid view of our own citizens. 
A demonstrator is taken away from the swimming pool at the Monson Motor Lodge in St. Augustine, Fl June 18, 1964
A thorough inspection of the 51 year old photographic record of the Monson Motor Lodge swim in will show that both the behavior of the owner and the on and off duty police was unacceptable. It can be argued that the uncanny similarity between the behavior of the police officer who pulled a gun on the teenagers who tried to keep him from abuse of power over a bystander teenaged girl speaks volumes about the police and the pool management's attitudes towards the swimmers.  Actions do indeed speak louder than words.                                                                                                                                                                                        
If you don't understand why innocent teens ran in all directions away from the pool when they heard police coming, then you haven't been keeping track of the number of black young people killed by police since the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. They were running for their lives.

The incredible hatred and the polarization in Texas is beyond disturbing 50 years after a sit in protest for the right of Black people to swim in the same pool white people swim in. What this latest in a series of racist and ableist incidents shows is that bigotry is not just being spoon fed to the citizens of Texas, it is part and parcel of the entire institutional fabric of the state. Hate is against human nature. It is not part of us. It is learned. 

It is the responsibility of those who manage a public pool to insure that the numbers of guests using the facilities do not exceed the pool's capacity and that residents are informed of events that might occupy the pool and generate noise, such as a pool party. What is emerging from this story is information that the pool party was a planned event, the black teens there were issued guest passes, and the HOA informed its residents in advance of the event that it would happen. Then a very old and ugly bias against people of color and white people sharing use of a pubic space was most likely behind residents calling the police. Any normal teen behavior was presumed to be criminal behavior because of their race. That is the very definition of racism. Everything that a single police officer id was  based on his presumption that they are less than he is.  If all these teens had been white, and the argument had broken out because the same woman told them to go back to the trailer park, we must all ask ourselves a. what the residents would have done, b. if the police would have been called, and c. if the teens would have been treated the same way.

This all requires taking an  honest at the history of racial segregation and the systems that perpetuate it. Then we all need to take a long look in the mirror and take a position on the constant racial maltreatment happens around us.

Change begins with you. Speak, or remain silent and allow injustice to escalate until it happens to you and yours. 

Photo credits Rare Historical Photos
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