I CAN’T BREATHE!
MONDAY MATTERS – MAY 31 |
ACTION ITEM: Start sharing a list of what you and I can do (especially if you are white) to dismantle systemic racism in our institutions – especially our criminal justice system. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1963 Letter while in Birmingham Jail
As a candidate for Arkansas House District 96, I want to better understand what is happening today across our country in the last few days. Dr. King’s letter in 1963 to Christian and Jewish leaders laid out the case for why “we can wait no longer” for justice. It’s a long letter but I suggest that it would do each of us good to read it completely. If you want to gain insight into the frustration of a people that would result in them taking actions that disrupt theirs and our daily lives, read Dr. King’s words at: http://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/documents/letter_birmingham_jail.pdf It provides in part:
"We must come to see … that it is immoral to urge an individual to withdraw his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest precipitates violence. [Especially when] you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick, brutalize, and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity.”
The white moderate must take action to dismantle systemic racism.
“I [Dr. King] must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is … the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man's freedom…”
My personal experience with poll watching in Mississippi in 1971 – and thoughts today
Nearly 50 years ago (1971) as a young student at Oklahoma State University, I was outraged at the racial injustice across the country. With others, I started a group on campus to travel to Mississippi as volunteer “poll watchers” for Charles Evers, the first African American to run for governor in that state. Witnessing the active intimidation of black voters was an experience that changed my life. How far have we come? Today, I'm outraged by the conduct of the Minneapolis police and others across the country that are hiding bigotry behind a symbol of public service. But then I look right here at home and see similar injustice in my own community with the race-based 287(g) program targeting Hispanics. Even more subtle is the disproportionate number of our Hispanic neighbors who are getting sick from not receiving adequate protections at the workplace during this COVID19 pandemic. They are there working every day to shore up our meat supply lines with inadequate protections and support as the country clamors for things to return to normal. No human in this country should be considered entitled to less due to the color of their skin. What actions can you and I take to dismantle institutional racism? We know the answer. Do we have the will?