On Monday the nation will pause to observe the annual holiday honoring the life and legacy of iconic civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Yet too many Millennials and members of their younger cohort, Generation Z, consider civil rights history as ancient history at the dawn of a new millennium.
However, there are profound and poignant lessons which today’s young people need to learn. The most important lesson is how to make major changes in society through the type of peaceful means championed by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his fellow civil rights leaders of the time.
A term of significance for young people to comprehend is: “civil disobedience.”
The names Grafton E. Thomas , Nicole Marie Poole Franklin, and Keith Thomas Kinnunens are among a few of the many that should, hopefully and highly likely, will live on in infamy. During this past holiday season, these three obviously deeply disturbed individuals engaged in shocking behavior committing , vile, horrific, sadistic, abominable crimes. In the case of Thomas and Kinnunens, murder was the end result.
For the few (probably very few) of you who are unaware of went down, Thomas wielded a machete and stabbed five people at a Hanukkah party in a New York City suburb critically wounding three of the victims. The following day, December 28th, Kinnunens donning a fake beard, wig and long coat, opened fire at the Church of Christ in White Settlement , Texas killing two worshipers before being shot and killed himself. Several days earlier, in Polk County, Iowa , Poole was charged with attempted murder for hate crimes – specifically attempting to murder two young children in two separate instances. Her first victim was a 12 year old Black youth in a Des Moines apartment complex. Franklin hit him with her vehicle and sped off. The young man suffered minor injuries to his leg.
During my tenure as a fellow of the University of California National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement, I examined how the diversity movement of the past half century has influenced our nation’s conversation concerning speech. Then, in October, I ran across a call for proposals to present at a December 2019, symposium on Speculative Futures of Education.
This seemed right down my alley.For the past forty years I have been dabbling in futurism, including giving a popular public lecture, The Future Basics in Education. Why not apply this projective thinking to diversity and speech?So I submitted a proposal, which was accepted.
In one of the most memorable forewarnings in social history, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere!”
Hold that premonition in the front of your mind now and in the days, weeks and months ahead. If you remember nothing else about this narrative, I urge you to remember that line.
“Donna” is a writer. She’s also Jewish, does podcasts and publishes a newspaper column. She takes risks with the topics she takes on which has, on an occasion, drawn the ire of hate groups in the US and from abroad. Yet “Donna” just keeps on writing.
“Donna” is also a friend and, as one can certainly understand, finds the recent spate of violence against Jews more unnerving than maybe for those of us who aren’t Jewish. (For her safety, I’ve chosen not to publish her actual name or location.).
You see, I reached out to her recently after the horrific anti-Semitic attacks on Jews and Jewish establishments which culminated with stabbings of multiple people at a Hanukkah celebration at a rabbi’s home in New York. I wanted assurance, first and foremost, that she and her husband were safe. I also needed advice on what those of us who aren’t Jewish could do beside uttering the usual “thoughts and prayers” before moving on the other things.
“Thank you, Terry. My husband has my back as do many friends and colleagues like yourself. Yes, what is happening is horrifying. These are scary times to put it mildly.”
Vintage “Donna,” she then turned adamant.
“I have no intention of going underground like many Jews do nowadays, and folks who know me know that about me. If my dad was still alive, he’d be proud but would have a bloody fit. “
“Yeah, ‘thoughts & prayers’ don’t really fit what’s happening. I’d say try visiting your local synagogue and ask if you can attend a Sabbath service. Stay after for the “oneg” (fancy word for snacks) and get the flavor of the congregation. Bring some folks with you if they permit. And get to know the people. Maybe you could write an article on what this anti-Semitism craziness looks like from an African-American perspective.”
Now like so many, we’re often left with what else can we do personally before moving on before the next assault grabs our attention. So in addition to the aforementioned advice from “Donna,” I reached out to several colleagues, including long-time friend, “Lisa,” an Asian-American. We shared our collective disgust with what’s been going on and exchanged ideas about what we in the non-Jewish community could do.
“Terry, I do believe strongly in prayer, so I would not discount the power of prayer. However, one addition may be to include more prayers out loud specifically on those facing religious persecution for their beliefs as I hear similar concerns from my Muslim friends and colleagues as well.”
“One thing we can do is to continue to support great venues that promotes shared values of kindness and how to be an upstander for human rights for all by remembering the past but also recognizing the work is still needed around the world today,” shared another colleague who asked to remain anonymous.
Said another, “A unified effort to focus on shared values of peace, harmony, love, respect, and creating a sense of belonging and inclusion for all would be my wish. If we can amplify the light of the world more to drown out the hate speech and those doing evil in the shadows, we can reach more people who are desperately in need of that hope.”
“Stemming the tide of hatred should start in the school where kids at an early age can learn the basics about tolerance, respect for differences, compassion and sharing,” shared author and playwright “Sheila,” who added that we all can speak up forcefully in the face of injustices.
Added “Lisa,” we can support organizations that promote religious understanding with donations or promoting them on social media and following and liking their posts too.”
There’s no doubt that Jews have taken anti-Semitism very seriously. We who aren’t Jewish must do the same.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere! – oops, did I say that already?
I got back late Saturday night and, I have to say, I’m even more frustrated, disheartened and angry than I was before I went. As I learned instantly from organizations working at the border that first day:with the restrictive government policies in place right now, there’s not much we can do legally (or illegally).
I was under the impression that I’d be working at the shelters and detention centers, doing anything that needed to be done—working with these people who are desperately trying to claim Political Asylum ; doing anything to help them wile away the hours and days they spend there,possibly, teaching them some English or geography or anything else that interests them. I was even ready to help with folding towels or serving meals. Howeverthe organization I was working with had the volunteers (there were 6 of us that week) spending all day interviewing as many immigrants who walked into CAIM (Mexico’s Center for Comprehensive Migrant Services).Ironically, CAIM was situated in view of the International Bridge where they had been pushed back across into Juarez by Border Patrol due to the administration’s new MPP (Migrant Protection Protocols) more properly dubbed the “Remain in Mexico” policy.
Picturethis: There’s a beautifully manicured house a few blocks from yours. The hedges are lit up with Christmas lights. A new BMW is parked in the driveway. Just outside the door, there’s a nice 11’/24’ picture of your neighbor’s son on a poster donning his black and yellow basketball uniform. All is well right? Well, yesterday you learned that the house, which was empty at the time, was burglarized.
New Year’s Eve had been a big event in my family. Every year we’d pack up and travel to Long Island spending the holiday at my aunt and uncle’s home with a house full of loved ones. Although I lived in Staten Island, New York at the time, and my cousin Christy lived in Long Island, New York, we were nonetheless close. We looked forward to New Year’s and when it was over, we’d count down the days until the next New Year.
Sometime between a Sunday afternoon nap, raking leaves from my yard and watching NFL games in my “man cave” yesterday, I received the following message from my friend Troy from Houston, an emerging author. I read it several times and immediately determined that it must be shared broadly:
Yesterday my wife and I stopped at a local 7-Eleven to gas up her car. The card reader on the pump didn’t work, so I headed inside to pay for the gas. While I was inside, a white male in his mid-50’s drove up in front of the car and got my wife’s attention. She rolled her window down and this man told her that she had a dent in the back of her car. She opened the car door and was about to get out as I walked up. She told me what the guy had said about the dent. I looked at the car and said, “What dent?” He got out of his truck, came and looked at the back and said, “My eyes must have been playing tricks on me.” Got back in his truck and drove off.
His name is Stan Maclin. He lives in Harrisonburg, Virginia, having moved there 20 years ago. He is the founder and curator of the Harriet Tubman Cultural Center in that city.
It should come as no surprise then that Maclin’s Center has garnered national attention and many phone calls ignited by the recently released movie “Harriett,” the story of Harriett Tubman who single handedly made many forays deep into the south to free slaves.
When asked why he started the Center, in words that undoubtedly flowed from his mouth hundreds of times over the years, Maclin said that he wanted to open a place where African Americans can learn about their history, identity, and culture. He wanted to be able the educate future generations so that history does not repeat itself.
It was the hug felt and seen around the world. Depending upon their outlook on the situation at hand, different individuals responded differently to the gesture. I am referring to the hug that was delivered to murderer Amber Guyger by Brandt Jean, the brother of slain victim, Botham Jean. As most people who closely followed the case were aware of, Guyger, a Dallas police officer was found guilty by a multi-racial jury and sentenced to a decade in prison.
The fact that she even found guilt sent shock waves throughout much of the Black community and likely the larger society as well, if we are being honest about it. Generally speaking, police, in particular White police officers who shoot and murder Black people, even those Black men and women that are unarmed and pose no direct threat to the officer in question , are often given the benefit of the doubt and exonerated by many juries and the legal system at large. Thus, surprisingly and justifiably, there was a kernel of justice in the verdict that was rendered. The reason I state that some small degree of fairness occurred is due to the fact that in spite of being convicted Guyger’s sentence was considerably lenient given the crime. Moreover, she will be eligible for parole in 2024. A minute modicum of justice indeed.