Monday, August 14, 2017

The events in Charlottesville, Virginia (and other Information)

The violence and injuries in Charlottesville is not the fault of "many sides." It is the fault of only one side (of racists, white supremacists, and anti-Semites). Also, racists aren't just those wearing swastikas or waving Confederate flags. Racists include many of the rich and many of the upper middle class. I have no respect for monuments of traitors (i.e. Confederates) and slave owners. Many bigots worship false idols of stone than honoring justice. I don't worship false idols. I believe in justice. I believe in the defeat of the alt right movement. It is a sad day in America. White racists assaulted counter protesters. Many counter protesters were run over by a car. The car attack (done by a 20-year-old Hitler admirer from Ohio named James Fields Jr.) was a terrorist attack causing one person (whose name was Heather Heyer. She was a 32 year old Bernie Sanders supporter who opposed the fascists) to die and 19 people being injured. Trump's tweet doesn’t go far enough and it shows his cowardice. He knows full well that the racists and Neo-Nazis were some of his strongest supporters. Trump refuses to condemn white supremacy & the alt right movement by name in a public speech. Trump refuses to send the Attorney General to prosecute the racist haters for using violence against innocent people (until recently when the Attorney General wants to investigate the murderer for civil rights violation charges). One member of his cabinet is the aide named Sebastian Gorka. Gorka supported the neo-fascist group Magyar G├írda in 2007. Also, he said that people shouldn't blame white supremacists for the terrorism in the world. The truth is that white supremacists have been violent against innocent people in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Nazis (on Friday night) carried out a torchlight parade across the UVA campus while chanting “blood and soil,” “Sieg Heil,” and “one people, one nation, stop immigration.” On Saturday, hundreds of fascists and racists used pepper spray, bats, brass knuckles, shields, and bottles to attack innocent people including clergypeople who disagree with their fascism. Stephen Bannon is still in the White House and he is another alt right extremist. The Klan, the alt right movement, the white nationalists, etc. are anti-human rights and anti-freedom. This hatred against black people, women, progressives, etc. has existed for centuries. This is not new. The Trump administration has enacted many pro-fascist policies from their immigration ban to their proposed cuts to legal immigration. On August 8, White House aide Sebastian Gorka, who is a member of the Hungarian fascist Order of the Vitez, said the fascist bombing of a mosque near Minneapolis, Minnesota might be a “fake hate crime” that was “propagated by the left.” Gorka is completely wrong period. Hate crimes against Muslims have increased since 2016. The following day, Gorka told Breitbart News that “white supremacists” are not “the problem,” and that terrorism is the product of Islam. Also, just because this is 2017 doesn't mean that racism is over. I blame the Trump administration for this, not only the racists. He established his campaign to scapegoat immigrants, black people, progressives, Muslims, and others. Now, we see this. We will continue to stand up against the alt right, which is an overt hate movement. We will continue to oppose bigotry and we will continue to advocate the statue of Lee to not be on public grounds (that we pay for with our taxpayer dollars). We want freedom.

Shirley Sherrod is one of the most heroic black women of our generation. She fought against racial injustice and economic exploitation for decades. On the date of July 19, 2010, Shirley Sherrod was pressured to resign from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (as Georgia State Director). The reason was that she was falsely accused of being racist towards white Americans (in a March 2010 event of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). The speech was about overcoming personal prejudices. She helped out a white farmer in 1986 named Roger Spooner. She at first thought that he had a superior attitude towards her (and she recalled the murder of her father in the South back in 1965 in Georgia). Later, they became friends. She said that poverty affected all races of people. Sherrod explained that her father’s murder led her to a decision: “I couldn't just let his death go without doing something in answer to what happened. I made the commitment on the night of my father's death, at the age of 17, that I would not leave the South, that I would stay in the South and devote my life to working for change. And I've been true to that commitment all of these 45 years.” The right wing blogger Andrew Breitbart took her words out of context and edited them in order to lie about Sherrod. In regard to the NAACP, Sherrod told CNN, “The NAACP has not tried to contact me one time … I would have appreciated—when you look at my history of civil rights, I would have appreciated having the NAACP at least contact me …contact me to try to get the truth about what happened…That hurts, because if you look at my history, that's what I'm saying. I've done more to advance the causes of civil rights in this area than some of them who are sitting in those positions now with the NAACP. They need to learn something about me. They need to know about my work. They need to know what I've contributed through the years.” Shirley Sherrod was so disrespected that the Obama administration (which included United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, other White House officials, and NAACP officials) apologized to her. Back in 2010, there has been massive coverage of the incident. The situation further caused more debates about racism in American society. I’m glad that Sherrod filed a defamation lawsuit against Breitbart and co-defendant Larry O’Connor. By 2015, the suit was settled in undisclosed terms. Shirley Sherrod is a heroic black woman and a great human being.

Involving black American history, the War on Drugs has harmed so many communities that the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act was passed. For a long time, sentencing disparities have existed among those who use crack cocaine and those who have use powdered cocaine. Also, there are sentences being different among people of different races even if everyone was convicted of the same offense. By the 2010’s, many people from across the political spectrum have called for reforms involving drug policy. People reject the act of massive incarceration as that alone is no solution as families have been ruined as a product of the War on Drugs. The disparities of drug convictions is racist. Even the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC) found out in a report in 1995 that showed that almost 90 percent of defendants sentenced under crack cocaine rule were black people.  The USSC, hardly a bastion of antiracism, advocated for the elimination of the 100-to-1 rule, issuing four reports over 20 years that concluded there was indisputable racial bias in the disparity between the mandatory minimum sentencing. Their recommendations were ignored by both Republican and Democratic administrations (who wanted to promote the “tough on crime” rhetoric). The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 dropped the disparity to 18 to 1. This new law didn’t apply retroactively. Many federal inmates serving time for past crack cocaine convictions could apply for reduced prison terms. Yet, inmates with criminal histories or those who possessed or use a gun will not be eligible for sentence reductions. So Telisha Watkins, sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2007, won't be eligible for a reduction because of a prior criminal conviction for drug possession. Her likely release date is 2024. Nor will Derrick Cain, sentenced to 10 years for selling cocaine and possession of a firearm. Derrick's gun was legally registered and wasn't used in connection with cocaine sales, but he'll be in prison until 2017. The War on Drugs continues even though we know that prohibition doesn’t work and discrimination exists in the criminal justice system among all levels. The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 also eliminated the five-year mandatory minimum sentence for simple possession of crack cocaine, among other provisions. Some progressives wanted the entire act to be retroactive. According to Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, "there is no scientific basis for the disparity and by promoting laws and policies that treat all Americans equally, and by working to amend or end those that do not, we can only increase public confidence in the criminal justice system and help create a safer and healthier nation for us all." The sentencing disparity should be eliminated completely. The 2010 Fair Sentencing Act does not reduce sentences for those prosecuted under state law, and state prosecutions account for a vast majority of incarcerations for drug-related offenses. The law represents the further need to end the War on Drugs once and for all.

One of the greatest events of African American history during the 21st century was the opening of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on Washington, D.C. on the date of August 22, 2011. It is found near the National Mall. It is found in 4 acres of land. Lei Yixin was the sculptor who created the Stone of Hope for the granite statue of the Civil Rights leader Dr. King. It existed after long decades of planning, fundraising, and construction. The location is found at the northwest corner of the Tidal Basin near the Franklin Delano Memorial on a sightline linking the Lincoln Memorial to the northwest and the Jefferson Memorial to the southeast. The official address of the monument is 1964 Independence Avenue, S.W. which honors the year when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became law. This memorial is the first memorial near or on the National Mall that memorializes an African American. The memorial which is first to honor an African American in Washington, D.C. is the Mary McLeod Bethune bronze statue. It is administered by the National Park Service. The Vision statement of the King Memorial is very clear on how Dr. King wanted freedom and democracy for all. Harry E. Johnson is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the memorial foundation. The Dr. King Memorial has quotes from King’s speeches and sermons. They are found on the Inscription Wall. SCLC staff photographer Bob Fitch and others were involved in the design and construction of the memorial. The official dedication ceremony took place on October 16, 2011 after much delay because of Hurricane Irene. President Barack Obama gave his speech about how the work for justice is not done, but we are still going forward. He linked the civil rights movement from the past to the 21st century events of the Great Recession. Barack Obama talked about Dr. King’s legacy and the need for economic justice. Jesse Jackson, Andrew Young, Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King III spoke at the ceremony. Many singers performed like Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Sheryl Crow, James Taylor, Jennifer Holiday, and Sweet Honey in the Rock. Over 10,000 people attended. First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Congressman John Lewis, Congressman Elijah Cummings and former Congressman Walter E. Fauntroy were there too.  Now, it is also important to make other points as well. We have to reject the notion that Dr. King wasn’t a great radical, because many people want to sanitize his message and legacy. The truth is that Dr. King was a revolutionary who wanted a redistribution of wealth. He praised democratic socialism and he admitted that many of the civil rights reforms were limited mainly to the black middle class, so he wanted to use the Poor Peoples Campaign in order to fight against economic injustice. While both major parties (the Democratic and Republican Parties) are in league with the interests of the military industrial complex, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. publicly denounced the Vietnam War and exposed the U.S. for its war crimes in Vietnam.  He also branded the United States government “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” Dr. King was a pacifist preacher. The former President Barack Obama have been very aggressive in punishing whistleblowers, giving record bailouts to large banks (while not giving equivalent resources to homeowners, workers, and the poor), and growth of the military industrial complex. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said the following:  “…I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today – my own government.” So, Dr. King wanted peace in the world.  He spoke out against racism, materialism, and militarism. Therefore, we are in favor of justice, which is about promoting housing, living wages, jobs, and human justice. We certainly need a revolution of values in our public life as Dr. King has eloquently stated.

Trayvon Martin’s death was one of the biggest tragedies in American history. He was a young teenager whose life was cut short by a coward named George Zimmerman. Trayvon Martin was killed in Sanford, Florida. Trayvon Martin was trying to return home. Zimmerman stalked him and the police told him not to follow Martin. Yet, he proceeded to do so. He met up with Martin and struggle occurred. Then, Zimmerman used his gun to kill Trayvon Martin. Pressure came in order for authorities to investigate the case. Zimmerman was arrested and a trial commenced. By July 2013, a mostly white jury acquitted Zimmerman. This caused protests nationwide and it inspired the creation of the Black Lives Matter Movement. The Trayvon Martin tragedy makes known of how racism, vigilantism, and police brutality continues to exist in our generation. We have to be made aware of the uncomfortable  truth that the system of racism/white supremacist was created to harm us and the system must be replaced with a real system of justice. Trayvon Martin’s black life was valuable as any other human life.

By Timothy

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