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

From: William M. Mandel (
Date: 01/07/01

  • Next message: "[sixties-l] disenfranchisement"

    I simply don't know whether the public is asleep on the election-discrimination
    issue. I do know that the mass media, as well as Congress at its obscene
    love-fest the other day after months of screaming accusations at each other for
    election purposes, would like us to forget this election, and permit them to go
    ahead with the normal business of governing for the rich. It is our job to make
    sure that neither the media nor Congress can go on doing that, and expressing
    ourselves in Washington on inauguration day looks is the immediate opportunity
    to do that.
    William Mandel
    radman wrote:
    > >Date: 6 Jan 2001
    > >From: "Online Journal" <>
    > >Subject: 01-06-00: America Sleeps As Civil Rights Leaders Struggle
    > >
    > >Online Journal -
    > >
    > >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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