An opinion editorial on my personal committment by Charles Edward York
The United States of America, founded officially more than 240 years ago, was both a beacon of freedom and the antithesis of democracy. When one group of people can say they have traceable family trees while another can’t even trace their family lineage, you have a contradiction. Some can say their ancestors landed on Plymouth Rock-there are others who can admit that same rock landed on them. That group are the African Americans.
People who are brought against their will have fought in heart, mind, body and soul for the very rights others say everyone has, but do they? How does anyone excuse themselves from the collective guilt, shame and oppression on an entire continent of people from so many nations and then say “get over it already?” Even Latinos in Latin America know why they are there; they were brought against their will as well. So who cares?
Well, I CARE!
I fight for African Americans, not simply because it’s fashionable for an armchair activist, nor do I fight or speak out against injustice towards them because its morally unacceptable. My African and African American friends are not socially acceptable token I hold in my pocket, something my former church must answer for. I fight for African Americans because they remain and always will be the one group of people who for the most part brought here AGAINST THEIR WILL and continue to be denied freedoms, voting, Human and Civil Rights and are consistently prohibited from attaining equal economic, social and political opportunity.
African Americans remain the most incarcerated group of people in our country. Why? They are not inherently criminal or even barbaric, yet our justice system treats them as such. In fact, black Americans are more likely to be stopped by police, shot by police and even disregarded by 911 operators more than any other group. Only Latinos and Muslims are treated with more discrimination and I dare say with impunity. Juries are selected to exonerate and likely set free police officers and officials who openly or indirectly discriminate against African Americans. This is not exaggeration; anyone who looks up statistics by non-partisan organizations and NGO’s will correlate with what blacks having been saying for years. And the dead by their absence can speak volumes.
I intellectually vomit when I hear the coded phrases racist and anti-inclusive whites use when describing why they can’t tolerate, accept or live beside African Americans. Things like “they commit or invite crime, drugs and gangs into a neighborhood,” “they lower property values,” and so on, to name a few. Is this the imagination of real practitioners of Jesus? I even hear members among my own Vietnamese community use such insane and immoral logic, although you can hardly call it logic. Racism is the ugly elephant in the room no one wants to talk about and is primarily responsible for the rise of xenophobic and hateful talk, discourse, policies and laws that do not serve law and order-they serve injustice.
I speak as a white and an Asian who has been a citizen of the United States since birth, and the most embarrassing thing about being American to admit to is that I am a member of racist society. I say that not as a social indictment or a guilt ridden conscience, but as an American who understands and believes not simply in ideals but in an idea, a piece of paper called the Constitution. I groan every time I hear someone use the Constitution as an excuse for prejudice, justification for discrimination or elimination of progressive laws that add clarity better application of laws that will apply for everyone.
Instead I hear vast, gross misrepresentation of the Constitution by so called keepers of the faith, who have never read the document carefully must less ever read it at all. They attribute their affiliation to a document that they completely pervert, using it to legitimize intimidation of others by citing purist reasons for arming themselves to the teeth for a war that will never materialize. They imbue it with proclamations that DO NOT EXIST like “Presidents can’t use Executive Action to carry out laws Congress refuses to pass. These very actions not only distort the Constitution, they alienate African Americans by the bushel, insidiously and systematically.
All conscientious, compassionate and committed Americans should fight for the rights of African Americans. Above every group, theirs is the most subjugated, prejudiced, discriminated and incarcerated. African Americans suffer from sickness, disease, lack of clean water as evidenced in Flint, Michigan, restricted from voting as witnessed from the dismantling of the Voting Rights Act of 1964 that was labeled as un-Constitutional by a now short handed Supreme Court, a court left that way by Republicans who fail their Constitutional duty. Ironic…and completely immature because the reason is simple and no admits it openly: President Obama is black.
It is no accident my personal heroes are African American. Martin Luther King, Jr., Jackie Robinson, Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, Shirley Chisholm, Angela Davis, Marion Anderson, Gwen Ifill, Marsha Henderson, Tina Turner, Billie Holiday, Emmitt Smith, and Barack Obama are but a few of the people who fire my courage and convictions. Without the African American example, my life is but an empty vessels of rhymes, verses and meaningless poetry.
I fight for African Americans past and present because they are a proud, dignified, energetic and soulful people, brought against their will to this country and deserve to be free, equal and prosperous for what they have endured but also simply because they are human beings. Their family resemblance to the Creator, to God, lies with their robust and creative alacrity, vivacity and capacity to care. All through history, their love for life and passion for justice alone should make them the shining example of all that is best in humanity. I do not exhort these qualities out of false exaggerations; I do it because the evidence is already before us.
Author, poet, Human Rights Campaign activist
Founder and Chief Admin of Poets Unplugged