Martin Luther King, Jr.’s actual birthday is January 15, and I believe if he were alive today he would be well pleased with Ava DuVernay’s film Selma. Many people working for justice today stand on the shoulders of Martin Luther King, Jr. and what he achieved in Selma. But I believe King’s vision of justice is often gravely limited and misunderstood. Too many people thought then, and continue to think, that King’s statements regarding justice were only about race and the African American community. We fail to see how King’s vision of inclusion and community is far wider than we might have once imagined. Continue Reading →
“Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities…because it is the quality which guarantees all others.” — Winston Churchill
Just as we welcomed in the New Year with various renditions of Auld Lang Syne and well-wishing cheers, we also met 2015 with solemn reverence as we mourned the loss of three great Americans, former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, former United States Senator Edward Brooke III and ESPN sportscaster Stuart Scott. Each of these men charted a new course and left an indelible mark on America with their passion, pioneering spirit and principled approach to leaving our nation a better place than they found it. Mario Cuomo, who passed on New Year’s Day at 82 years old, was lionized as a great voice for liberalism, the New Deal and the Great Society from the 1970s through the 1990s, particularly during the Reagan years. Governor of New York from 1983 through 1994, Cuomo, the son of immigrants whose deep commitment to values was shaped by his Italian American upbringing in Queens, NY, was widely celebrated for his stirring speeches and oratorical skills. I had the fortune to be in San Francisco at the Moscone Center during the 1984 Democratic National Convention as a young delegate for Jesse Jackson when Cuomo gave his now very famous speech on the haves and the have-nots, a speech that has as much relevance today as it did 30 years ago. Continue Reading →
Black leadership: What’s the plan? Michael J. Davis, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota, announced December 31, 2014, that he will step down as Chief U.S. District Judge, summer 2015, “but will remain active on the bench as a senior judge.” I have known Judge Davis for over 40 years, from when he joined as an attorney and commissioner on the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission (MCRC). We served as commissioners along with two other African American commissioners, also attorneys, Pam Alexander and Lejune Lang. These three are among the greatest legal minds of Minnesota. Judge Davis served nearly 21 years on the federal bench, seven as chief judge of the federal court of the Federal District of Minnesota. Continue Reading →
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The recent open letter issued by the police union presidents of Minneapolis and St. Paul (1/4/15) does not indicate a readiness to listen, but to lecture those critical of law enforcement (www.mpdfederation.com/police). Like police union leaders in New York City and elsewhere, their letter seems to make the same spurious claim that protests against police brutality and discrimination may have incited Ismaaiyl Brinsley to murder two NYPD officers. In light of protesters’ just anger over the killing of unarmed Black Americans, even suggesting such a link lacks respect for the communities that law enforcement serves. Protesters are as heartsick over the tragic death of the officers as anyone. Continue Reading →
The word “preparation” is a sophisticated word. It means to prepare, develop, and analyze to get the best change plan to implement. The year 2015 will be an extremely interesting year as preparations begin for the return of the conservative right to control the White House just as the liberal left works to retain the White House. Which plan will resonate with people to get their vote? Will Democrats be ready? Continue Reading →
“Why are you looting? Why don’t you people get jobs and pay for things?”
“Well, I really don’t see it as looting, I call it gaining access, access that has been denied.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Have you seen the latest statistics, and are you aware that the wealth gap has widened? The median net worth of White households is $142,000 and the median net worth for Black households is only $11,000. Access, I have no access.”
“Get a job.”
“Do you understand what access means, access to wealth? It takes 13 median Black households and their net worth to equal the net worth of one median White household. Continue Reading →
It doesn’t matter whether Bill Cosby is guilty as accused. He has been judged in the court of public opinion, which has jumped the gun, inciting a frenzied media lynch mob. He is serving sentence — paying penalties, anyway — to the tune of lost gigs, speaking engagements, and connection to at least one prestigious university where he used to be the cat’s pajamas. This all before having seen one day before a judge, all without, for that matter, having been arrested. Jill Scott, Whoppi Golderg and others who’ve dared to speak from the perspective of innocent until proven guilty have caught rabid, knee-jerk confrontation. Continue Reading →
A year of confusion and expectations
ThroughMyEyesnewSuccess or failure is in the eye of the beholder. The year 2014 has been a clear example of confusing differences of opinion and expectations. As we said in last week’s column, discussions of race are affected by the eyes of the beholders.
We offer three criteria: (1) the different versions of the golden rule of all the great religions, (2) the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights that is incorporated into the constitutions of most of the 148 nations in the U.N., and (3) as we wrote last week, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s double concern of nonviolence as the method and non-waiting as the practice for advancing human rights in the Civil Rights Movement. Not adhering to these principles hinders successful interpretation of issues of race.
The tragic assassination of two New York police officers of color has heightened tensions in New York City and around the country. Shifting emphasis to minimize or marginalize discussions of race hinders movements for civil and human rights. The key is teaching people how to fish (Nellie Stone Johnson’s “no education, no jobs, no housing”) and not preventing them from learning to fish, making them dependent on government and nonprofit organizations that, in reality, hold them back.
Two thousand fourteen is bringing other concerns to 2015. Will Republicans who will now control both houses of Congress work with the current president, or will they become more driven to obstruct and undermine, further weakening our democratic institutions as our strength comes from unity, not division? Our democratic institutions will be thoroughly tested. How will the beholding eyes of the future interpret the strides we make in 2015?
Will those strides include democracy, free thought and speech that allows us to debate civil and human rights for all, not just for a small controlling group? Who will fight to maintain history’s human right to witness interpretations of history that feature fairness, opportunity, and justice for all? Continue Reading →
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The Christmas season is a difficult time of year for me. I am always bothered by our culture’s egregious forms of commercialism, and its either lack of or anemic recognition of other forms for holidays like Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, and the celebration of the winter solstice during this season. Over the years, as I learned how other cultures celebrated their various forms of religious expression during this time of year, as well as learned that the underlying message of Jesus was the embrace and celebration of human difference and diversity, the less and less I have come to like this holiday season. Too often we see the glitz and glamour that this holiday brings, and we have totally missed its spiritual message. I truly believe if American Christians stayed more focused on the message and teachings of Jesus, many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people would not have the annual angst of searching for home for the holidays. Continue Reading →