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Letter From A Birmingham Jail, King, Jr.

 

 

16 April 1963

My Dear Fellow Clergymen:

While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

 

I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against “outsiders coming in.” I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here. I am here because I have organizational ties here.

 

But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

 

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

 

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

 

In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.

 

Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of Birmingham’s economic community. In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by the merchants–for example, to remove the stores’ humiliating racial signs. On the basis of these promises, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to a moratorium on all demonstrations. As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained. As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: “Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?” “Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?” We decided to schedule our direct action program for the Easter season, realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic-withdrawal program would be the by product of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change.

 

Then it occurred to us that Birmingham’s mayoral election was coming up in March, and we speedily decided to postpone action until after election day. When we discovered that the Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene “Bull” Connor, had piled up enough votes to be in the run off, we decided again to postpone action until the day after the run off so that the demonstrations could not be used to cloud the issues. Like many others, we waited to see Mr. Connor defeated, and to this end we endured postponement after postponement. Having aided in this community need, we felt that our direct action program could be delayed no longer.

 

You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

 

One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

 

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

 

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

 

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an “I it” relationship for an “I thou” relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.

 

Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal. Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state’s segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?

 

Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.

 

I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

 

Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.

 

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws.

 

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

 

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

 

In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn’t this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn’t this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn’t this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God’s will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: “All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.” Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.

 

You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self respect and a sense of “somebodiness” that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro’s frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible “devil.”

 

I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the “do nothingism” of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle. If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as “rabble rousers” and “outside agitators” those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies–a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.

 

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides -and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: “Get rid of your discontent.” Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist. But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . .” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

 

I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still all too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some -such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle–have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as “dirty nigger-lovers.” Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful “action” antidotes to combat the disease of segregation. Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a nonsegregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.

 

But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen.

 

When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church. I felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.

 

In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.

 

I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: “Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother.” In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: “Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.” And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.

 

I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South’s beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: “What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?”

 

Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.

 

There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.

 

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

 

Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom. They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment. I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation -and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands. Before closing I feel impelled to mention one other point in your statement that has troubled me profoundly. You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping “order” and “preventing violence.” I doubt that you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its dogs sinking their teeth into unarmed, nonviolent Negroes. I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys; if you were to observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I cannot join you in your praise of the Birmingham police department.

 

It is true that the police have exercised a degree of discipline in handling the demonstrators. In this sense they have conducted themselves rather “nonviolently” in public. But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Perhaps Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather nonviolent in public, as was Chief Pritchett in Albany, Georgia, but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of racial injustice. As T. S. Eliot has said: “The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason.”

 

I wish you had commended the Negro sit inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy two year old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: “My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest.” They will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience’ sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

 

Never before have I written so long a letter. I’m afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?

 

If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.

 

I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil-rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

 

Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood, Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Resistance 2018: Women’s March In Utica

 

BY JEN DEWEERTH

 

Greetings Resisters and Progressive Activists,

Almost one year ago, many of us traveled to Washington, Boston, Syracuse or Seneca Falls, and many of stayed and rallied here in Utica.  From that point on, our shared desire to Resist the Trump-Tenney agenda and to fight for human rights, justice and dignity for all led to huddles, the creation and growth of Indivisible Mohawk Valley (originally Forward Mohawk Valley), and widespread volunteering for local Democratic committees, non-profits such as the Refugee Center, and other local resistance groups in Camden, (CAAM), Madison County, and elsewhere.
The Utica Women’s March, is going to take those efforts to a whole new level.  The organizing committee led by CNY Citizen Action convened earlier this week and brought together many resistance, labor, faith, and community groups.  Like the 2017 Women’s March in DC, this one has women of color at the forefront.  The goal of the Utica Women’s March on Jan. 20 is to mark the anniversary of the Resistance movement and build community and solidarity as we head into 2018.
We need many volunteers to make this event successful.
Week before the event:
  • help paint banners and make signs
  • pass out flyers around Utica
  • provide transportation to and front event for those who have no transport
  • drive people who are unable to walk the route
  • walk around event with clipboards and get people to sign in
  • act as marshals for crowd control and safety
  • help clean up after the event
Whether or not you can be at the event on the 20th, can you help us with the Utica Women’s March?  Please let me know what you are able to do. I will put you on the respective volunteer list, and a volunteer coordinator will call you about that job. 
Also, please don’t forget the very important Indivisible Mohawk Valley meeting we have this Sunday, 2-5 pm at Schuyler Commons (1776 Independence Square, Utica).  We will hear more about the Precinct Program, which is how IMV is going to help win the 2018 congressional election by electing Anthony Brindisi to replace @OneTermTenney.  We will be signing up for the roles, and getting organized with next steps.  We will hear more about Citizen Action and also the Puerto Rican families arriving in Utica and how we can help them (a collection will be taken).  
I am so excited to see how far we have come in the past year, and also where we are headed in our work together for social, economic, and racial justice, women’s rights, immigrant right, and human rights.  We are determined to change the public narrative in our own community, influence our elected representatives, and elect representatives who share our values around justice and human rights.  
See you this Sunday, Jan. 14 at the IMV meeting, and on Saturday, Jan. 20 at the Utica Women’s March!
Breathe, then push!
Contact & Additional Information:
Jen DeWeerth
Always check out the calendars at indivisiblemv.com and cnycia.org

*Friday, January 12th @ 3:30pm-4:30pm @ 555 French Rd, New Hartford — Weekly picket outside of Tenney’s office. Bring your signs!

*Sunday, January 14th @ 2-5pm @ Schuyler Commons, 1776 Independence Square, Utica — IMV monthly meeting. Agenda includes: guest speaker Kristina Andreotta about CNY Citizen Action; Sonia Martinez (MVLA update on what we can do for families arriving from Puerto Rico), precinct program; 2017 election data results; and, strategizing timeline for 2018 victories. 2-2:30pm is social time!

*Tuesday, January 16th @ 6pm @ Waterville Public Library — Waterville’s Women in Action grassroots group meeting. Come learn about the grassroots precinct program and strategize how to build progressive support in the southern towns in Oneida county. 

*Friday, January 19th @ 3:30pm @ 555 French Rd, New Hartford — Weekly picket outside of Tenney’s office. Bring your signs!

*Saturday, January 20th, 10:30 am-1:00 pm @ 7 Rutger Place (YWCA) is the starting point, and the destination is City Hall, Utica Women’s March. Marks the anniversary of the birth of the Resistance movement, build community and solidarity as head into   We need MANY volunteers before, during and after.

 

*Wednesday, January 24th @10am-3:30pm @ First Presbyterian Church of Little Falls,  Social Justice with Politically Diverse Communities Workshop.  Great opportunity to learn about state and federal budget issues related to poverty and homelessness. Sign up HERE.

*Friday, January 26th, @ 3:30pm @ 555 French Rd, New Hartford — Weekly picket outside of Tenney’s office. Bring your signs!

Saturday, February 24th, SAVE THE DATE for CNY Citizen Action fundraiser at Wakely’s On Varick.  “Turn Up the HEAT: Citizen Action Kickoff Party for Justice.”

The Journey That Shaped The Celebration Of Christmas In America

 

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

Christmas and New Year are arguably the two most celebrated holidays in the world. America officially joined the celebration when the 18th President—Ulysses S. Grant–of the relatively new country declared it a federal holiday on June 26, 1870.

We’ve come a long way from our Pagan past as this excerpt from The History of Christmas explains…

“In the early 17th century, a wave of religious reform changed the way Christmas was celebrated early American Christmas – winter holiday in Europe. When Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan forces took over England in 1645, they vowed to rid England of decadence and, as part of their effort, cancelled Christmas. By popular demand, Charles II was restored to the throne and, with him, came the return of the popular holiday.

The pilgrims, English separatists that came to America in 1620, were even more orthodox in their Puritan beliefs than Cromwell. As a result, Christmas was not a holiday in early America. From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed in Boston. Anyone exhibiting the Christmas spirit was fined five shillings. By contrast, in the Jamestown settlement, Captain John Smith reported that Christmas was enjoyed by all and passed without incident.

An outlaw Christmas After the American Revolution, English customs fell out of favor, including Christmas. In fact, Congress was in session on December 25, 1789, the first Christmas under America’s new constitution. Christmas wasn’t declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870.

Washington Irving reinvents Christmas. It wasn’t until the 19th century that Americans began to embrace Christmas. Americans re-invented Christmas, and changed it from a raucous carnival holiday into a family-centered day of peace and nostalgia.”

Let’s go further with this modern day and innovative, media savvy explanation of our Christmas past from a strong voice on Facebook and other social media platforms; ArchDuke member Charity Croff

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1495102277184294&id=950830688278125

Since the beginning of recorded time on planet earth, humans have tried to make sense of the phenomenon we call life. Our celebrations and traditions, like Christmas, have shaped us as a people and despite the brutality and injustices that have marked our journey on this beloved planet, humans are remarkable beings still trying to create the perfect society and way of living. And, that says a lot about us as collective beings.

It’s important to embrace our past because it guides us in forming our future. What Christmas means to Americans and other nations across the world is an important part of our growth as human-beings and as individual nations beholden to their own cultural identity. We have a lot to be proud of even in the midst of the current turmoils and chaos across the world. And, regardless of your views on how we celebrate this special holiday, Christmas allows us a moment to be still, take it all in, give thanks and appreciate all we have that makes life sweet and worthy of living. Merry Christmas…don’t forget to appreciate the journey that brought us here.

 

 

 

Op-ed: Embracing A Culture That Cherishes Traditional American Values

 

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed are solely of the writer. Warren Smith received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at BYU, a doctorate in technology strategy from the Harvard Business School and currently owns JETS: Japanese-English Technology Services in Durham, New Hampshire. He wrote this piece for the Deserter News. 

 

 

While I agree wholeheartedly with Dr. John Armstrong that we must find a kind of patriotism that permits goodwill toward all people, I worry that this op-ed misses the point entirely about what “nationalism” is and is not (“Patriotism vs. nationalism in a Mormon context,” Oct. 10).

While Latter-day Saint teachings caution us against “nationalism” in terms of narrow-minded and ignorant tribalism, which is nothing more than an “us-versus-them” high school rivalry on an international level, it would be equally wrong to ignore the realities of America’s exceptional contribution to the world in terms of systems and technologies that have lifted untold millions (billions?) from literal starvation and abject poverty into relative well-being, and wrong to ignore the fact that the American impact on the world has been a reflection of our historic “American culture” where “culture” is defined as a predominant set of shared values and not superficial cultural markers such as tastes in food and entertainment, etc.

Space does not permit me to define the key aspects of the historical “American culture,” but it is what has enabled America to feed the world, create industry and infrastructure in nations around the globe, and to become by far the world’s largest humanitarian contributor as well.

It must be noted that even the oft-condemned American pseudo-Colonialism has resulted in the creation of infrastructures and systems that set the foundation for the success of many countries in post-Colonial independence, and this has been ultimately a blessing for the very countries that some would argue have been “exploited” by the American system.

Is it toxic “nationalism” to believe that America has (had?) a culture that is superior to most, or perhaps all, other cultures? Before that question can be answered, we must first ask whether it is possible for one culture to be better than another. The easiest way to address this is to ask if there such a thing as a “sick culture.” The answer is a resounding “yes.” The most cursory reading of scripture shows how cultures — not “races” or “nations” — can go through cultural changes that bring misery, where repentance — as a society — brings joy.

Much closer to home, any sociologist who dares can point to subcultures — and I do not mean races or classes — that are statistically characterized by chronic poverty, disregard for education, willing dependency on public assistance, rejection of parental responsibilities, involvement in crime (with concomitant incarceration), embracing of an exploitive drug culture, hatred of law-enforcement, perceived victimhood, vilification of others, and the like. Clearly, such a self-reinforcing set of values is a “sick culture.”

I am not arguing that a traditional Fourth of July celebration is in any way superior to, say, a French Bastille Day celebration, nor that hamburgers are superior to dim sum. On the contrary, these are merely superficial preferences. But there is a set of values that have defined, traditionally, the “American culture,” a set of values that is under extreme attack at present — values such as preferring liberty over security, embracing traditional virtues, belief in the market system, taking responsibility for one’s self and responsibility to care for friends and neighbors personally and not leaving it to the government, commitment to family values, freedom to succeed or fail, etc.

While, of course, in some form or other these values are found in other countries and cultures as well, if a rejection of “nationalism” somehow maps to a rejection of the traditional American culture — and value system — and, perhaps more to the point, of the responsibility that America has borne for the last 70 years in leading the world in lifting people out of hunger and poverty through being a beacon of industry, democracy, and free market competition, then this rejection is a decidedly bad thing.

While I completely agree that any definition of “nationalism” that involves hatred or dehumanizing of individuals of other nations or cultures is fundamentally wrong, I wholeheartedly embrace the view of “nationalism” (which is rightly called “patriotism”) that cherishes the American culture, acknowledges the unique role America has played – and must continue to play – as a force for good in world history. It would be tragic to abandon this “nationalism,” or patriotism, just because there are also some individuals (such as in Charlottesville) who embrace “nationalism” out of hatred or ignorance.

The bottom line is, despite the existence of hateful and ignorant people, for those people who can rise above petty enmity, embracing positive “nationalism” is a decidedly good thing, and I call upon all Americans to defend the values that have made this country great, and invite all people, American or not, to share in our traditional American values.

 

Op-Ed: The Ugly Truth About The Alabama Senate Race

 

Editor’s Note: David Farhat, Jr. is an Attorney based in New York. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.

 

 

 

I’m annoyed at the narrative being promoted regarding the Alabama senate election. Yes, I’m always annoyed. This ridiculous idea of a turning tide or America returning to morality or a victory for the Democrats is just a downright lie. The real story coming out of this and the presidential election is the fact that white people overwhelmingly voted for unqualified, morally bankrupt, mentally unhinged candidates because of racism. Make no mistake, the only logical reason to vote for Trump or Moore is racism. Furthermore, the numbers bear this out. You remove the non-white vote and both these people win by a landslide.

 


Also, the “victory” in Alabama had nothing to do with the Democrats. They were, quite literally, the lesser of two evils. Black people in Alabama went out to the poles in numbers because they realized that their white neighbors were so racist that they would elect a man that allegedly abuses little white girls before they elected a black sympathizer. Make no mistake; that is the difference between Democrat and Republican for those voters.

 

 

What drove Black people to the poles was sheer terror; Terror that hasn’t gone away because the reality hasn’t changed because Moore lost. The Democrats benefited from that terror and have done nothing to get rid of it. Why would they? They benefit from it. What other base do they have?! Remember this when you get the argument that there are more issues than race come 2018. The evidence says otherwise.

 

Lastly, I don’t care who you are regardless of race, politics, etc. if you are celebrating what happened in Alabama, I send you a strong condemnation because what you are celebrating is a desperate act of a terrified population. Ain’t no “we’s” down there. Those people came out to try to save themselves and we do them a great disservice by not taking that seriously.

 

 

 

Segregation; Iconic Newsman Helped Capture A Tragic Period In American History

 

By JEANETTE LENOIR

 

The year iconic Journalist Simeon Booker was born, America launched its first airmail service between New York and Washington and the world celebrated the armistice that ended WWI.

More notably, Booker was born during segregation and the great migration era; 1910-1949. The year before his birth in 1918, thousands of African Americans marched in silence down New York’s Fifth Avenue to protest lynching and racial oppression. The group was met with counter protests and riots by whites. These riots, attacking innocent black people, swept across the country and lasted until 1921. These are historical facts.

Mr. Booker was born into a hostile world and as a citizen of a country that didn’t value him. And yet, he grew up to become a pioneering journalist, author and chronicler of the Civil Rights Movement. His life is a testament to the strength and resolve we must all hold on to as we continue the work toward creating a more just country and world for all mankind.

From National Association of Black Journalists:

Booker, the Jet reporter who brought the 1955 murder of Emmett Till to the forefront of national news, died Dec. 10 at the age of 99, in an assisted-living community in Solomons, Maryland. His wife, Carol, confirmed his death to the Washington Post.

“Simeon Booker’s remarkable career, spanning more than six decades, reminds us how important chronicling the truth and speaking truth to power via the written word is,” said NABJ President Sarah Glover. “Booker’s reports during the Civil Rights Movement shed light on the country’s ills, bringing much-needed perspective; and he did so all while risking his own life to tell the story. Simeon Booker is a role model for black journalists and his life’s work is an example of media excellence that all journalists should strive for.”

Booker joined the Washington Post in 1952 and was the first full-time black reporter. He left to become the chief columnist at Jet magazine and the Washington bureau chief for the Johnson Publishing Company.

“God knows, I tried to succeed at the Post. I struggled so hard that friends thought I was dying, I looked so fatigued. After a year and a half, I had to give up. Trying to cover news in a city where even animal cemeteries were segregated overwhelmed me,” Booker said of his time at the Post.

Bryan Monroe, editorial director of Ebony and Jet magazines from 2006-2009 and former NABJ President remembered Booker as the quintessential reporter.

“Mr. Booker knew the facts, he knew his audience, and he would not be stopped,” said Monroe. “He was a kind soul who will be missed by all of us.”

Booker began his journalism career in the 1940s working for Black Press publications in Cleveland and Baltimore. As racial tensions rose throughout the nation during the 1950s and ’60s, he told riveting stories, about the struggle between Civil Rights activists and segregationists. Booker, the only journalist to make the trip with the first Freedom Riders as they protested transportation segregation laws in 1961, also covered Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the March on Washington in 1963, and marched alongside protesters at the 1965 Selma March. Booker brought the front lines of the Civil Rights movement to the millions of Jet and Ebony readers across the nation.

After 65 years of chronicling the broad spectrum of the black experience, Booker retired in 2007. In 2013, Booker completed his memoir, Shocking the Conscience: A Reporter’s Account of the Civil Rights Movement. His work allowed many black people to see themselves, and the things that were important to them, reflected in the media.

Booker was inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame in 2013, won a Neiman Fellowship to study at Harvard and received the George Polk Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016. Booker was nominated this year by 17 members of Congress for the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, according to The New York Times. He also mentored aspiring student journalists at Howard University.

Marlon A. Walker, NABJ Vice President Print said, “Simeon Booker’s death is felt around the world. His significant contributions to our industry and humanity are monumental and his life’s works should be shared and taught in classrooms, community centers and organizations, as an example of excellence.”

 

About The National Association of Black Journalists

An advocacy group established in 1975 in Washington, D.C., NABJ is the largest organization for journalists of color in the nation, and provides career development as well as educational and other support to its members worldwide. For additional information, please visit www.nabj.org.

 

Postmodernity Sex Education: The Silver Lining In America’s Culture of Sexual Oppression

 

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

The three most consistent sources of sex education come from peers, family and media. That’s according to Historian, Author and Professor Jonathan Zimmerman who teaches Education and History at the University of Pennsylvania. “Everybody gets a sex education; all 7 billion people in the world. And, they get it from the day they’re born,” Zimmerman says, adding that survey’s of young people all over the world not only back up these findings, but they also have consistently shown that school based sex education is a very small part of it. “Only some people get sex education in school.”

When it comes to school-based sex education, America can easily claim credit for shaping a modern and global perspective of Man’s sexual behavior. Despite the different beliefs and cultural norms held across the globe, America pioneered mass schooling during the Progressive Era and introduced school-based sex education. Zimmerman says the reason was pretty simple, “In the early 20th century there were more adolescence going to secondary school in the United States than there were in any other country in the world by far. And, because sex education is—here and around the world—mostly taught to adolescence for obvious reasons, it does make a certain kind of stance; that the United States would be the pioneer of that subject.”

 

 

Where did progressive America go wrong in teaching healthy sexual behavior?

Majority of Americans wanted their kids to be taught sex education in schools despite objections from the church. Unquestionably a revolutionary move; but have the lessons been effective in light of the numerous accounts of sexual misconduct being reported? Theologians like, R. Albert Mohler, Jr., assert that America’s Christian origin shaped our moral views. In a May 2016 broadcast of Thinking In Public, Mohler says, “As it turns out, many of the controversies in the beginning of the sex education movement are questions that continue to this day. And I would argue, they’re inevitable because if you’re going to talk about sex education and if you’re going to talk about young people in the schools, you’re going to have to talk about what will be taught and how that will be morally presented or if it’s to be presented morally at all, at least in terms of any traditional morality.” In light of the long list of powerful men—many in the clergy—who stand accused of sexual harassment, assault and even rape, it’s clear our morality alone won’t stop the rampant abuse that’s being exposed. It would make sense for schools to face these controversies and move to include modern lessons on preventing sex abuse and harassment.

Zimmerman says two main reasons stand in the way of teaching sexual standards in America; our diversity and the why behind school-based sex education.  “There are 14,000 school districts in the United States and because we’re an incredibly diverse country, obviously there’s going to be enormous variation among the school districts in the messages and the content regarding sex, so it’s dangerous to generalize across them.” He goes on to say that most sex education in America across time has been oriented at preventing negative outcomes. “Specifically, unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases,” he says.

Zimmerman says although the primary focus and motivation of sex education was centered on preventing two negative outcomes—pregnancy and STD’s—a new national consensus is coming to light. “I think it’s fair to say that we’re reaching a new consensus in this country about sexual harassment itself as a negative outcome and it will be interesting to see if schools take that on.” He adds that a fast majority of schools do not use sex education to teach about the dangers of sexual harassment. “I would like them to and I regard that we use these events, starting with Harvey Weinstein as kind of the ultimate teachable moment. And, I would urge schools of every kind to take it on but I would also be a little bit wary about that happening because let’s remember that because sex and sexuality touches on our most fundamental conceptions of ourselves as human beings, there’s going to be enormous descent about it by definition. And creating a consensus around sex, the kind you need to have consistent messages in schools, is a very heavy lift.”

It’s hard to comprehend in 2017 that it’s crucial to teach young people about sexual harassment. But when the phrase “Grab them by the pussy” becomes political fodder used against the President of the United States, it’s not hard to see the need. And rightfully so, because Trump owns these words recklessly spewed on a hot Mic. The hypocrisy of our views and habits on sexuality is not just flagrant, it’s telling. Telling of a historical fact; sexual oppression has operated comfortably on the radar of main stream society. The revelation that Weinstein and those of his ilk were well known sexual predators amongst their peers, friends and family validates the allegation that sex abuse is still a protected and secret form of oppression. And it doesn’t just impact women. Similar to racism, sexual harassment is the other pink elephant in the room no one dares to call out for fear of retribution and shame. It’s an uncomfortable truth, even when a parade of women, and some men, join the #MeToo movement to show solidarity and to call attention to the problem.

 

Sex Education In The Era Of Eugenics

Race had a profound impact on sex education in the country. The modern eugenics movement out of England at the time, spearheaded by Sir Francis Galton, spread across Europe and many other countries, including the U.S. Eugenics—a principle of selective human breeding now seen as a violation of human rights—was widely accepted as the science to producing better human beings, and validated like Anthropology, Sociology and even Economics. “They were all born at the same time, often created by the same people,” Zimmerman says. Adding that the stronger argument for sex education at the time was a response to outbreaks of sexually transmitted diseases in popular cities like Chicago and New York. “Middle class men visiting prostitutes has always been a major conduit of STDs. And, they were going home and infecting their wives. And these were white people. This was a disaster and it created what was called the Race Panic or Race Suicide,” Zimmerman says. Further explaining the rationale he says, “If minorities are infecting each other and reducing their fertility, which is what STDs always threaten, this is not a bad thing…it could even be a good thing. But, if whites are doing it, it’s a form of what Teddy Roosevelt called Race Suicide.” He says the consistent goal of preventing STDs during the birth of sex education was deeply affected by race because the aim was to protect white people from infertility caused by sexually transmitted diseases. “There were already worries that white people were making fewer babies and this could make it worse.”

In Europe the remedy for preventing venereal diseases came through the legal realm like regulating prostitution, while the U.S. created an educational solution. Zimmerman says, “There were international conventions where the Americans were asked to explain the educational remedy because now it was distinct to Americans.” He says the Europeans didn’t get into the game until the mid 20th Century.

Could The U.S. Institute A Singular Form Of Sex Ed?  

“It can’t and it won’t,” Zimmerman says. Even though it’s a legitimate goal he adds, “I think the Unites States is frankly too diverse to make that happen. Within that goal there’s a certain set of assumptions not shared by lots of Americans including recent additions to the United States.”  First, he explains, Americans would have to accept that young people are sexual beings and allow schools to teach sexual development, individual sexuality, sexual pleasure and sexual harassment. “But I think the United States is too diverse for that. The globe is too diverse for that. There are 7 billion people on earth. How many of them believe that an 11 year old is a sexual being? We have sexual desires and sexual identity. I don’t know the answer to that, but my strong guess is a minority.” He says as more and more people and ideas move around the globe, it becomes hard for a school district that has lots of different voices, including newcomers from other countries, to create a consensus around that idea.

Sex and sexuality is a complicated understanding of humanity itself. For example, we don’t even have consensus on female genital mutilation, (FGM) and child marriages. “If we did, FGM and child marriages would not exist.” Zimmerman says it’s only been a quarter of a century since we’ve had dialogue on the subject of sexual harassment, and created a legal frame work to address it thanks to feminist activists and pioneering women like Catharine MacKinnon and Gloria Steinem.

The silver lining of the Weinstein phenomenon can either exhibit how backwards and sexist America is, or it can show us taking a lead in the world again, similar to pioneering mass schooling and sex education in schools. And that depends on how we remedy the problem across racial and cultural lines, and working towards forming a consensus about the evils of sexual harassment. This opportunity to further change our misogynistic culture may very well spur the next sexual revolution. One that takes a page from Sweden, a country with low STDs and teen pregnancy numbers that, according to Zimmerman, was the first to mandate nation-wide sex education in their schools. He says Sweden’s goals were to help each individual develop and discover their own sexuality. “It was much more individuated, it’s much more positive than the American goals which were about social outcomes and indeed preventing negative social outcomes.”

 

 

History, Hollywood And The Mad Men Era  

Even with push back from feminists driven movements, Americans still harbor a troubling fascination with sex and sexuality that continues to feed the institution of gender inequality, and exploiting women as inferior members of our society. But it’s not unique to America says Zimmerman, adding, “We see forms of sexual harassment all around the world that replicate the same male dominance, and that makes it difficult to explain what is essentially a global phenomenon by invoking a particular nationalistic history.”

The late historian, playwright and social activist Howard Zinn does invoke this nationalistic history in A People’s History Of The United States 1492 – Present, writing, “It is possible, reading standard histories, to forget half the population of the country. The explorers were men, the landholders and merchants men, the political leaders men, the military figures men. The very invisibility of women, the overlooking of women, is a sign of their submerged status. In this invisibility they were something like black slaves (and thus slave women faced a double oppression).”

American women, albeit mostly black women, have long lived under an oppressive social structure that includes being intimately oppressed. Zinn writes, “The conditions under which white settlers came to America created various situations for women. Where the first settlers consisted almost entirely of men, women were imported as sex slaves, child bearers [and] companions.” Powerful men mistreating women shouldn’t shock our morality. Sexual oppression is part of our history as a people. The roots of it reach all the way back to the Pilgrims and our slave-owning forefathers.

Nevertheless, the most powerful and influential Sex Ed teacher in modernity is the media. During the Progressive Era Zimmerman explains that schools were being tasked to compensate for the negative images spawned by the media and Hollywood. “You had figures like Greta Garbo and Rudy Valentino and they were expressing themselves sexually and all kinds of open ways and basically there was a huge amount of concern and people said this is why we need Sex Ed in schools to create a counter to those kinds of messages. And in some ways it’s always been a fool’s errand because the media message is so much more powerful,” Zimmerman says.

Shows like Mad Men set in the 1960s where misogyny plays an essential part, normalize what we now easily define as sexual oppression and harassment. In a 2010 The Atlantic article; Mad Men’s Very Modern Sexism Problem, Sady Doyle writes, “We see sexist jokes, chronic philandering, and office parties in which executives tackle secretaries in order to see what color their panties are.” Doyle continues, “To be fair, Mad Men doesn’t hesitate to show the ugly side of these attitudes; they’re not glamorized in quite the same way as, say, drinking Scotch five times a day. But the show also affords viewers an illusion of moral superiority. We’re encouraged to shake our heads at these men and their outdated attitudes, but by presenting discrimination as a shocking feature of a past era, Mad Men lets us imagine that it’s just one more of those things that We Don’t Do Any More.”

In the era of smart phones young people have greater access to these sexually explicit images and messages, despite an attempt to portray them as outdated. “Kids are in front of screens more than they are in schools. And you can find reasons to begrudge that, but you can’t deny it. It’s a fact. And, it will continue,” Zimmerman says. He adds that the most promising initiatives in Sex Ed are the ones that try to harness the power of technology to reach young people, especially those vulnerable to sexual risks. From the very beginning schools have had to compensate for what families don’t do. All the same, parents are still the primary sex educators.

 

 

HerStory: How Women Domesticated Men

 

BY BRIAN HILL

 

The current snow storm of stupid male abuses of women are surely a headline that the male dominated state has almost come to its end.  Now is time for women to nurture new life. Could the new florescence of woman’s voices open a door to questioning/challenging male dominance, exploitation of women/nature and the Western world view of exploitation and control?  What will the new world view look like now that the withering Western world view is Global? Maybe we should talk about the differences between class based and family based cultures? How and when does the shift from family based to class based cultures occur, and will family based culture reappear as the state diminishes as it has in previous civilizations? How today can we see hints of family and family based culture germinating, and how can these nuances be nurtured?

 

 

About 99 per cent of homo sapiens’ time on earth has been lived as non-waring, seasonal gathering and hunting bands of extended families moving from place to place according to seasonal menus.  But with the onset of the last great global warming period which began about 9000 – 14,000 years ago in different places on earth, hunting provided less and gathering more of humans’ diets.

In central Mexico, for example, diets changed from 66% meat from herds of antelope and jack rabbits to only 33% meat.  Plant and seed gathering which was done in large part by women became more important, and soon beans, chili peppers and a host of agricultural crops, including corn, were domesticated beginning about 8000 years ago.

Thus, women can be said to have given birth to farming.  Because of this there was a huge change in life-styles, namely, seasonal nomadism evolved to sedentary life.  Extended families, following this shift, lived in one place all year so that they could grow a surplus of staple foods, like corn, beans, rice, wheat, rye, bulgar, garbanzos, potatoes, chilis, buckwheat, quinoa, yucca, yams, sweet potatoes, squash, … in those seven, more or less, places on earth where civilizations began independently.

Permanent villages, towns and cities, i.e., civilizations, are impossible without surplus food supplies – farming. Women, thus, domesticated men.  In order for sedentary life to succeed, food surpluses had to be grown and stored so that there would be food during the seasons when subsistence gathering was sparse.

 

 

Surpluses also made it possible for some people to NOT grow all the food they needed for subsistence because families that produced food gave some of their produce to the first social class – shamans.  The shamans, brujos & brujas, provided medical/socio-religious services to these early villages.  This first social class was not based on blood lines, but on services s/he provided to several or more families.

Here are some nuances that came about through the birth of agriculture:

  1.  Surpluses.
  2. Even though it was relatively short lived, the status of women increased because they were mainly responsible for domestication of staple foods, the Tlatilco culture of Mesoamerica and the Venus culture of Europe are good examples. Men most often domesticated animals.
  3. Sedentary villages, towns and eventually cities.
  4. The first social class – shamans.
  5. new specialized technologies.
  6. Taxation/writing.
  7. The calendar.
  8. Monumental public architecture
  9. Religion
  10. Male dominance

 

 

Until this point in human cultural evolution the cohesion and functioning of cultures was based largely on family.  Then, with  shamans serving people who were not members of his or her family, social classes were born.  This is an important nuance because eventually social classes would become the dominant form of social structure – class based social structure would take over the functions of the family, and in the final stages of this cultural evolution, as is happening at present, class dominated cultures disintegrate, i.e., civilizations fall and revitalized local cultures flourished to take their place.  And then this process of cultural evolution starts all over again.  There are three general phases of civilizations; (a) formative or farming, (b) theocratic and (c) military.  These stages are too much to describe in a short article.

The importance of family based cultures evolving into class based cultures seems vital for us to understand today because our culture is very dysfunctional, and, like it or not, we will sooner or later be charged with the responsibility of finding new ways of reviving old ways of living together locally.  How will we provide the necessities of life for everyone – food, shelter, education, health care, spiritual fulfillment, social cohesion, subsistence (wealth creation and distribution), …?

Native American, Latin, Jewish, Asian, African and many other cultures still have more or less strong family traditions even though they are dominated by global, class based civilization.  They, therefore, may be looked to for possible solutions to the disintegration of Western civilization.  First Peoples (indigenous) cultures for us in the US may point a way for those of us whose families have contracted to the point that we cannot even have balanced nuclear families.  For several decades now some Native cultures have been experiencing revitalization of their family based cultures.  Should more emphasis now be placed on family portions of culture, like extended families, clans and tribes?  Is it time to rethink class based culture and subsequent male dominance?  What would this mean for our societies at large?  Should we think of family based businesses/economics rather than corporate based economics?  And, is it time once more, like in Tlatilco and Venus cultures to elevate the status of women/nature?  Is it time for men to serve woman, family and nature instead of their bosses?

 

 

Perhaps this current righteous uproar by women against sexual abuse by men is an opening signal to fully shift from the disintegrating male dominated world view of hierarchical domination and control to a more feminine world view of equality and reciprocity where better is better, rather than more being better, where spirit and the mundane are integrated.

What will the role of woman be as our dysfunctional male dominated civilization transforms to revitalized, localized, bioregional cultures:  According to the swing of the pendulum of cultural evolution based on the track record of previous civilizations, it is time for women with the cooperative help of men, like when women developed agriculture – Google esp., the Tlatilco culture of Mexico and the Venus culture of Europe – to insist on family revitalization, farming, spiritualization, balance, qualitative values, reciprocal rather than exploitative relationships and equality?

His-story:  Of course history is boring for women because it leaves out ‘Her-story’.  The Tlatilco and Venus periods of culture are great examples of when women were respected more than men.  What, women ruled?  Yes, and in Oaxaca the Zapotec women still do in large part.

Back to the first social class – the shaman class – and the origin of the nation state:  Band, tribal and tribal nation cultures are family based, whereas states and nation states are increasingly class based.  Social classes inevitably metamorphose the functions of family based cultures, and the transformation has cancerous consequences.  Social cohesion and balanced life is replaced by competition (progress?), male domination, reciprocal relationship with nature (see, Forest People by Colin Turnbull)  becomes exploitative, material values replace spiritual values, families contract, more is better rather than better being better, addiction replaces integrated, functional cultural traditions, mental health diminishes, poverty replaces social welfare.

 

 

Male dominated cultures, civilizations, do however develop the conscious mind, like science, and this could be a good thing, especially if we learn to use it to complement and restore nature rather than to exploit and futilely attempt to control her.  Maybe our technology today has destroyed so many natural processes that unless we use it to restore the mess we have made of nature the earth will become one giant desert where almost all life is impossible.

What usually happens in nature, including human cultures and civilizations, is what Marx called the ‘dialectic’, Ortega y Gasset called the ‘pendulum of history’ and Toynbee, ‘challenge and response’; changes go from one extreme to the other like tides, seasons, life cycles, seasons, …  So we should expect that, after a dozen or so millennia of male dominated civilizations, there will probably be a period of strong woman influence, and then balance should be the rule.  If we want to begin a new phase, as the Existentialists predicted – ‘history and future dissolved into an eternal present’ – then our conscious focus as the first conscious, global human culture, as McLuhan suggests below, is to facilitate the dominance of women now until the tide shifts and a new balance is established.

About 50 years ago Marshall McKluhan said that this is the first time for ‘universal human consciousness’.  What he meant is that this is the first time almost everyone on earth has a very similar understanding that we all live on one earth and that it is inhabited by people.  Until TV this consciousness did not exist, McKluhan said.  This should mean, he reasoned, that we can now consciously facilitate natural processes, we don’t have to make the same mistakes, esp., we can consciously prevent the disintegration of civilization, we can transform technology to repair the damage we’ve done to the earth and then learn to make it more habitable for all life – that remains to be seen.

If we can respond to the present uprising to the millennia of oppression of women (and nature) by making her sacred again and fully, legally respect her needs and rights the transition to the new Existential Phase of human life may be a new springtime for all life.

 

 

Brian Hill is an Archaeologist and Cultural Anthropologist in California.

 

Dear Al Franken: An Open Letter

Editor’s Note: Brian Hill is an Archaeologist and Anthropologist based in California. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.

 

Al Franken;

 

You have really let us down!  Many of us thought you could be the next President, the person who could be trusted, a man whom we could respect, who put the interests of the people, all people, Republicans, women, and everyone else before self interests.  But you have been just another example of what is wrong with our world today.

 

Maybe, just maybe, you could overcome this failure by taking the lead in being very open with us, the citizens, your family and your groping colleagues by being totally open, contrite, humble, and by undergoing therapy, which also should be made public, about why you abused women, how you personally felt when you did it, and how you will practice overcoming man’s abuse of women.  In this way you could be a leader, a badly needed solution for our times instead just another sad male failure.

 

Until women can trust men again chaos will rule.

 

Brian Hill

Archaeologist and Cultural Anthropologist

 

 

 

 

 

 

Las Vegas Massacre Is A Wake Up Call For Reasonable Gun Control In America

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

If the latest mass shooting in Las Vegas has shaken you to your core, you must have just crawled from under a comfortable rock. Because, mass shootings are becoming as emblematical of America as apple pie, racism, obesity, the glorification of sex and just plain ol’ bad behavior; burying the eloquent hopeful words inscribed in our Constitution, the Bill of Rights and even on the Statue of Liberty, meant to capture our ideals as a people.

To understand our culture one simply needs to look at the things we value and worship like the golden statues described in the Bible right before God rains down terror from the sky on the frolicking heathens below. We’re so deeply conflicted as a people; we contradict ourselves every chance we get. We go to war in the name of democracy, while engaging in the same oppressive deeds that we supposedly abhorre. We pretend to value those who fight for our country—even using Veterans, our Military and Law Enforcement as an excuse to attack a peaceful protest by Colin Kaepernick to end police brutality and social injustice in America—but live comfortably knowing that Veterans are suffering a great injustice at the hands of their own government when they return home from war. We claim to have the greatest power on earth but yet are powerless to enact real change in our culture and society. The “big, big ocean water” surrounding Puerto Rico kept our President from acting swiftly to help the devastated island hit by Hurricane Maria, but he threatens to annihilate “Rocket Man” with all our American might. We claim to want to “Safe the Planet” but are one of the worst polluters and violators of Mother Earth. The list of contradictions goes on and on.

We hold a Bible in one hand, an automatic rifle in the other, a bottle of whiskey under one armpit, a naked woman in a headlock in the other, all while standing on a pile of broken black and brown bodies. Oh, and a photo of a sex symbol—naked with exaggerated lips, breasts and butt—on a stained t-shirt with the confederate flag on it. To complete the image of a typical main stream media American today, picture this person wearing short shorts, cowboy boots decorated with the American flag with spikes at the heel. The word; ‘Merica!’ is prominently featured on the back of the confederate flag t-shirt. Of course, there’s more to an American than what I just described. However, this is the demographic making the most noise since the election of former President Obama and now President Trump, as most decent-minded Americans that fit the description of all kinds of people, (the melting pot) are either hiding their head in shame or taking to the streets to protest the confederacy of dunces we are all witnessing.

 

 

We claim to hold the highest ground of morality and the blueprint of democracy despite the reality on the ground even Stevie Wonder can see. And, if one dares to point out the blaring truth that is plain as day, prepare to be met with gnashed teeth, foaming at the mouth, red blooded “real Americans” with tiki torches yelling; “FAKE NEWS! SNOW FLAKE! NOTHING BURGER!” When the president of the United States brags about walking on to NY’s 5th Avenue, shooting someone dead and getting away with it, what do Americans expect from the average Joe or Jane? Many gun lovers and 2nd Amendment fanatics still excuse this comment as political fodder, refusing to see the significance of it as our cultural norm when it comes to our attitudes about guns.

You’ll hear the argument; it takes a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun. Other than the police, where were the good guys with guns to stop the Las Vegas shooter? Instagram celebrity and gun fanatic Dan Bilzerian was there. He fled. Not to grab his weapons, but to safe his own rear-end. He didn’t live up to his Instagram muscles to stop the shooter with the stockpile of high-powered weapons he loves to show off on social media. What a tough guy, (Insert eye-roll here), until it’s time to actually be that good guy with a gun to stop the bad guy with a gun. On his show on Fox News, Sean Hannity stuck to this strategy too saying, “This guy’s got a machine gun, OK. How are they going to take him on without a weapon? Or, if it’s happening within a crowd, if you’re in San Bernardino, do you want Sean Hannity who’s trained in the safety and use of a firearm in that room when they drop the clip, and they start to reload, you got a shot, you got a chance?” Of course, if life was being played out on a Hollywood movie set where we can have multiple takes and do-overs, Hannity and Bilzerian would be heroes! But, this is real life. 59 people were indiscriminately murdered by a madman who purchased his powerful weapons legally. He exercised his rights as an American to arm himself to the teeth. And, as white privilege in America goes, and according to some Fox News talking heads, we can’t hate him, label him a terrorist or talk about gun control.  Not yet, at least.

Unless you’re in an active shooting situation, you can’t know what you’ll do or how you’ll react. So, why not make it harder, and in some cases impossible, for people to get their hands on these high-powered weapons? What’s the real harm in waiting weeks for a full background and mental health check, instead of days, before handing over such lethal power? Who knows, maybe a zombie apocalypse or another revolution is eminent! Many point to mental illness as an excuse for this latest tragedy however, other countries like Australia, Britain and Canada have citizens with mental illness too and these countries were able to reduce gun violence by enacting strict gun laws. Why can’t America follow suit? It’s apparent, we need policy solutions, but unfortunately there is no movement on the federal level to enact tougher gun laws; just the opposite. As a matter of fact, House Majority Leader Paul Ryan was ready to bring a bill up for a vote that would have loosened access to gun silencers. But, in the wake of the massacre, they shelved it; for now.

 

 

And, earlier this year, President Trump reversed an Obama era law that kept the mentally ill from getting guns. H.J. Res 40 passed the House and Senate, and nullifies the, “Implementation of the ‘NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007’ rule finalized by the Social Security Administration on December 19, 2016. The rule implements a plan to provide to the National Instant Criminal History Background Check System the name of an individual who meets certain criteria, including that benefit payments are made through a representative payee because the individual is determined to be mentally incapable of managing them.”

Why stricter gun laws aren’t more tantalizing to leaders at the policy level has to do with fear and money. Fear of not just losing the right to bear arms as stated in the 2nd Amendment, but fear of losing all the money being poured into political campaigns by the powerful National Rifle Association, (NRA). Despite evidence showing stronger reasonable gun policies are warranted, it seems that any kind of gun policy is perceived as an attack on the 2nd Amendment. Most Americans would support reasonable restrictions on guns, especially semi-automatic rifles like the ones used in the Las Vegas massacre, but the NRA will say background checks, even for the mentally ill, is one step to taking our guns away. Fear is a clear motivator but so is money and profit. Mass shooting incidents boosts the NRA’s profit margin. Gun sales increase every time there’s a mass shooting incident, (or the election of a black president.) It’s clear that the NRA uses fear, not data, to galvanize its base. And, unfortunately, opinions and fear outweigh the statistics and research on gun control and violence in America. How ironic that the crowd at Route 91 Harvest, a 3-day Country Music Festival, sang America the Beautiful an hour before the shooting.