in We the People Series

Make a Difference

When reforms and laws are passed to ensure that armed agents of the state cannot kill people of color without the consequence of a transparent indictment and trial, reform will occur. Do not add “all” people to that thought; it only means you do not understand.

The numbers do not lie. Spend some time with the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (here). The problem presented is clear. Police violence is a leading cause of death for young men in the United States. Over the life course, about 1 in every 1,000 black men can expect to be killed by police. Define this issue completely, and America could be on the path to inalienable, universal rights for all people, but we have a lot of work to do. 

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrant’s scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

"Let America Be America"  Langston Hughes

Police killings are the most exposed cause of untimely death. The risk of being killed by police use of force by age, race-ethnicity, and sex is described (here). There are hundreds of other causes and America has tried to ignore the roots of it for far too long. Inalienable, universal rights reform will not happen efficiently unless every American recognizes the impact of slavery in our history.  The problem is not whether all of the events since 1619 are racist or not. The question is this: “How much racism was at work?

The lack of any positive measure of equity formation defines African-American life for four centuries. With the end of enslavement, an entire people with barely a penny found freedom without restitution.  When equity was established, it was ripped away by acts of terrorism. The battle for the cultural and economic assurance of fundamental human rights is long, and the bend toward justice only began as an act of government in President Lynden Johnson’s War on Poverty. He recognized the strategic problems when he said,  

“Negro poverty is not white poverty. … These differences are not racial differences. They are solely and simply the consequence of ancient brutality, past injustice, and present prejudice. They are anguishing to observe. For the Negro they are a constant reminder of oppression. For the white, they are a constant reminder of guilt. But they must be faced, and they must be dealt with, and they must be overcome; if we are ever to reach the time when the only difference between Negroes and whites is the color of their skin.”

1965 Commencement: Howard University supporting Voting Rights Act

A project began in August 2019, marking the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. In 2020, Nikole Hannah-Jones won the Pulitzer Prize for The 1619 Project.  It traces black American enslavement as the central enabler of America’s vast material success and, through their efforts for freedom, assured our democracy.  The United States may have a long history. Still, it was not a democracy until 1965, when the Voting Rights Act ensured all people’s voices could be heard in a fully representative government.  In a June 2020 article. “What is Owed?” Hannah-Jones expects America to know in its heart how false definitions of race as “the other” and be turned easily into hatred.  Her struggle leads to equality for us all.  Most Americans really want to feel different about race and all the impacts of enslavement. They want to expel it from themselves and the lives of their children. That leaves one step left for all people, by skin color, positions of privilege, and wealth.  The action required is to be different, every day, openly and freely. 

The quality of speech and journalism continues to improve white America’s understanding of racism as a cultural disease and bigotry as a heinous character failure.  When combined, these flaws lead to insidious political behavior far too easily disguised. The use of public policies from Jim Crow to Sundown Town or from Police Militarization to Mass Incarceration persists as a live-wire fear in America.  The path to inalienable, universal rights for all people can be cleared of this rubble.

It will be in this decade, in a century of enormous challenges that all public actions allowing these character flaws to sustain a systemic racism culture will no longer occur without consequence. Perhaps the most important of them will be a continuous, broadly read, watched, and taught American story about freedom. It will reveal an unrelenting effort to achieve social and economic justice for enslaved people.  It is a story that would change all of history for all people all over the world. Another take on this issue is (here).

Being Different

It will be difficult to become different.

I have been writing this as Congressional Representatives debated the second impeachment of POTUS45 when one of them referred to a Supreme Court case that was compelled to allow hate speech (here) as a justification for the President’s misguided attempt to retain power with lies. I recommend listening to the oral argument below of the case the Representative used to defend the President. It will take you back to 1969. The case involved a conviction of Clarence Brandenburg, an organizer of the Ku Klux Klan in Ohio. If you are in a hurry pick it up at around the 29th minute. When one of the people’s representatives can stand before us and use this case, of all cases on the First Amendment it exposes the true horror of our time.

Summary

The Court’s Per Curiam opinion held that the Ohio law violated Brandenburg’s right to free speech. The Court used a two-pronged test to evaluate speech acts: (1) speech can be prohibited if it is “directed at inciting or producing imminent lawless action” and (2) it is “likely to incite or produce such action.”

The court ruled that Ohio’s Criminal Syndicalism Act made illegal the advocacy and teaching of doctrines while ignoring whether or not that advocacy and teaching would actually incite imminent lawless action. The failure to make this distinction rendered the law overly broad and in violation of the Constitution.

The two tiers of the Brandenburg Test have become the standard for determining criminal advocacy. As a nation that respects the law, the courts and the legislature could also seek to judge speech as producing the test of a clear and present danger or as a test of direct incitement.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.