>Date: 6 Jan 2001 >From: "Online Journal" <firstname.lastname@example.org> >Subject: 01-06-00: America Sleeps As Civil Rights Leaders Struggle > >Online Journal - http://www.onlinejournal.com > >01-06-00: Which Side Are We On? >America Sleeps As Civil Rights Leaders Struggle > >By Carla Binion > >January 6, 2000 | During the late 1950s and the 1960s, white Democrats and >progressives made common cause with African-Americans as they sought civil >rights and social justice. Today most Democrats in Congress ignore the >fact that large numbers of voters, many of them African-American, were >systematically disenfranchised in Election 2000. > >The following is about understanding the spiritual foundations of the >early civil rights movement, and it explores the extent to which today >many Americans are asleep regarding the plight of blacks as they continue >to fight for their civil rights and basic human dignity. > >Certain members of the corporate-owned news media show contempt for the >struggle of black voters, and few white viewers seem to notice. As an >example of egregious media conduct, this week Fox Network aired allegedly >"comedic" voice impressions by a Paul Shanklin. Shanklin's audio clip >ridiculed Jesse Jackson and his complaints about voting irregularities. >Fox anchor, Brit Hume, laughed as the hate speech was aired. > >I call it hate speech, because Fox and some other cable networks have >systematically (and systematically is the key word here) ridiculed Jackson >and tried to undermine his efforts to enlighten the public about the fact >that black voters were disenfranchised during Election 2000. > >Thursday night Fox aired yet another segment erroneously claiming there is >not enough evidence to back up Jackson's claims that methodical voting >irregularities occurred. Again, Brit Hume led the charge, claiming there >was no "grand scheme" to deny African-Americans their voting rights. > >The relentless cable network attacks against Jesse Jackson, coming at this >time, are both racially insensitive and anti-democratic for the following >reasons: > >Given the recent election fiasco, Jackson's efforts symbolize (for most >reasonable people) both racial equality and the right to free elections. >Elections and racial equality are characteristic of democracy. Efforts to >undermine both racial equality and elections are anti-democratic. If the >public were not sound asleep, the TV networks' continuous repetition of >racially insensitive comments and focused attacks on democracy would ring >alarm bells. > >Michael Lind, in "Up From Conservatism: Why The Right Is Wrong For >America" (The Free Press, a division of Simon and Schuster, 1996), >discusses right-wing radio talk show host/propagandist, Rush Limbaugh. >Lind, senior editor for The New Yorker in '96, reports that Limbaugh once >snidely asked his audience: "Have you ever noticed how all newspaper >composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?" > >According to Lind, Limbaugh has also said to his audience, "The NAACP >should have riot rehearsals. They should get a liquor store and practice >robberies." Lind points out that such anti-black hate jokes are typical >Limbaugh. Evidently they are also becoming typical of Fox Network >commentators-and white America sleeps through the network's downward drift >toward the Limbaugh level of commentary. > >Rush Limbaugh also frequently refers to democracy as "mob rule," and >insists the U. S. is not a democracy, but a republic. He neglects to >mention America is, in fact, a democratic republic. When Limbaugh, Hume >and pals ridicule or minimize the voting plight of black Americans, they >typify the insensitivity described in Eric Dyson's "I May Not Get There >With You: The True Martin Luther King" (The Free Press, 2000.) > >Dyson says that when it comes to offenses against African-Americans, some >people exhibit a revisionist amnesia in which "all memory is filtered >through the prism of the present." He adds, "the catch is that the past is >never viewed as causing the degree or depth of injury claimed by the >offended party." > >The depth and degree of injury to black Americans include the following: >Civil rights worker Medgar Evers was shot and killed for his efforts to >gain voting rights and other civil liberties for his fellow blacks. > >In recalling Evers' death, his widow, Myrlie Evers-Williams ("The Civil >Rights Movement: A Photographic History," Steven Kasler, Abbeville Press) >said: "My husband lay dying in a pool of blood on the doorstep of our home >in Jackson, Mississippi. His body had been toppled by a cowardly >assassin's bullet and left for the world-and his children-to see. I can >still see Medgar's handsome features distorted in excruciating pain as he >succumbed to death's premature call. . . . I wonder about the image that >my husband must have carried with him on his quest for equality." > >"How emotionally draining it must have been on his spirit to bear in mind >the unrecognizable portrait of the battered Emmet Till as Medgar pursued >justice to bring the young boy's murderers to trial. Nothing could have >shielded Medgar's eyes from the deplorable conditions of the Mississippi >sharecroppers or from the 'strange fruit' hung on trees by brutal >barbarians." > >And today Brit Hume laughs at Jesse Jackson for essentially doing the same >kind of work Evers was doing when he was shot and killed. And Rush >Limbaugh jokes that the NAACP should have riot rehearsals. > >Years ago I read the script of "My Dinner with Andre," in which playwright >Andre Gregory and actor Wallace Shawn discuss the fact that so many >Americans today seem numb and deeply asleep to the world around them. >Gregory said, "I remember a night-it was about two weeks after my mother >had died, and I was in pretty bad shape, and I went out to dinner with >three relatively close friends, two of whom had known my mother quite >well, and all three of whom have known me for years." > >"And we went through that entire evening," says Gregory, "without my being >able to, for a moment, get anywhere near what-you know not that I wanted >to sit and have a dreary evening in which I was talking about all this >pain that I was going through and everything-really not at all. But-but >the fact that nobody could say, Gee, what a shame about your mother, or >How are you feeling? But it was as if nothing had happened. And everyone >was just making these jokes and laughing." > >"I mean, do you realize, Wally," Gregory concludes, "if you brought that >situation into a Tibetan home, that would be just so far out-they wouldn't >be able to understand it. I mean, that would be simply so weird, if four >Tibetans came together, and tragedy had just struck one of the ones, and >they all spent the whole evening going Aha ha ha ehee hee hee oho ho! Wo >ho ho! Those Tibetans would have looked at that and would have thought it >was just the most unimaginable behavior, but for us that's common >behavior." > >Gregory says that in a more spiritually awake culture, people would be >startled by the behavior of the sleeping Americans he described, and would >conclude that they were "dangerous animals or something like that." In >general, liberal Americans were more awake during the era of the early >civil rights movement. That movement, like Gandhi's nonviolent protests, >was rooted in a combination of liberal spiritual values and fierce mental >awareness. > >The early movement was glued together in part by the Reverend Martin >Luther King's work to organize members of black churches, and by his >background in his own liberal spiritual tradition. In a 1958 speech on the >power of nonviolence, King, who respected Mahatma Gandhi and a wide >variety of spiritual traditions including non-religious humanitarian >philosophies, said: > >"I am quite aware of the fact that there are persons who believe firmly in >nonviolence who do not believe in a personal God, but I think every person >who believes in nonviolent resistance believes somehow that the universe >in some form is on the side of justice. That there is something in the >universe, whether one speaks of it as an unconscious process, or whether >one speaks of it as some unmoved mover, or whether one speaks of it as a >personal God. There is something in the universe that unfolds for justice, >and so in Montgomery we felt somehow that as we struggled we had cosmic >companionship." > >"And this was one of the things that kept the people together," said King, >"the belief that the universe was on the side of justice. . . . God grant >that as men and women all over the world struggle against evil systems >they will struggle with love in their hearts, with understanding good >will." > >King might have asked regarding the 2000 election: How can we call an >election just, if the person who received the most votes-both popular and >electoral-did not win? When record numbers of black voters turned out to >vote for Gore, but their votes were erased by a partisan Supreme Court's >suppressing the vote count, how can that be called justice? > >In the 1958 speech on nonviolence, Martin Luther King also said: "Some >people are saying we must slow up. . . . They are saying we must adopt a >policy of moderation. Now if moderation means moving on with wise >restraint and calm reasonableness, then moderation is a great virtue. . . >. But if moderation means slowing up in the move for justice and >capitulating to the whims and caprices of the guardians of the deadening >status quo, then moderation is a tragic vice which all men of good will >must condemn." > >Today Democrats in Congress slow the move for justice and capitulate to >the whims and caprices of the guardians of the deadening status quo as >they rush toward false and premature healing and bipartisanship. There can >be no healing until congressional Democrats wake up and address the >concerns of black voters in a meaningful way. > >What would Martin Luther King have thought about Brit Hume's ridicule of >Jesse Jackson? Media critic Robert W. McChesney writes about the need for >news media organizations that will support democracy instead of serving >only the interests of their corporate owners. (McChesney, >"Telecommunications, Mass Media and Democracy," Oxford University Press, >1994.) > >McChesney suggests people should stay hopeful and committed to political >action regarding media reform. He says, "The first line of defense of any >inegalitarian social order is to cultivate the conviction in the >subordinate subjects that any fundamental change for the better is >impossible, if not undesirable, and therefore unworthy of consideration, >let alone action." > >Giving in to hopelessness regarding political action serves corporate >interests, not democracy. McChesney adds that people should stay committed >to political action "even in the darkest moment when the possibility of >altering existing social relations for the better appears most remote." > >To give up hope would be to betray people such as Medgar Evers and Martin >Luther King. The people who died for civil rights live on in the hearts of >people who keep their work and their hope alive. > >Although the following lyrics to the folk song "Which Side Are You On" >were about labor rights, the words apply to people concerned with civil >rights, women's rights and a variety of issues: > >Don't scab for the bosses. >Don't listen to their lies, >'Cause poor folks haven't got a chance >Unless we organize. >Which side are you on? > >Media organizations and Democrats in Congress who refuse to stand up for >disenfranchised voters are essentially (although possibly unconsciously) >not on our side. Election 2000 should serve as a wake-up call for any >folks beginning to stir from their slumber enough to hear the alarm bell. > >Copyright 1998-2001 Online Journal. All rights reserved.
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