[sixties-l] Fwd: America Sleeps As Civil Rights Leaders Struggle

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Date: 01/07/01

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    >Date: 6 Jan 2001
    >From: "Online Journal" <editor@onlinejournal.com>
    >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
    >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
    >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
    >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
    >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
    >"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
    >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,
    >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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