April 4: The struggle continues

This file was posted to Flickr by the Minnesota Historical Society and is licensed under Creative Commons.

King speaking to an anti-war rally on University of Minnesota campus in 1967.  This file was posted to Flickr by the Minnesota Historical Society and is licensed under Creative Commons.

“April 4,” the young lady at the gym said as I signed my name to a form and stopped to think of the date. April 4, which will always mean just one day to me, that day 47 years ago when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. I still remember the tears that would not stop and still feel the impact of his life and his death.

I was seventeen years old, finishing my first year at the University of Chicago, full of the excitement of the university and the city and the tension between being a student on the south side and learning community organizing on the north side, praying Sunday mornings at St. Dominic’s Catholic masses in Cabrini Green and Saturday mornings at soulful, prayerful, songful Operation Breadbasket meetings at Chicago Theological Seminary.

I believed then that if people just knew of the injustices happening in our streets and communities, if they just saw what I saw and heard what I heard, the world would change. Well, it did. Just not enough.

So the struggle continues. And here are some of the stories from this morning’s news, offered in the hope that one reader will tell another and more people will know what injustices are still happening, and add their voices and hands to the continuing struggle to change the world.

Screen Shot 2015-04-04 at 1.45.46 PM

The photo comes from Iowa. The story comes from Vox

“When it comes to race and crime, media bias is a huge problem

“Whatever happened, the story has attracted attention because the contrast in the photos of the black and white suspects is a visual reminder of a problem that transcends the outlets’ handling of these two burglary cases: media bias against African Americans.”

Media bias in reporting on crime is pervasive. Media Matters recently reported two studies that show the degree of bias in New York City reporting. The television reports of black suspects being arrested for crimes were substantially higher than the actual proportion of black suspects arrested.

MediaMattersNYCTopChart

Media Matters noted:

‘In The Black Image in the White Mind, authors and Professors Robert Entman and Andrew Rojecki explained that exposure to images and reports of African-Americans as criminals reduces white viewers’ empathy and ‘heightens animosity’ towards African-Americans. Entman and Rojecki added that the media’s overrepresentation of blacks as criminals could also ‘reduce apparent and real responsiveness of White-dominated society to the needs of poor minorities.'”

Story after story reports that black people are stopped, arrested, convicted and imprisoned in numbers out of proportion to actual crimes committed. Of course that’s not the only disparity — health, employment, income, education, housing — disparities persist in all areas, and the continuing corrosive presence of racism and discrimination are well-documented. One final example from this morning’s social media posts:

Screen Shot 2015-04-04 at 1.48.36 PM

Thanks to Shannon Gibney for the Facebook post, and to Mother Jones for the article that explains:

“‘Stopped by the cops again wish me luck.’

“That’s the message Chris Rock paired with a selfie on Monday, capturing what is apparently the third time in just seven weeks the comedian has been pulled over by police. It’s not known why police stopped Rock during these three separate incidents, but the succinct caption alone sums up what’s clearly a routine event for him as a black man in America…”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led struggles against injustice. He refused to limit his advocacy to issues of race, insisting on building multi-racial coalitions against poverty and speaking against the war in Vietnam. His voice was his strongest weapon.

The Department of Homeland Security repeatedly tells us, “If you see something, say something.” Let us claim that slogan for the struggle for justice. If you see injustice, say something. Talk to your family and friends. Advocate for justice. If you don’t, who will?

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2 Comments

Filed under human rights

2 responses to “April 4: The struggle continues

  1. The evening of King’s death, my parents got a knock on our door in St. Cloud. Us kids were in bed and would not become conscious of what happened for an amount of time for the topic to become part of everyday talk and news.

    The knock came from a Benedictine nun from the convent down the block. She was in tears, but not only because of the loss of an important leader. The nun was the only black nun at the convent. When my parents offered her a seat, what she told them was more painful than even the news of that most powerful exhibition of America’s brand of terrorism.

    When she caught her breath, she told them what her night had been like, a night where she was more alone than anyone could ever be. She explained how there was hardly any sadness, not even sympathy in the house–a hostility punctuated by the sound of another nun running up and down the hall calling “They got ’em; they finally got ’em.”

    It doesn’t really sound like most of the Catholic nuns and sisters I know. Quite the contrast, and it would be hard to believe except for two things: one, it was 1968 and we were still “Negros” then; two, it would not be hard to find the same reaction if President Obama or another prominent or outspoken African American were to meet King’s fate. Or a lot of outspoken women or some other voice that threatens our various supremacies.

    After more than half a century, we still have much of the same and a resurgence of what was once mostly in the south of the country. It happens in front of our eyes every day. Still, no one wants to believe.

    Liked by 1 person

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