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“This stops today!”

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That was what Eric Garner said moments before he was killed. It also was one of the chants at last night’s demonstration in Asheville, where we shut down Biltmore Avenue for a time.

But when my friend, Noel Nickle and I wanted to sing, “We Shall Overcome,” many of the young people there didn’t know it. So she and I sang it, and a few people joined in.

To us, the singing was about building something, not just shutting something down.

Yes, racism must be shut down. The fatal flaws in out so-called justice system need to be shut down.

But then what?

It’s one thing to insist something evil be torn down, but it must be replaced with something better.

If “this stops today,” then what do we begin tomorrow?

How do we build a more just society?

That’s what we need to be thinking about.

Last night in Asheville, we chanted and sang, we shut down Biltmore Avenue and marched through downtown.

We have demonstrated our anger and frustration.

Now what?

How do we get people to respect each other as fellow human beings?

I know I live with white privilege. I don’t ever have to think about the color of my skin or whether I’m being pulled over for driving while black.

I met a young man last night who I hope will become a friend for life. We were talking about our different perspectives, and how we were able to reach the same conclusions about the injustice that’s so pervasive in our culture.

“Don’t tell me it isn’t about race when I’m 21 times more likely to be shot by a police officer than a white man my age,” he said.

Keith Knox Jr. is a senior at UNC Asheville, majoring in political science. He plans to get a master’s degree in public policy and then go to law school — a similar path to the one my late son wanted to take before he died from neglect.

As Keith and I talked about what we would like to see happen, a television reporter walked over to interview us.

“I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation,” he said.

Why were we there? What enraged us enough to come out to protest?

I gave my usual answer: that Michael brown could have been my kid or my grandson, and that each of these fallen young men is part of my human family. Whatever you do to the least of these, you do also to me.

Keith answered the question with one of his own: “Why should I be expected to pledge allegiance to a country that won’t respect me?”

There was a lot of energy, as there has been at all of the protests across the country.

We have taken to the streets.

Now what?

 

The brutality must stop

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This is my friend, Russell Johnson (photo taken from his Facebook profile because I couldn’t find any of the ones I’ve taken of him), who volunteers for a local Internet radio station.

Russell has been to several Moral Monday and other social justice events, and I have never seen him act inappropriately. He’s always positive, and usually funny. He’s articulate and intelligent. He is a member of Veterans for Peace.

Russell went to Ferguson to report on events there, and that’s when he got into trouble.

From what I understand, he was interviewing someone and the police told him to move on. A friend reported that he did comply with the order, but he was arrested anyway.

The police beat him to the ground and then arrested him, dragging him off because he couldn’t walk.

He spent several hours in jail before he was released, and then had to undergo treatment for a separated shoulder. It will require surgery.

Right now, that’s all the details I have, but it’s enough to make my blood boil.

I’m nonviolent. I believe very strongly that violence only begets more violence. That doesn’t mean I’m never tempted to do violence to someone, and my first impulse was that I wanted to slap those cops silly.

If I had been the one interviewing, would I have been beaten senseless and dragged off to jail? I don’t think that’s likely.

Police most often direct their brutality at people of color — especially young men.

APTOPIX_Ferguson-0c203-3101APTOPIX_Ferguson-0c203-3101I’m tired of hearing Ferguson isn’t about race. It IS about race. It is all about race. We have found a new way to enslave African-Americans and it’s in our so-called “justice” system.

If this wasn’t about race, why were the National Guard not in Ferguson but stationed in white neighborhoods nearby? If the death of Michael Brown wasn’t about race and was justified, why are people the world over so upset?

If Michael Brown’s death wasn’t about privilege, why did the prosecutor have to pervert the Grand Jury process?

Even some conservatives have looked at the evidence released by the prosecutor and are incredulous that there was no indictment of the officer who shot Michael Brown.

Even if Russell didn’t stop interviewing someone when an officer told him to move on, did that officer order others to move on? I don’t know. I’m eager to talk to Russell when he gets back to Asheville.

What I do know is that a decent man was beaten senseless for no good reason. Once again, nonviolent resistance was met with brute force.

I do know that Russell would not have thrown the first punch. The cops were not reacting to a real threat.

When someone doesn’t move when ordered, the first response should never be to beat him with clubs until he can’t even walk.

Even if Russell mouthed off, the response was inappropriately violent.

I guess I should be grateful my friend wasn’t shot and killed, but I refuse to accept that kind of crumb. Russell could have been killed by their nightsticks. Would they then say he had attacked them? Would they have gotten away with murder?

I’m willing to bet they get away with assault. After all, Russell is a black man. It seems they’re justifiably threatened (in their eyes) by that mere fact.

I am furious, but I also know we can’t answer violence with violence. We have to stand in solidarity. We have to stand in peace.

 

 

Remember when journalists could be trusted?

I grew up the daughter of a hard-nosed newspaper reporter who valued the truth above all. He could cover an issue he felt passionately about and leave his own feelings at the door. He had integrity.

I remember when Walter Cronkite was the nation’s most trusted man. He reported the news and nothing more, until he saw what a travesty the Vietnam War had become and felt compelled to speak out. I was disappointed, even though I agreed with him.

Opinion is why newspapers have editorial pages, and that is where opinion used to be confined.

But in recent years, opinion has crept more and more into the news, with Fox leading the way and MSNBC answering. That wouldn’t be such a problem if people got their news from more than one source. As much as I like Rachel Maddow, she is not my only source of information.

Even the New York Times can’t be trusted anymore. Remember its role as a cheerleader in the run-up to the Iraq War?

There is precious little left of the unbiased media. Someone cited liberal bias to me because a survey of Washington, DC, journalists done in 1992 showed more of them voted for Bill Clinton that the elder George Bush.

First of all, we don’t use 20-year-old data. Second, you can hold your personal opinions and still be fair.

I have covered issues like abortion and been called fair by both sides.

However, the media does make one huge mistake these days, and that is validating information that is just plain wrong by tring to tell both “sides” of a story.

You wouldn’t expect to see someone saying tobacco is safe in a story about thye damages smoking and “dipping” do.

No one would say the Earth is flat in a story about geology.

Few people believe that psychiatric illness is caused by demons, and no reporter would think he or she has to quote someone who does believe that.

The fact is that the rich are getting richer and the rest of us are losing ground, and it’s because we keep cutting taxes for the wealthy and for corporations and making up for lost money by taking services from the poor and shipping jobs overseas, villifying those who receive unemployment benefits as lazy and turning away the sick because they don’t have insurance.

The wealthy conservatives get away with it because the media continues to give validity to the lies and disinformation, and if someone doesn’t, they’re attacked as biased.

When the Harvard Medical School study that found 45,000 Americans die prematurely each year because they don’t have insurance was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association,  I offered a copy of the study to my local paper. The editor told me there wasn’t enough staff to cover a national story like this and the paper would rely on The Associated Press to cover it.

Well, the AP didn’t do a story. In fact, when I searched the Web for any mention of the study in the media, I found only two mentions: one in the Boston Globe Harvard is in Boston) and one in the Sacramento Bee.

It was Keith Olbermann who covered the story. Ed Shultz grabbed onto it like a pit bull and didn’t let go. Eventually, the story was mentioned in other media, but it was downplayed.

That’s just one example. Remember the Downing Street Memo that proved George W. Bush was tweaking the evidence to gain public support for his illegal war in Iraq? For months, the only place I heard about it was on Al Franken’s radio show.

We can’t trust big media anymore. Not Fox News, not even the New York Times. They’re withholding important information that Americans need to know and perpetuating the lies of the right.

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